Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A gallimaufry

This past weekend, I bought a new lawn mower. I'd tried to keep my lawn maintained with an old-school reel mower (which also kept me from having to buy gas), but with more weeds than grass in large portions of my yard, it wasn't cutting it (a sad, sad pun. My apologies). I've mentioned before that I started mowing my parents' quarter-acre when I was 12, so I'm no stranger to gas-powered push mowers and how they operate, but this was the first time I'd put one together out of the box. I didn't have any real problems with the assembly, although another hand would have been helpful (note to self: buy a vice grip), and ratchet sets are a lifesaver. When I finished I posted a pic of the completed machine on Facebook, proud of my handiwork, then went about my mowing. While it wasn't an arduous process, I have to say it's incredibly satisfying to put something together and then have it work properly.

The next day, one of my coworkers, who'd seen the photo online, asked me how mowing went. After I told him the mower made short shrift of my lawn,  he said he was impressed with my handiness at putting the mower together and that I was "the total package" because he didn't know many people, male or female, who'd done so. I thanked him and kind of laughed, but it got me wondering: while I'm not on the receiving end of those sorts of compliments often, this isn't the first time an older, married man has said something like this me. Why is it that they are the only ones who seem to think so? Or is it because they don't have a vested interest, so aren't intimidated by expressing the idea? I'm not agonizing over this by any means, just pondering it.

Song, sung, blue
"Ode to Joy" is a beautiful song. It was the closing hymn at mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, and, for the first time, it almost made me cry, but not because of it's beauty. Even as the first strains reverberated through the church, I could feel my face start to crumple and tears start to well. I thought to myself as I tried to fight it off, "hold on, you don't want to be the weird woman crying during a hymn of triumph," but the choir only sang the first two verses so I was able to pull it together -- I might have been in trouble if we'd sung all four.

Dad's marker when first installed.
It was my dad's favorite hymn, you see, and while not tone deaf, he couldn't sing if his life depended on it. But this he always sang loudly, with feeling, and Sunday was actually the first time I'd heard it since he passed. Back in August, when making funeral arrangements, we even used the (slightly paraphrased) last line on his grave marker, my mom and I coming up with it at practically the same time, though at opposite ends of the house. If that wasn't meant to be, I'm not sure what is.

Social graces and dance skills
I didn't watch "Big Bang Theory" from the beginning of its run and don't always catch it regularly on Thursdays, so I enjoy watching reruns when I find them. Earlier this month I finally caught the episode that showed how the elevator in the guys' building ceased to function. Not three days later, I was covering a school board meeting. After proceedings concluded, one of the members joked with me about BBT, because the elevator in the board's administrative office building was out of service, complete with caution tape. It was a funny coincidence.

Then last night I saw the episode that included this clip (Blogger won't let me embed it for some reason. Grr), which gave me a pretty good laugh, considering I took six years of Cotillion (Unlike Sheldon, I enjoyed it, can still waltz and set a formal dining table with ease. My brothers, who didn't last nearly as long, would probably agree with him, though). At least it's good to know, should the situation ever arise, that I'd fit in in 18th century Vienna. :)

This is going to be an exceptionally busy month for me.

Work wise, it's filled with end-of-the-school-year events, so there will be lots to cover in terms of awards ceremonies and graduations. I also have to put together practically all of my grad tab, a 32-page special section I compile for the high school's graduating class filled with photos, articles and all the senior portraits, which is then inserted into the paper the week following the ceremony. I'm starting early since I'll actually be leaving the country before the pub(lication) date, so I want to have as much complete and leave as little to others as I possibly can.

Mother's Day is the 11th. Mom (in addition to giving me life) is taking me to Scotland, so at the very least I need to get her a card. ;)

Labor Day weekend, I'm off to Orlando for the biannual Florida State University Catholic Student Union Reunion Retreat (yes, it's a mouthful!). The last one I was able to make was in 2008, so I'm really looking forward to this one. Not only will it be an opportunity to see some friends I normally don't see (keeping up with them via Facebook, while nice, isn't ideal), but also some of the Brotherhood of Hope, who were (and are still) CSU's campus ministers. It's also been far too long since I went on retreat in general.

That same weekend also sees Mom's birthday and a celebration for my twin goddaughters, who are turning 5 and having a Star Wars-themed birthday party (at their request. I'm so proud of the little geeks!) to mark the occasion. So, presents must be bought.

Plus, there's trip prep. Tomorrow marks the one-month countdown to Scotland, and I've already got a fairly sizable list of things I need to do or remember in preparation. Things on it so far include "buy another SD card," "investigate a better travel backpack," "inform bank I'll be overseas," "find a lector sub for June 15th mass" and (the so-completely-obvious-it-shouldn't-need-to-be-listed-but-I-did-it-anyway) "don't forget my passport."

I keep my passport in my scarf drawer. Don't ask me why. And yes, I have an entire (smallish) drawer worth of scarves. I do realize I live in Florida, thanks. I never said I made sense. ;)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Set your old heart free...

At mass yesterday, the pastor at my church, Fr. John, started off his homily by telling us about the part he played in an eighth-grade love triangle. Girl A, he said, was enamored of him and, while he was friendly with her, he wasn't interested, instead casting his eye toward Girl B.

Apparently Girl A thought all her future happiness (like you do at that age. Oh, the drama!) was encompassed in the now-married-to-the-Church Fr. John, and wrote him many love letters in which she called him the handsomest, most intelligent boy she knew (which Fr. John joked at least proved she had good taste).

He went on to say that he tried to ignore it for a while (which didn't help), and did his best to make sure Girl B knew where his affections were placed. Then one day things came to a head. He told Girl A, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't like her in that way.

"I was quite cruel about it," he said, adding Girl A subsequently wrote him many poison pen letters and tried to spread rumors to his detriment as a way to get back at him for rejecting her. Decades later, he said "I still feel a little bit guilty about how I handled it."

"We've all been rejected," he continued. "But that doesn't mean we should build walls around our hearts, because we lose out on love and friendship." Those walls keep us safe, but don't let anyone else in, either.

And for the rest of his homily, while I was listening, this song was also running through my head:

The homily struck a chord with me for another reason, too. There's a saying girls and women are often told in Catholic and Christian circles, that we should "guard our hearts." While I certainly want to give my heart to a man who is worthy of it, I sometimes wonder if I've been too diligent in that regard in the past. Not that I'm encouraging abject recklessness, but I've never once, for example, told a man I was interested in him -- well, I shouldn't say never, because I have, but not until ages after the fact and I was long over him, ergo, safe from heartbreak, and the point completely moot -- and occasionally give a thought to what, if anything, would have been different had I done more than moon from afar.

Perhaps nothing, but I write this to illustrate the care I've taken to keep my heart from being ill-used. I recognize that particular wall especially, the yearning for self-preservation, and know it's something I need to work on. I have never been brave enough to hold my heart in my hands and give it to a man. Not romantically, at least, though I've wanted to. Or, if I've been considering it, sometimes circumstance and timing (and God, wiser that I am) takes a turn and the opportunity is lost...which are stories for another day. :)

But we give our hearts to family and friends as well, and they, too, can have the power to hold or scorn us. Family especially, as the ones closest to us, knows all the right ways to hurt us, all the buttons to push. It's not always consciously done, but that doesn't necessarily change the sting. Friends, too, can sometimes betray us in ways both large and small.

And that's where forgiveness comes in.

At the close of his homily, Fr. John went on to say that Jesus, too, is holding His heart in His hands, offering to entrust us with it to do what we may. He knows that there will be times when we will reject it, stomp on it, grind it into dust at our feet, and yet He holds it toward us still. That, Fr. John explained, is Jesus' Divine Mercy -- which we celebrated yesterday -- forgiving us all we've done and all we've yet to do, even though He knows we might not be worthy of that trust, hoping just the same that we will give our heart in return.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Books to reread

I have this running list in my head of books I'd like to reread and figured it was about time I set the list down somewhere before it becomes too bulky.

In the last couple of years, I've reread several books that I wanted to experience as an adult, namely "War and Peace," "Our Mutual Friend," "The Screwtape Letters" and "Brideshead Revisited." But there are others I haven't gotten around to yet. Most are books I read as a teenager, and the impetus to reread is essentially me wondering if I'll feel the same way about them now (and hoping to undoubtedly catch more nuance) than when I read them initially. Some I just want to see if I still dislike as strongly.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams
I practically never say I hate a book. I've disliked many, but this book is one I truly despised after forcing myself to finish reading it (and it wasn't often I balked at any kind of assigned reading) in either seventh or eighth grade. Vicious, war-like bunny rabbits tearing each other to bits? Really? I've gotten into debates with friends who adore this book, which mystifies me, as I recall nothing adorable about it (we watched the animated film in class after reading the book, and that, too, turned me off). This is definitely one I want to read again just to see if my attitude toward it remains the same. By the same token, I should probably also tackle "Animal Farm" again as well, as I was not a fan.

The six Anne of Green Gables books, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Yes, there are actually six of them, with the trio beyond the original three novels (Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island), continuing Anne's story as a wife and mother. There are also two additional books (which I haven't read), sometimes counted, that tell the story of one of Anne's daughters.
Anyway, I haven't read them since I was a girl, and have always been fond of them. Yes, the heroine is an imaginative girl with whom I share a name (and the correct spelling with the E on the end), but they're also just fun and well-written. At the time, I (of course) developed a crush on the fictional Gilbert Blythe, although I don't know many girls who read these books who didn't on some level (though I was probably one of the only 12-year-olds you'd have found in 1990 who thought Gilbert was a cool name. I still do, come to think of it. Given the opportunity, I'd totally name a son Gilbert. You know, unless my married last name ends up being something like Gilbertson. But I digress...).

Both Aldous Huxley's Brave New World & 1984, by George Orwell
I has also been quite a while since I read either of these dystopian novels, although I recall liking both of them. And watching "Man of Steel" last night, the Genesis chamber on Krypton reminded me in a way of the factory-like hatchery where babies gestate in "Brave New World." The fact that that particular image from the book has stayed with me this long, almost 20 years later, is striking, perhaps because the concept was so shocking to me initially. And unlike "Animal Farm," "1984" didn't leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth upon first reading, so, you see, I don't abjectly dislike Orwell.

Something by Sir Walter Scott
One of these, perhaps?
While we're in Scotland in June, Mom and I plan to visit Sir Walter Scott's home, Abbotsford, near Melrose (fun fact: there's a Catholic chapel attached to the house. Scott's granddaughter and her husband were both converts, and the grandson-in-law was also friends with the now-Blessed John Henry Newman. Some of Newman's possessions are on display in the chapel), and the Scott monument in Edinburgh. It only seems fitting that I reread (or if I don't get to it beforehand, take one with me. Or would that be too cliche?) at least one of his Scottish novels. 

There are other books, I know, that aren't immediately coming to mind. Not that I don't have plenty else to read in my to-be-read-piles. And, lest people think all I read are classics, I'm actually at the end of a reread of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, in anticipation of book 8 coming out June 10. I might have to buy it while I'm in Scotland, although they're generally tome-like novels, and it would probably add weight to my suitcase on the way home.

Monday, April 21, 2014

We are an Easter people

I hope you had a wonderful Easter Sunday with friends and family! As my mother was out of state visiting one of my brothers, I spent Easter with friends and my twin goddaughters. It was a great long weekend. My goddaughters, Paige and Claire, are a month shy of 5, and when they learned that I'd given up cheese for Lent they insisted (apparently they asked their mother, in the blunt way kids have, "Momma, is she crazy?) I have several kinds of cheese -- cheddar, Gouda and Havarti -- in my Easter basket.

There were also several fun-sized Kit-Kats and four(!) Cadbury Cream Eggs in there, so between chocolate and cheese, the Easter basket portion of my holiday was darn near perfect. :)

Anyway this afternoon, we went to the store and wandered down the Easter aisle looking for bargains (my friend Michele sells Mary Kay and was looking to re-purpose some pastel things for various events and classes she teaches). Already, it was stripped practically bare, and almost every other aisle end cap was filled with Mother's Day cards, gifts and decorations.

Mother's Day is, of course, wonderful, and it's no secret that stores always jump the gun when it comes to marketing holidays and other events throughout the year. For pretty much everyone, Easter is over.

But not for us. Blessed (soon to be Saint!) John Paul II said "We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” And as the priest who said the Mass I attended yesterday morning (the first time in about five or six years I haven't been to an Easter vigil) reminded the congregation, for us, Easter is 50 days long. When you think about it, why wouldn't we have a length of days dedicated to celebrating the Risen Christ? For what He did for us, it seems the least we could do is live our lives as a joyful reflection of the Resurrection.

Resurrexit Sicut Dixit (He has risen as he said)!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

I'm glad I'm the one assigned to shoot photos of the Living Stations of the Cross, put on by the youth group at the parish near my office every Good Friday. Barring taking the day off work, I wouldn't be able to go, otherwise.

The Twelfth Station of Living Stations of the Cross, put on by youth at San Pedro Catholic Church, North Port, 4/18/14

Monday, April 14, 2014

Maybe I should have been a travel agent...

Mom: "This is really tiring!"

Me: "This is why people pay travel agents."

For much of the last two days, my mom and I have been in deep trip-planning mode. Mom being a dedicated -- and incredibly detailed -- list maker, became slave to her notepad and the guidebooks. I, being the more Internet-savvy, dusted off my pounds-to-dollars conversion knowledge and have basically made TripAdvisor bow to my will.

I have emailed so many Scottish B&Bs today that I'm automatically writing the date the U.K. way -- day/month/year -- rather than the American way, and spelling enquiry with an E, rather than an I. I don't think I've ever had so many tabs (between 35 and 45 at least) open on my computer at once. Truthfully, how we'd have managed without benefit of Googlemaps to tell us precise driving distances between say, Stirling and Oban, or the exact CalMac (Caledonian MacBrayne) ferry schedules from places like Lochaline to Fishnish or Mallaig to Armadale, I shudder to think.

Not normally of a draconian bent, my mom became fanatical about writing down every address/phone number/website related to anywhere we're going or staying, and is keeping us to a brooks-no-lollygagging timetable.

I thought we should budget time for a little bit of lollygagging, but was overruled. I did, after all, say  I wanted to see as much of the country as possible. Be careful what you wish for, eh? :)

Still, we've accomplished a lot: our itinerary is complete, we've secured accommodations for more than half of all our destinations (and the others have at least been sent enquiry -- see? -- emails) and have, very importantly, determined where we'll attend Mass the two Sundays we're in country.

Unfortunately, some sites aren't keen on processing purchases using overseas credit cards (Seriously, whatever happened to the slogan "Visa: it's everywhere you want to be"?), so a bit of international calling might need to be undertaken, should a few of the emails for help not pan out.

And while there have been a few moments of missed communication and late night-I'm-tired-and-I-already-read-that-B&B-description moments of fussiness, we've also cracked each other up with our no-doubt wretched pronunciation attempts of names like A'Chomraich or Ach Aluinn, which would no doubt make many Scots cringe, and somehow managed to fit in practically everything that was on both of our wish lists...even if it will be quite the flying fortnight.

Mater Dolorosa

There was a song occasionally sung at Christmas in my parish when I was growing up that always annoyed me, partially because it didn't seem a joyful enough reflection of the glories of the season, but also because of the person who usually sang it.

"Mary, did you know?" was usually performed by a cantor whom my brothers and I dubbed "The Great Tenor "(even though he isn't a tenor at all), largely because of the grandiose, stentorian manner in which he presented the song -- emphasizing and drawing out the word "know" at every opportunity so it came out, deeply, as "Mary, did you knooooooooooow that you baby boy," etc... It was just overdone to me.

So what does a Christmas song have to do with Holy Week? Well, as much as my impressions of the song were colored by my childhood (and the sarcastic whispers my brothers and I would exchange: "Well, of course she knew!"), without Christmas there would be no Easter, and the lyrics of the song themselves are a foreshadowing to Jesus' earthly ministry and His ultimate sacrifice of the Cross:

"Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will make a blind man see?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the mute will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am."

By the manner of His conception alone, yes, of course she knew. But in the way that things imagined are always utterly different when ultimately seen or experienced in real life, how could she? Despite however much she pondered things in her heart, how could Our Lady possibly have envisioned the tortuous, bloody reality of her son -- the boy she saw playing, growing, working, preaching -- executed so cruelly? Was there any foretaste that her acceptance, her fiat at the Annunciation, the trusting in the will of God whatever may come, would lead to the Crucifixion? 

Perhaps, and perhaps not. But she said yes, anyway.

Mater Dolorosa
By John Fitzpatrick, O.M.I.

She stands, within the shadow, at the foot
Of the high tree she planted: thirty-three
Full years have sped, and such has grown to be
The stem that burgeoned forth from Jesse's root.
Spring swiftly passed and panted in pursuit
The eager summer; now she stands to see 
The only fruit-time of her only tree:
And all the world is waiting for the Fruit.

Now is faith's sad fruition: this one hour
Of gathered expectation wears the crown
Of the long years with which the years were rife:
As in her lap -- a sudden autumn shower --
The earthquake with his trembling hand shakes
The red, ripe Fruitage of the Tree of Life.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Great Scot!

I had an entirely different beginning for this post, until I realized how often I start stories with "When I was 12 or 13..." I suppose they were my formative reading years, when I developed a taste for certain literature and specific historical interests, but that's not what (at least all of) this post is about.

This summer, I am going to Scotland -- Scotland -- for two weeks in June, and -- as it's been at or near the top of my travel bucket list for a very long time -- I am nigh unto giddy about it.

Wyeth's Wallace, the blondie.
You see, when I was around 12 or 13 -- sorry, I can't help it, really -- a trip to our local bookstore (pre-Amazon, pre-Barnes & Noble/Books-A-Million, natch) yielded a book called "The Scottish Chiefs," by Jane Porter. Most of the yearning for said book was based on the fact it was a reprint of a 1921 edition, and had truly gorgeous, technicolor illustrations painted by N.C. Wyeth (who also provided illustrations for other adventure classics such as "Robin Hood" and "Treasure Island"). Written in 1809, it's a fairly romanticized version of the William Wallace story (so, yeah, I knew all about Braveheart before Mel Gibson made the movie), although he's still brutally executed at the end. Wyeth made Wallace blond for some reason and, at the time, I was disappointed when Gibson's Wallace didn't have the same golden locks.

Highland calf, or Ewok?
But if you can fall in love with a place without ever having visited, then I fell in love with Scotland. Several of my next purchases/birthday/Christmas gifts included histories of the country, or photo books of castles and lochs. I marveled over the sparse beauty and gushed in an exceptionally teenagerish way over the Highland cattle (I called them "fluffy cows," an exceptionally twee appellation my mom still uses because, naturally, it stuck) and ruined, picturesque castles. But it was my reading habits that saw the most impact.

The just stunning title page.
"The Scottish Chiefs" made me curious to know more of the country's past. Although I'd already been introduced to Dickens, Shakespeare and Austen, "Chiefs" led me to the tragic history of Mary, Queen of Scots, which in turn led me to Elizabeth I, her father, Henry VIII and his wives ("divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived"), the two princes in the Tower and all the rest of English history (which, in turn, had me reading French and Spanish history as time went on, as well as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns). So, in way, Scotland is to blame for me becoming an Anglophile. Not that I'd every say that to a Scot. ;)

You'd think the interest would pass, but it never really did. My junior year of high school, an extra
Cute, no?
credit chemistry project involved using a pattern to create a stuffed mole, since moles are a unit of measure in chemistry (don't ask me what they measure. I struggled through the class and my memories of anything learned therein are shady at best). Most of the girls in class took it fairly seriously (my friend Sabrina, obsessed with the "X-Files," made a matched set named (what else?) Mole-der and Scully), while I recall many of my male classmates were busily stitching moles made from notebook and newspaper the morning they were due. Mine? He wears the pleated kilt and plaid sash I sewed for him. I named him Duncan McMole, and while he normally sits on one of my bookshelves, I'm half tempted to take him to Scotland with me.

Anyway, after my dad passed away, my mom talked about wanting to take a trip. Dad wasn't big on traveling, preferring rather to stay in one place -- the result of being a Navy brat as a kid who moved constantly. His attitude, favoring armchair travel, almost inevitably gave all three of his children a bent toward wanderlust. My mom, curious by nature, has always wanted to go exploring, too, but for the last 30-plus years, was busy raising children and working before officially retiring from teaching in October. The last time she was out of the country was a summer in Guatemala with the Red Cross in 1972, and she didn't even know where her long-expired passport had gone.

Talking about it one day, I asked her if she'd given any thought to where she'd like to go. My mom was a Spanish teacher, so I assumed she'd chose Spain, or a South American country, Belize, perhaps, or Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. But no, she wanted to go to Scotland, at least in part because one of her grandmothers was Scottish. And when she asked if I would go with her, well, I almost laughed, as the question was so ridiculously moot.

So we're going. After taking in the Dunedin Highland Games this past weekend (mom wanted "a taste of Scotland" before the actual trip), airline tickets were purchased. The plan, not entirely formalized, will see us making a circuit of sorts. Edinburgh (the castle, naturally, Holyrood and Arthur's Seat, which I fully intend to hike up) and Glasgow certainly, Stirling, the Isle of Skye, and Iona, where St. Columba brought Christianity to Scotland. We've also pondered several stops at locations with either excellent (Inverness) or multiple (Wigtown) used bookstores, which is really no way to plan a trip, but very much us. A ride on the Jacobite steam train (aka the Hogwarts Express) from Fort William is also practically definite.

Planning tools
The final itinerary should come together hopefully this coming weekend, but we've had plenty of fun pouring over guidebooks and websites making lists, which so far include at least one of the abbeys (Melrose, where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried, perhaps?) ruined in the "rough wooing." Loch Ness? It rates at least a drive by to see Urquhart Castle. A handful of museums are on the list, too along with a whiskey distillery tour. I will try haggis at least once (because you do), and I fully intend to master driving on the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the road (and will be somewhat disappointed if, at some juncture, we're not stuck in the car somewhere, surrounded by a flock of sheep). Mom jokes that perhaps I'll meet a handsome Catholic Scotsman. I'm not going to hold my breath on that one, but certainly wouldn't complain. :)

We will surely run out of time before we run out of things to see, and I'm looking forward to traveling with my Mom. It's the only trip I have planned this year, but I can tell you right now I likely won't want to come home. The fact that Scottish summers are typically 30-odd degrees (if not more) cooler than Florida summers is reason enough to want to stay, lol.

As for Mom, well, I wasn't completely wrong about where she wanted to travel. She's already booked an educational trip to Portugal and Spain in October, and is busy researching one of her pet interests, Spanish ship building during the age of sail. :)

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Devil's in the details

Oh, was I ever distracted at mass today.

I'm up at my mom's until tomorrow (we've had two days of festivals -- the Dunedin Highland Games on Saturday, Sun'n'Fun airshow today -- both awesome, but I'm beat!), so we went to her parish, the one I grew up attending.

It's different now, of course. Priests have come and gone, the congregation ebbs and swells, they've hung what are essentially Jumbotrons from the ceiling on either side of the altar (ugh, don't even get me started on those)...

Anyway, I was trying, I really was. Today's Gospel about the raising of Lazarus is rich with meaning. The visiting priest (who's giving a parish mission there this week) gave a great homily, too. But so many things were getting under my skin and oh, was I ever judging: the choir used too slow of a tempo for the opening hymn; the cantor's voice was nasally; the second lector over enunciated too much (yes, certain woulds should be accentuated, but come on, lady, you're not doing theater, here); the deacon's many stumbles during the Gospel reading showed he hadn't practiced at all; the guy in the pew in front of me was fidgeting so much that he was jouncing his wife/girlfriend who was sitting next to him; and why on earth does Fr. Charles have a soul patch?

That last question will likely remain unsolved, but you get the idea. 

It wasn't until the Liturgy of the Eucharist that I really managed to focus. Part of it was that I realized what was going on: something was deviling me ("The Screwtape Letters" actually came to mind), and all those niggling things, so petty and completely ridiculous once I stopped to think about them (especially so when you list them together), started to fade.

The Consecration is also my favorite part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus is the most important person in the room, more important that anything I'm distracted by, or anyone. Every mass is a much-needed reminder of that fact, that He should be the focus regardless of whether I'm in mass or not.

Besides, the parishioners helping at mass are just trying to give their best to God, and I certainly can't say I've never stumbled over a reading when lectoring, or missed hitting a key or two on the rare occasions I've cantored. Ultimately, it's not my home parish anymore, and hasn't been for a while, so what I think hardly matters. What does, though, is that since Fr. Charles was assigned there last year, families who left have started coming back. Mass was packed this morning, and that is worth noting. 

I'm still not a fan of the Jumbotrons, though. What was wrong with missalettes? I'm just sayin'... :)

Friday, April 04, 2014

What dreams may come

Any of my friends can tell you that I have some pretty crazy dreams. They are often exceptionally detailed, rarely mundane (with the exception of one I had a few months ago where I was washing dishes) and I typically remember much of them.

For example, I recall with clarity a recurring dream I had as a child -- starting when I was about 5 up until I was 10 or so -- of suddenly being chased by a landslide while standing in the middle of an empty field. Another dream, in high school, involved international espionage and a limo chase ( I was driving) across the roofs of a European city. In another, also from when I was in high school, I was held captive by a rather romantically (ahem) inclined vampire (like pretty much everyone else in the early-to-mid-90s, I read "Interview with a Vampire" and several other Anne Rice novels, although I wouldn't touch them now) in a castle that subsequently flooded, allowing for my escape. In the dream I remember part of the outfit I was wearing was a black-and-white striped shirt, although I don't recall whether the shirt had significance.

Often, there's enough of a dream I can catch when I wake up that I'm able to write it down, just to remember or for future reference (i.e. future fictional plot points). Some are more nebulous, vanishing as I fumble toward wakefulness. Many are quite involved. Recently, I had a dream about a family vacation to France, where I was getting annoyed at other tourists for getting in the way of photographs I was trying to shoot. It was the first time since my dad died last August that he showed up one of my dreams. He -- looking completely healthy -- and my Uncle Joe got into a lawyerly/older brother vs. younger brother debate about where to go for dinner. So typical, lol. The dream didn't make me sad, but was comforting, ultimately.

How do I remember so much of what I dream about? I honestly have no idea. I used to think it might be hereditary, since my mom is the same way (Like me, she writes them down. And she'll call me up, even now, to just tell me about an interesting dream she had). My dad, who said he almost never remembered what he dreamed, used to wonder at us in the mornings sometimes as we'd talk about things we'd dreamt the night before.

Sometimes, it's easy to discern where portions of a dream come from: something that happened to me during the day, or a show I watched on TV, will have an influence. Friends, family, guys I've had crushes on and the occasional celebrity show up, as do people from high school, or even elementary school, who I haven't seen in decades.

People always assume I've eaten something strange, but I honestly don't think food eaten the night before has anything to do with it. I've had pretty nutty dreams after eating perfectly normal dishes (read: foods I've eaten for years) as well as after eating something more rich.

Apparently, pregnant women have very vivid dreams, but there's no chance of that. You know, unless there's a virgin birth in the offing God has neglected to tell me about...

But, oddly enough, I've dreamed twice this week that I was pregnant. In the first, I was large with child, which I believe was a boy, and in the dream I was craving a large, juicy hamburger, although I couldn't have told you who the father was supposed to be. Then last night, I dreamed I was at a doctor's office. I took one pregnancy test and it came back negative. But a few hours later (still at the doctor's office), I took another one, watching as the doctor poured something into a beaker and the color indicator on the outside of the beaker changed, showing a positive result, and the doctor gave me her congratulations. Again, no idea who the prospective daddy was, although I wasn't upset in either dream to find myself in the family way.

I know other (non-pregnant) women who've had pregnancy dreams, so it's not all that strange. And I've had pregnancy dreams before, although they were both years ago (in one I was pregnant with twins) and years apart, so two in one week is admittedly odd.

Every so often, I'll Google something I dreamed about, but oftentimes the interpretations of dreams that result from the search are either conflicting, new-agey or both. Many in the Bible have God speak to them through dreams (St. Joseph, for one, and the Wise Men), but I'm fairly certain the pregnancy dreams -- or the majority of those I have, for that matter -- aren't any sort of Heavenly prompting.

Recently, there has been research that posits those who have vivid dreams show higher amounts of brain activity, or are lighter sleepers. I don't know that I'm a light sleeper, and I've never had my level of brain activity measured, so I honestly can't say. I just think it's one of those things that make me who I am, but I admit it's sometimes fun to guess about. :)