Have you ever looked around at the massive number of people - perhaps you’re one of them; sometimes I am - walking around in this great beautiful world, insulated by those little pieces of plastic we call headphones?
Of what are we so afraid? Is it the silence inherent in loneliness? Is it that we might hear the plaintive cries of one of our fellow persons, and be forced to act? Are our headphones simply an attempt to avoid that which is unpleasant? After all, if I have my headphones on at the park, I can’t hear the two schoolgirls discussing their crackhead mom and her inability to stay sober. And I can’t take on at least a small fraction of the pain they’re feeling, as they spend hours at the park escaping the place they call ‘home’. And I don’t have to worry, days later, how they might be doing.
And if I have my headphones on while riding the bus to campus, I don’t have to hear the student fighting with her boyfriend. I don’t have to hear stories about drunk and high students and the drama that ensued Saturday night (and Sunday morning). I don’t have to be surrounded by the collapse of society - or at least, a microcosm of the world that seems to indicate a collapse of society.
But then again, with my headphones on…
I would never think to pray for the little girls at the park. And I wouldn’t have the opportunity to pray for their protection from the destructive forces around them.
And I wouldn’t hear the other student on the bus, discussing the great plans she has to make the world a better place, with the other student who is encouraging and lifting her up, and being a true friend and supporter.
And I wouldn’t bother to say a cheery “thank you! same to you.” to the bus driver, because I wouldn’t hear him say “have a great day, Miss” as I walked away. And because I wouldn’t hear him say that, and I wouldn’t reply, I wouldn’t see the bright smile that came about as a result of just one of the many nameless faces that walk past every morning taking five seconds to acknowledge his presence.
Mother Theresa, in a long commentary on silence, said the following:
"In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.”
(taken from “In The Heart of the World”, 2010)
And just a week ago, in his Wednesday address, Pope Benedict XVI said the following:
“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order that this word may be heard. And this is especially difficult in our own day. In fact, ours is not an age which fosters recollection; indeed, at times one has the impression that people have a fear of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the barrage of words and images that mark and fill our days.”
(excerpt taken from March 7, 2012 address to the Wednesday general audience; translation available at http://www.zenit.org/article-34420?l=english)
A challenge - one I have no right to issue, but do so anyway: contemplate. What are you avoiding, but even moreso, what are you missing? God speaks to us in silence, surely - but we innately tend to hide from that silence. Perhaps then, just perhaps, he is speaking to us in the voices around us. He has a habit of finding us where we are…
Sidenote/correlary: while I was thinking about this, and starting to put together this post, the song “Headphones” by Jars of Clay came on my Pandora. I’ve never heard this song before. So there’s that. I post an excerpt of the lyrics here:
At the Tube Stop, you sit down across from me
(I can see you looking back at me)
I think I know you
By the sad eyes that I see
I want to tell you
(It’s a heavy world)
Everything will be okay
You wouldn’t hear it
(I don’t want to have to hear it)
So we go our separate ways
With our headphones on, with our headphones on…
Yes, patience is a virtue.
My third edition! (Because some weeks, it just doesn’t happen.)
—- 1 —-
Lent. It’s happening. And this is a good thing. Details really aren’t all that necessary. That said, interesting thoughts from Fr. Vavonese this morning at Mass.
(Link to the readings for today)
Paraphrased, because I don’t take notes while listening to homilies:
”We have a tendency to use this phrase, “It’s the least I could do”, when someone thanks us. Perhaps not every time, but it’s certainly been said. But why? It’s really an apology - it’s an apology that you acknowledge you could have done more, but didn’t. You did the least. Why? Consider that. Discover where you can do more. And then go out and do more.”
—- 2 —-
This week’s music plug isn’t for a particular artist I think you’d enjoy. Rather, I’d just like to point out that there are some fantastic hymns for the Lenten season. I’m crowd-sourcing for answers here, what are you favorites? Admittedly, I’m partial to “The Glory of These Forty Days” but last weekend, we actually sang the Litany of the Saints as an entrance hymn. While I was completely struck off-guard, I’ve decided I kinda like that. And of course, a plug for “Be Thou My Vision”, which while probably not Lent-centric, is one of my favorites of all time.
—- 3 —-
There was a great hockey game on Wednesday night.
My Penguins won, in a shootout. Well-matched.
The playoffs aren’t that far away, all things considered. Yaaaay!
—- 4 —-
The fine gentleman visited last weekend. We saw Les Miserables performed. Live. Having been part of a production of the show, but never having seen it as an observer, I must say… wow. It was quite impressive. Granted, it’s impressive across the board, but they had a fine cast. The music is still playing in my head.
(Also, apparently we’re touching on music in multiple points this week.)
—- 5 —-
After months - several months - as in almost six - of searching, phone calls, letters, in-person visits, and frustrated rants to my mother (what a dear), I have a new gastro doc here in Syracuse. Finally. And an appointment Wednesday. I’m beyond excited, which may seem strange, but… I want my meds. I don’t think I’m asking all that much.
(writing that just reminded me I need to set up a phone date with my derm. thanks for being so helpful, blogging!)
—- 6 —-
Monday was a 20-mile run. I survived. 4:03 on a sunless day, which was probably a good thing. A few things are still twinging, but overall, I was incredibly happy with that. I finally feel like I mightjustmaybe be able to finish the Shamrock on the 18th without collapsing. If it wasn’t for my support circle of sister and brother, I’d never have considered doing this. I need to go out and find my green gear though - come on, Irish girl running the Shamrock marathon *must* be properly attired. T’would be a shame not to. We’ll see what I can find…
—- 7 —-
My school (note: also my employer) is running a sort of contest involving Pinterest, so I just spent the last 15 minutes doing a crash-course-tutorial on how it works (and how it should work) (and how it should be used) and how it’s used. That was fun! But I did announce my favorite part of pinterest: the ability (like twitter) to follow/unfollow *whoever the heck you want*. And that glorious option to only follow some. So it means I can look at the great recipes you post, but don’t have to see pictures of half-naked women that you’ve decided are inspirational (sorry, they just don’t work for me). What a beautiful option to have, and it’s key to why pinterest just may work as a new form of networking.
pssssst, if you’re on there, you can follow me if you so wish.
that’s all, folks!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
As stolen from my church bulletin this week.
Before you think “doesn’t apply to me!” just read through the list. Whether you’re Catholic, Christian, generic something else, non-any-of-the-above… some are just good life suggestions. They fall into a variety of categories - health, personality, society, life. I know some of these struck me. Perhaps they’ll help you in the same sort of way - or very different sort of way. :)
It took moving from my hometown of 22 years in Ohio to a small(ish) city here in central New York to realize what an effect my upbringing has had on my personality, my convictions, my standards, and my character as a whole. I’ve been ruminating on the topic lately, inspired somewhat by the "How Thick Is Your Bubble Test?" that has been circulating the internets. I can’t remember my exact score, but I believe it was about 55. This could place me in one of three ‘categories’, but the most fitting is probably "A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and moviegoing habits."
Jefferson County, Ohio is considered Appalachia - check this map to verify. That spot where West Virginia blends into the borders of Ohio and Pennsylvania - that’s the approximate location of Jefferson County. The Appalachia Regional Commision has classified JeffCo as a “transitional” county for the fiscal year 2012. What exactly does that mean? Well, I suppose it means we’re slightly better off than at-risk and distressed counties. The economy is weak, as steel mills aren’t exactly producing at the rate they were in the 1970’s, and we still haven’t recovered for that.
My four older siblings and I oft talked about what we were going to do with our lives once we “got out” of Steubenville, once we escaped the somewhat oppressive nature that characterizes living in Grey-io. But here’s the thing: leaving has simply reminded me of all the things I love.
I’m the youngest of five kids. We lived on one income (thanks, daddy!) in a fairly modest house somewhat in the country. I went to rural public schools my entire life. Our high school was built during the 1930’s and has never been updated. Our school district hasn’t passed a bond/school-building levy since the late 1970’s. Growing up, the “fun things” to do were mostly: see a movie at the drive-in, go swimming/fishing/camping at the state park, or play team sports. It wasn’t exactly the hotbed of activity, but we had fun anyway.
Perhaps this is why I’m somewhat taken aback by own my generation. I spent the last 22 years of my life withtwo television channels. I survived- and some might argue, I thrived. We went to the public library at least once a week for books and movies, because paying to rent movies wasn’t exactly feasible. My mom put dinner on the table pretty much every night, and the seven of us were there every night, unless school activities demanded otherwise. We knew that college was an option, but not everyone needs to go. Alargenumber of students at my high school went to the vocational school instead. Brand-name clothes? Nah, not unless you happened to find them at Goodwill.
Stuff isn’t important. Memories, on the other hand, are. And my childhood memories involve road trips to see family members, camping adventures up and down the East Coast, baking Christmas cookies together in a crowded kitchen, writing thank you notes to every person who sent birthday gifts, supporting my siblings at band concerts/musicals/quiz bowl contests, going on tours of the power plant where my dad worked, attending Mass together every Sunday, and knowing that money is not nearly as important as finding happiness in the life you have. My parents instilled values in us that persevere to this day - I still struggle with justifying purchases I can afford, solely because I might notreallyneed it. Smile at the person driving you crazy, for you know not what battles they’re fighting. Wake up each day grateful for another day, and love your God.
So yeah, I realized when I got to work at my institute of higher education this morning that I’m wearing a plaid shirt, jeans, and hiking shoes - couldn’t get much more Ohio than that. And I wear that with pride. Thanks, Appalachia, for helping me become the person I am. I think that’s a pretty decent person.
Not to mention, gosh you’re beautiful.
—- 1 —-
This is my first ever “7 Quick Takes Friday” post. I’ve been inspired by a number of blogs I read who follow this, and I decided I like it. Most of them, by the way, are from the #cathsorority group.
—- 2 —-
This week has been trying. Grad school does that. The stress is evident (I wear my stress on my sleeve. Literally. See also: psoriasis.) But I’m making it through one day at a time and I plan to continue that!
—- 3 —-
If you’re Catholic, and you care about the HHS mandate brought down by the current administration in the White House, you might want to read this letter from Bishop Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
—- 4 —-
My coffee addiction is flourishing. (See also, graduate school!) This week, I ran into issues with the silly coffee filters collapsing whilst brewing. There are few things more annoying that reaching for a large mug of coffee while still half-asleep to discover grounds. And lots of grounds. Anyone know why that keeps happening (and how the heck do I get my filters to stand on their own?)
—- 5 —-
My mom continues to be one of my favorite people ever. See my recent blog post on my mom if you need a reminder as to her awesomeness. :) Yesterday, I was having what can best be a described as a day that started downhill and kept picking up speed. So I sent her a text message that just said “Rough day. Prayers appreciated.” This morning, she called to ask me how things went, and I was able to tell her that my day actually started picking up not long after that text message, I made it through, and my mental health is still mostly intact. At which point she said, “see, that’s why I’m here.” That, dear friends, is love.
—- 6 —-
You may or may not be aware I’m training for a marathon (the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, March 18th) with my sister and one of my brothers. Last weekend, I managed to get a 15.4 mile run in on Sunday, despite the under-30-degrees temperature. This week though, I’m dealing with a very wonky foot that doesn’t feel all that great. Supposed to be a 16-miler this weekend, but I may have to cut it short. That’s not exciting for me, because I’m still intimidated by the whole concept of a marathon to begin with, but it is what it is. Any other runners out there?
—- 7 —-
On a completely unrelated note, I made scones this week with dried cranberries and a freshly-squeezed orange juice icing. That was a wonderful life choice. I managed to give away most of them, thank goodness, but I’m definitely keeping this recipe from the Food Network in my kitchen!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
Fact: my mom is my hero. So is my grandmother. And my other grandmother. Although completely different people, they all made the same essential choice — life. Today though, it’s all about Mama. You can call her Mama, she won’t mind.
The day I left for Austria for four months. We cried after the picture.
Mama chose to get married at the ripe-old age of 20.
She chose to work starting at the age of 18, as a secretary and then in the Baltimore offices of T Rowe Price.
She chose to give up smoking - and drinking for that matter - when her and my dad started a family.
She chose to give birth to a son.
And then chose to have another child, son #2.
And then chose to have another child, son #3.
All in the span of 1976-1980.
She chose to stay at home and raise three small boys in the middle of a big city.
She chose to make dinner every night for a growing family. To stitch together overalls for her three growing boys. To hold together a family.
She chose to have another child, daughter #1.
She chose to ask the will of God regarding a move out of the city.
She chose to pick up, along with my father, and four kids ages 3-10, and move to Ohio, a state they had never been to before.
She chose to raise four growing kids in a duplex while my father worked as a schoolteacher.
She chose to make ends meet when my dad was unemployed.
She chose to have a fifth child, turned out to be me. ;)
She chose to give up the working world to be a stay at home mom to five kids.
She chose to take them to church, as a family, every single Sunday.
But you know what?
My mom wouldn’t tell you she chose any of this. She’ll tell you she wanted to get married, not that it was a choice or “get married or not” - it was the *only* choice. She’ll tell you she *wanted* children - not that it was a choice or whether to have them or not, but that there couldn’t possibly -be- another choice. She’ll tell you that everything of this life has been what she wanted, and she’d have it no other way.
How do I know that? ‘Cause she’s told me so, in no uncertain terms.
My mom is a shining example to me of what I can be if it so happens, and if I truly learn the meaning of selfless. She has given up so much, and yet, she doesn’t even regard it as a sacrifice. It’s simply the way it was meant to be. Perhaps above all, she’s taught me that if you truly seek to follow the will of God, and you don’t let your selfish will get in the way, you won’t have regrets and you won’t think “maybe I should have chosen differently”. You’ll know it was the path you were meant to follow. And what could be better than that?
I love you Mom. Yesterday, today, forever. You rock.
They’ve been married 40 years. Going for 41!
Isn’t she just straight-up adorable? Gah, I wish I had that red hair.
this isn’t a win-win.
might be the opposite.
and i really need to watch my words.
i kind of waxed eloquently on how crazy Ron Paul is. and while no one disagreed, probably not the best choice of word - crazy, that is.
in books and television and movies these days you always see moms trying to convince their 12,13,14-year old daughters they’re really not old enough to date?
i’m 22-going-on-23 and someone might have to convince me i am old enough.
i’ve been feeling kind of run down - physically and mentally - this week.
can’t really pinpoint specifically why, but that’s life.
today, i read a novel (fantastically written, by the way) about a girl whose older brother is severely schizophrenic.
that really didn’t help things.
Anyone who has spoken with me at length in the last, say, month, has had the joy of listening to me rant every now and then at the adventure that is graduate school. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s just…ranting. But let’s face it - I’m a generally optimistic, upbeat person, and this whole negative energy thing isn’t working for me. Well, lo and behold, this week I had several occasions to contemplate a bit more.
I managed to escape the SYR this weekend to spend a few days with my sister and brother-in-in law. My sister is my next oldest sibling (as I am the youngest) and as time has passed and we’ve both aged, we’ve come to realize just how similar we are. On the outset, we seem incredibly different - I’m an academic, unfeeling nerd, while she is an emotional music therapist - but we have such similar attitudes and philosophies that spending time together is almost like talking to myself. It doesn’t hurt that we’re nearly the exact same height with fairly similar physical features.
Saturday afternoon, after going for a run together, we stood in the kitchen putting together a quiche and waiting for it to bake. (Sidenote: it was friggin’ delicious.) My sister and I each have a chronic incurable illness, though incidentally not the same (or even remotely similar) illness. We were sharing our thoughts on what that had done, not physically, but emotionally, for both of us, and how our attitudes and perspectives on life had changed. We came away with a conclusion that has shaped the last few years of existence for the both of us: “Live now. Do what you can while you can, and enjoy the gifts you have been given. Life is a gift.”
Granted, this is no massive revelation. However, it’s one that we - okay, I - must constantly harken back to as I proceed through this journey. Enjoy the gifts I have been given…including those that have brought me to this place- to graduate studies, at a new school with a new community.
Then today, at late Mass at the Cathedral, Father gave a most excellent homily. The readings for today reminded us that “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Ps 31:30) That we know not when the Master will come, and yet “We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” (1 Thes 5) And then today’s Gospel reading: the parable from Matthew 25 in which the master gives away his talents to his servants before undertaking a long journey. Upon returning, he wishes to settle their accounts, and rewards those who have invested their talents and been “faithful in small matters”, thus earning the trust of the master to take upon great responsibilities. The servant who buries his talent, for fear of losing it, is harshly reprimanded and thrown out of the master’s house.
Father’s homily centered around the idea of “almost”. Almost giving. Almost clothing the naked. Almost sheltering the homeless. Almost giving our greatest effort. Almost being prepared. Almost living. Why do we stop ourselves and fall victim to the plight of “almost”? Because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the results, fear of what could be - fear.
The combination of these two conversations - one with my sister in her kitchen, one with my God during Mass - brought me to the same conclusion. Give up fear. Live now. Live as though the Master is returning tomorrow - use that which you have been given, to the fullest. Embrace life and all that which is inherent with the journey. For me, this means embracing my current status as a graduate student in a community that isn’t receptive to most of my beliefs. And yet my intellect, my abilities, my dedication and focus - these are gifts. To abuse them is to live in fear. And with that in mind, I turn in for the evening, to face Monday with all the enthusiasm and optimism of one who knows what it means to be blessed.