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My Life - How I think and how I live...

About us Catholics…

I did not write this.  I pulled it from a Catholic site. I can’t give credit because I can’t remember the site.  If someone else writes it,  and writes it well, then I have no problem stealing it.  It’s good info for my non-Catholic friends.

Not True…

Catholics Worship Mary

Catholics often carry and pray Rosaries or have statues of Mary in their homes, so it can appear that Mary is on the same level as God. However, Catholics do not worship Mary, and doing so would be a grave sin in the Catholic faith. Instead, she is given great honor. After all, Mary is the mother of Jesus, who is God. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God and deserves honor and respect. The Fourth Commandment is “Honor thy father and mother.” Jesus would never break this commandment and neither should we. When Catholics say they are praying to Mary, they mean that they are praying for her intercession—that she will take their prayers directly to Jesus, her own son. It’s a similar concept to asking someone you know to pray for you. Intercessory prayer is very different from worship that is due to God alone.

Catholics Aren’t Saved

Many well-meaning Protestants try to “save” their Catholic friends and are genuinely concerned for their eternal salvation. However, Catholics define “saved” in a different way than Protestants. Catholics believe that the sacrament of Baptism is the beginning of salvation when the baptized person is cleansed of Original Sin (the sin of Adam and Eve, passed on to all humans). After Baptism, Catholics must remain in a state of grace in order to enter heaven at death. Certain sins, called mortal sins, are very serious and take away grace. To commit a mortal sin, the sin must be serious, and the sinner must know the sin is serious and willingly commit it. There is no “laundry list” of mortal sins, but such acts as murder, adultery and worship of idols could be considered serious. Grace is restored when the sinner receives forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession. Therefore, a Catholic must be in a state of grace to be “saved” and enter heaven and eternal life with God.

Catholics Must Obey the Pope

Catholics view the pope as the leader of the Catholic Church, but he is not an absolute authority. Like any leader, the pope is human and is subject to sin and human weakness. He is entitled to express opinions and give advice to Catholics; however, these are not necessarily official Church teachings. The only time the pope is considered infallible, or giving a teaching that is free from error and inspired by God, is when he speaks “ex cathedra,” or “from the chair.” This rarely occurs; in fact there are only two ex cathedra teachings given in the entire 2000-plus year history of the Church. Catholics obey God and Church teachings and doctrines, which also bind the pope.

 

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

Boring Peacocks

How many times have I tried to listen to a boring sermon… One time I told a priest friend how boring a different priest’s sermons were and was told we go to church for the mass. What? I thought if we missed the homily we missed mass; it’s that important. I like how Pope Francis puts it right out there.

He told a group of new priests he was ordaining to make sure “that your homilies are not boring, that your homilies arrive directly in people’s hearts because they flow from your heart, because what you tell them is what you have in your heart. Examples edify, but words without examples are empty words, they are just ideas that never reach the heart and, in fact, they can harm. They are no good..

(-for those giving a sermon) The homily must be intent only on pleasing God and not himself. It is ugly to see a priest who lives to please himself, who acts like a peacock strutting around.”

So…I think about this boring stuff…if we listen and speak from the heart we will not be boring because we will connect with the other person.

Peacocks never connect.

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

My Father

dad

“What would Dad say?”

My sister, Diane, asks me that question at least 3-5 times a year. We decide he’d say something like, “He’ll figure it out.” “If she does that she might not like what happens.” “He won’t do that again.” “She’ll learn.” Or maybe, “That’s malarkey.” Dad rarely gave orders; he’d briefly explain possible consequences; then we faced them. It could be scary. He taught us to think and make decisions. We didn’t need to beg or argue. The choice was usually ours.

Growing up was easy. I don’t remember punishments or lectures. I don’t remember a lot of restrictions or pressure to perform. I never heard screaming or fighting. Dad was predictable. We ate dinner together then he’d hang out with Mom and/or the neighbors. I heard laughter most every day. Dad had lots of friends. He liked everyone. If there was someone he didn’t like he never told us. Neighbors, co-workers, high school buddies, garbage collectors, construction workers, doctors, CEOs, blacks, whites, immigrants, Catholics, Protestants, … they were all the same.

I was a 6th grader in 1965 when our family went to the riverboat in St. Louis. After the boat ride we went back to visit with people Mom and Dad met on the boat. All the parents visited on a big front porch and all the kids played in the yard. We were the only white kids. In 1968, when I was in 9th grade,  there was a lot of whispering going on in our neighborhood. Lesbians moved in across the street. Dad was one of the few, or maybe the only one, who didn’t seem to notice. He treated them same as all other neighbors.

Growing up, I never missed mass on Sunday. If Mom and Dad had partied late Saturday night and were not feeling too chipper we’d head upstairs to the choir loft. We had rosaries, pictures of Jesus, the pope, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and a Blessed Mother statue in our home because that’s how cradle Catholics decorated. I’m grateful our parents introduced us to Jesus.

The best thing Dad did for us was love our Mom until the end. The end was challenging and not once did Dad complain. Mom and Dad were in heaven before age 65.

Today, I imagine he’s laughing and having a beer with Mom… exactly as it should be.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Almost Sudden Death

It’s December 23, 2014.  Mothers are not supposed to die two days before Christmas.

Cancer doesn’t care about mothers or children.

Karen was my grade school best friend.  I never quite figured out why she chose me.  She was athletic; by far the cutest girl in the class.  I was clumsy, immature, housed in a Milwaukee brace, and easily the most unpopular kid in the class. Karen was shy and I was ridiculously social.  I suppose we were a good match.

Karen and I met Paula in high school.  Paula was a cheerleader and by far the cutest girl in our high school class.  I had lost the brace, but otherwise I had not changed. Karen and Paula became good friends.  I moved in another direction.  It wasn’t something we decided; it just happened.

We graduated.  We lost touch for nearly 20 years and reconnected at a class reunion.  We more than reconnected.  We realized our friendships never ended. Karen, Paula, and I met for lunch, we met other classmates for drinks, we relived the past and we shared what we had lost over the years.

November 2014, I get a message from Karen’s daughter.  “My mom has an aggressive cancer.  Will you call my dad?”  How could that be?  We had been together in July and Paula had tried to set a lunch date in October.  Karen hadn’t responded, but so what?Sometimes it took a few months to set something up.  We were busy.  It was nothing for one of us to procrastinate or “forget.”

First, I call Paula.  She had received the same text.  I call Howard. He wants us to visit Karen in the hospital. We don’t talk about “aggressive cancer.”

When Paula and I walk into the hospital room, I’m not sure my face is able to disguise my shock.  What happened?  Karen is swollen and bald and discolored. Tears fall from her eyes, but she smiles and asks how we’re doing.  For two hours we stay with Howard, Katie, and Karen.  We reminisce; we talked about everything but the elephant in the room.  We laugh, a lot.

Howard walks us to the elevator and tells us there is one more thing they can try to save Karen.  He doesn’t look hopeful.  There are no words to make it better.  We hug.

I was able to see Karen one more time before she died.  Our friend, Dawn, came in from Dallas.  Dawn and I visited.  Karen knew she was dying and it would be quick.  I didn’t talk a lot. Dawn managed to nervous-ramble for over an hour about clothes, and kids, and the past.  Karen went from smiling, to crying, to sleeping. When we left, I kissed her good-bye. I knew I’d never see my friend again.

KAREN

Karen is 3rd from the right; beside me, of course!

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

When I Grow Up

I’m afraid I’m going to die before I grow up.

I’ve grown old.  I’ve met at least the minimum requirements of sister, daughter, cousin, niece, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and Catholic.  I’ve been a file clerk, fast food employee, bus driver, freelance writer, secretary, advocate, facilitator, and trainer.  I’ve been on boards and in clubs; I’ve organized retreats and reunions.  I done enough and loved enough for a decent eulogy and obit.

I haven’t done what I was going to do when I grew up.  I haven’t written a book.  I haven’t even attempted to write a book.  I ventured toward the book idea 30 years ago by finding out if I could write something others would read.  I sent query letters to magazines by the truckload.  I was ignored or rejected for months then given an assignment by a local magazine.  I wrote.  I obeyed word limits, met deadlines, found good sources, researched, interviewed experts and wrote easy to read, entertaining, thoughtful articles.  I was a monthly contributor for nearly six years until I chose to quit.  Writing 30 years ago required a lot more leg work than it does today.  There was no easy-access research.  I went to the library.  I used a thesauruses and dictionary, electric typewriter, and finally a word processor. Buying five copies of a magazine and seeing my byline was the biggest payoff.  I figure my income was probably $5 an hour, at best.

I stopped writing and drove a school bus for my daughters’ Catholic grade school.  Other than the writing job, I rarely looked for work.  I was a lucky stay-at-home mom.  I had options and people knew it.  That’s how I ended up behind the wheel of a run-down stick shift dilapidated yellow school bus.

My life has been good.  Of course, a good life is not a life without crosses.  I faced health challenges, my parents died young, and my 34-year marriage failed.  I had times when I wondered if I’d recover.  All of this was necessary.  I often think of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross quote, ” The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Getting old can be ugly, but unless we give up or become resentful and self-centered we are eventually beautiful.  I have become beautiful.

It’s time to write.

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

Follow up … Genetics, I’m Lucky

I used to wonder what it was about me that I knew I’d be okay.  Happiness, even if elusive for the moment, was sure to return.  It’s as if I could not bear to live a life of unhappiness.  I’ve learned some of it is my genetics, but the other 40% is because I’ve just about mastered the habits of happy.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that while 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us. There is hope for those not genetically inclined.

The Habits Of Supremely Happy People

They surround themselves with other happy people. Dump the Debbie Downers and spend more time with uplifting people (my name is Debbie, but I’m not a downer!!).

They smile when they mean it. Fake smiling can worsen a mood.

They cultivate resilience. Happy people know how to bounce back from failure.

They try to be happy.  Yep — it’s as simple as it sounds: just trying to be happy can boost your emotional well-being.

They are mindful of the good. Happy people give attention to their small victories, too.

They appreciate simple pleasures. They appreciate the easy-to-come-by pleasures.

They devote some of their time to giving. They fill some of that time doing good for others.

They let themselves lose track of time. (And sometimes they can’t help it.) Happy people seek the sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away.”

They nix the small talk for deeper conversation. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings,” is one of the top five regrets of the dying — spend less time talking about the weather and more time delving into what it is that makes their heart swell.

They spend money on other people. Spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.

They make a point to listen. “When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts.”

They uphold in-person connections. There’s a deep need to have a sense of belonging that comes with having personal interactions.

They look on the bright side. Optimism touts plenty of health benefits, including longevity among those with heart disease.

They value a good mixtape. People who simply listened to music have the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages.

They unplug. Partaking in some kind of a digital detox gives your brain the opportunity to recharge and recover.

They get spiritual. The experience of sacred time provides a time apart from the “profane time” that we live most of our lives in.

They make exercise a priority. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more.

They go outside. Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality.

They spend some time on the pillow. When you’re running low on zzs, you’re prone to experience lack of clarity, bad moods and poor judgment.

They LOL. Laughing boosts a healthy immune system, controlled appetite and improved cholesterol.

They walk the walk. Ever notice your joyful friends have a certain spring in the step? It’s all about the stride (long strides while swinging your arms and holding your head high).

 Taken from :  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/happiness-habits-of-exuberant-human-beings_n_3909772.html
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Genetics… I’m Lucky

I sometimes look at strangers and wonder about their lives.  Are they in a good place right now?  Are they suffering?  Hopeful?  Waiting?  Why is one person smiling, friendly and approachable, while another looks rushed, frustrated, or empty?  Does their appearance reflect their life?  

I don’t think so…  I think appearance reflects mood, but not necessarily circumstances.  I have known people who carry the heaviest of burdens and they smile and embrace strangers and give of themselves more than most.  It’s not that they are never sad, but they have an incredible ability to rebound back to happy.  Others who seem to escape hardship are often unhappy.   They struggle with self-inflicted busyness, competitive natures, hectic schedules, turmoil, and a general sense of anxiety.

Do we have a choice in seeing the glass half-full or half-empty?   Scientist have found the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is a strong predictor of happiness and self-esteem.  If you are missing certain nucleotides on that gene, you have lower levels of optimism and self-esteem.  About one-half or our sense of well-being is inherited.   We are born with a tendency toward a “happiness quotient”.  Knowing this helps me realize there is a reason I rebound easier than most.  It also explains why I’m fluttering around being happy, when instead I should be concentrating and getting something done.  It’s all in the genes.

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

ANGER…

Anger is typically not one of my outward emotions.. sometimes I don’t even recognize my anger.  I mostly avoid displaying anger.  That doesn’t make me any less angry than the one who rages, sabotages, or blames.  I have learned to look closely at myself.  If I increase food and decrease exercise;  chances are something has me upset.    Anger is stressful and dangerous if not identified and resolved.  Whether righteous or unfounded, anger causes stress.

The following wise words help me understand anger.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) – Greek Philosopher – Anyone can become angry.  That is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.

Leo Buscaglia –   Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain.  They steal your energy and keep you from love.

HW Longfellow – If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.

Marcus Aurelius – How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.   Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.

Chinese Proverb – If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

We can handle anger biblically by communicating to solve the problem. There are four basic rules of communication shared in Ephesians 4:15, 25-32:

1) Be honest and speak (Ephesians 4:15, 25). People cannot read our minds. We must speak the truth in love.

2) Stay current (Ephesians 4:26-27). We must not allow what is bothering us to build up until we lose control. It is important to deal with what is bothering us before it reaches critical mass.

3) Attack the problem, not the person (Ephesians 4:29, 31). Along this line, we must remember the importance of keeping the volume of our voices low (Proverbs 15:1).

4) Act, don’t react (Ephesians 4:31-32). Because of our fallen nature, our first impulse is often a sinful one (v. 31). The time spent in “counting to ten” should be used to reflect upon the godly way to respond (v. 32) and to remind ourselves how the energy anger provides should be used to solve problems and not create bigger ones.

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My Life - How I think and how I live...

When we get older…Read this when I die!!

…we think about our mortality.

In high school we begin to see classmates lose grandparents. A few decades later we begin losing parents. We get older and begin losing friends.  We begin to seriously think about our own death. What if man invented heaven because death without afterlife was too scary?  What about purgatory and limbo; are those real places?  If I die too soon will my grandchildren remember me?  Should I write my obituary?  Should I destroy all my fat pictures before they are used on a memorial DVD?

This is how I’ve chosen to look at death. It is birth to new life; a life unknown. It compares to the infant leaving the comfort of mother’s womb to move through the dark birth canal to new life. Some are born easily. Others move into this life with much difficulty.

When I leave I want to move into my new life easily. I want to go straight to heaven and be embraced by Jesus or Mary or maybe St. Anthony. If they are busy, I want one of my friends, probably Richard, to sneak me in the back door.

My Life…

…. I was born in this country I love with parents who gave me a decent education and taught me the Catholic faith. I have two beautiful compassionate daughters who demonstrate their love over and over. Jill and Jan are different, yet they are very much alike. Jill can’t miss a shower. Jan works one in when she has time. Jan sees the world in color and flies by the seat of her pants. Jill sees black and white and flies when scheduled with a ticket. Here the differences end. Both adore their children. Both are responsible and provide a good home for their children. Both are funny. Both know what is moral and right. I hope that they remain each other’s greatest supporters and are forever best friends. They are the only two who know what it is like to have me as a mother…God bless ’em.

My grandchildren are perfect – Dee is kind and treats everyone with love regardless of what they can do for her; Henry always tries to be funny and make me laugh; and Ruth (one who finally looks like me) runs to me with open arms. They should have each other’s backs forever.

I love my sisters and brother. Our parents could not have given us a more perfect gift than the gift of each other. We have remarkable families…aunts, uncles, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren all equally loved. I trust when Joe, Elaine, Diane or I die our children will be on solid ground with family support a phone call away.

Kathy, Alice, Toni P. and Toni S. and Judy have been with me through marriage, separation, marriage, and then faithfully with me until my divorce, which took forever!  Kathy sometimes called herself my partner offering to divorce Vince and marry me if I need health insurance. Now that’s a friend! My friends have been there when I’ve been at my lowest wondering how I was going to make through the next week. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without them.

Once my marriage ended… I needed more friends. I needed friends who were not tied to wives or husbands. I needed people as miserable as me. They were easy to find.

Louis Lopez and Ann Finney were my first divorced friends. I had known Ann for years, but we weren’t friends. One afternoon when I was afraid and lonely, I called her. She was at my house within hours. I’ve loved her since then. Louis was the facilitator at my divorce support group. He was a man who had been hurt by divorce.  He helped me not lump all men into the “creep” category.

I was lucky to reconnect with high school friends. Many I did not know, but it didn’t matter. We know each other now. More proof God keeps us well stocked with what we need.

When my marriage ended I was devastated. The emotional toll was a lot to bear, but I knew I would rebound, God is good.  I joined a support group. I started teaching for Red Cross. I got involved in divorce ministry. The archdiocese hired me. I thank Marilyn for telling David to hire me and thank David for obeying Marilyn. I’m not sure either of them had a choice. God placed me right where I belonged.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I believe it is perfectly planned. God has my back.