23 November 2015

My BFF

I decided to write a blog post about my BFF. Well, I don’t really have a BFF. If I did, I guess it would be my husband, who would just love being referred to as my BFF. But I’m not going to write about him. He is pretty much off limits when it comes to my public blog, and I want to respect his privacy. So this post is about a different kind of friend.

You have heard the phrase, “a dog is a man’s best friend.” Well, this girl’s best friend is her cat. And I would like to tell you about him.

I met Desi in September, 2006, after my husband received a telephone call about a litter of tuxedo cats. My mother-in-law found a litter of kittens abandoned in the park. When my husband and I went to see them that day, we were introduced to five little balls of fur. They were so small you could hold two in one hand.

After a visit to the vet, we were told the kittens were about five weeks old and in good health. There was one, however, who had a bad eye infection. The veterinarian gave my mother-in-law medication to treat the infection, and it was a waiting game to see if his eye could be saved.

I decided right away that I would take one. I never had a kitten before. I always adopt adult cats. Adult cats are harder to place, so I always left the kittens behind because I knew they had a better chance at finding a home, but now I was looking at five kittens, and I knew I had to have one. The question was which one.
Every time I visited these kittens, I would hold each one and try to determine their personalities. And they do show personality traits very early on. Some would squirm in your hands, wanting to run around on the floor, while others liked to be held. Some were hyper, and some were more docile. They definitely had different temperaments.

So every few days I would go and see the kittens, trying to choose one.  There was one that stood out for me, though. He always purred when I held him, and he never tried to squirm out of my hands. He wanted me to hold him, so he was the one I chose. He was also the one with the eye infection, and I knew he would be harder to place. So I chose him and couldn’t wait to take him home.
But I didn’t take him right away. I left him with his litter mates until each one was adopted. I didn’t want one to be left alone waiting for a home, so I left Desi there for company.  As it turned out, the last two were adopted together, so none were left alone. When Desi’s last two siblings went to their new home, I was finally able to take him to his.
Because the kittens were so young, we had to feed them cereal. Every morning I would get up early and feed Desi Pablum before I went to work. This is when he and I began to really bond. I would feed him his breakfast, and he would crawl up to my neck to nuzzle. He would then lick my chin and fall asleep. Even today, if he is in the right mood, I will ask him to give me a kiss, and he will lick my chin. Who says cats aren’t affectionate?
So Desi grew; his eye was saved, and he got himself into a lot of mischief.




About a year and a half later (in April, 2008) I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The few months leading up to my diagnosis, and the year after, I was sick—very sick. I could barely eat anything, and I was in a tremendous amount of pain. This went on until I found the right doctor and the right medication.

There were days when I would sit and sob out of sheer pain. My cat would sit and watch me sob, keeping his distance, but also keeping a watch over me. He knew something was wrong, and it caused distress in him. Animals are in tune with our emotions, and he knew I was sick.
There were also days I couldn’t pull myself out of bed because I was exhausted from pain, nausea, and an iron deficiency. On those days, Desi would be right there beside me, comforting me. The bond we already had became even stronger. I was alone all day, isolated, fearful of the future, and Desi eased my suffering. He kept me company on some of the worst days.
I named Desi after Desi Arnaz. I was in the habit of watching episodes of "I Love Lucy," and the name Desi seemed to fit my kitten perfectly. His full name, like Desi Arnaz’s, is Desiderio, and it is fitting. Desiderio comes from the Latin Desiderius, which means “ardent desire” or the “one longed for.” I didn’t really know the meaning of Desi when I chose the name. I just named him after a Cuban-born entertainer, but it is the perfect name for my cat. And I could never have known that a little kitten, abandoned and unwanted, would be my heart’s “ardent desire” and take me through one of the most difficult times of my life. So in the end, maybe I really do have a BFF.






12 November 2015

Affirmations

Originally Posted On October 21, 2015 

I am not sure if this happens with other writers, but it is happening with me more and more. It is a strange thing that I will share with you in a moment.

First, I want to say that I am about half finished writing the first draft of my second novel, Vocation.  I hope to have the first draft finished by December. I have been plotting some things out, and the story is almost worked through. Now it is just a matter of choosing the right words in the right order to tell the story in the best way I can.

Then I will begin the re-writing, which is my favorite part. That is when I get to play with sentence structure and phrasing. I can stay at my computer for hours re-writing scenes because I love doing it. That is when I feel like a real writer.

Vocation has a lot of themes running through it. I won’t share them now because I don’t want to ruin the story for those who may want to read it. But a strange thing has been happening. I don’t know how to describe it other than it is an affirmation that I am on target and that my story is working.

So what are these affirmations? Well, sometimes it is something someone says to me. Other times a person or place comes into my life.  Once it was in a priest’s homily. But whatever it is, it is uncanny because it is something I have already written in my book. I cannot even tell you how many times this has happened to me since I began writing my novel. And I can’t explain it other than it is an affirmation that I am on the right track.

The reason I decided to write about this here in my blog today is because it happened again today. One of these affirmations happened while I was having a discussion with a co-worker. He said something to me that my characters discuss in my novel. I am talking about a deep, profound, spiritual concept. I can’t tell you what my co-worker said. It would be giving away part of my story, but the really interesting part of it all is that my co-worker has no clue that he hit upon a deep, profound, spiritual concept that is a running theme in my novel.

To add to this strange occurrence today, my co-worker’s name is Mark. One of my characters is named Mark. And I wrote about Mark long before I met Mark. You see, Mark Beaumont is in A Future Spring. I wrote about him two years ago. His story continues in Vocation.

How does that happen? I have my own idea, but I will leave that up to you to decide.

The Police Officers

Originally Posted On September 5, 2015  
  
Sometimes I greatly disappoint myself. 

After Mass this evening, my husband and I stopped at a gas station to fill our tank before heading home. As we pulled in, I saw them: two police officers with their cruisers. They were filling their tanks, one in front of the other. Immediately, I thought of him, Darren Goforth, the Texas Deputy Sheriff, shot and killed execution style while filling the tank of his own vehicle.

As my husband pumped the gas, I stood and watched the officers. I thought about the danger they face every day—just by wearing the uniform. I stood and watched them until they finished filling their tanks. I wanted to go up to them and say something, but I didn’t know what to say. So I just watched them.

Finally, they both finished. I watched as the first officer drove away. He drove past me, window shut, his head facing front. I could only see his profile.

The second officer took the same route, driving right by where I was standing. He drove slower, had the window down, and looked straight at me. He slowed, almost to a stop. I don’t know why. Maybe there was another car in his path. I don’t know because I was looking directly at his face. I would have had time to walk up and motion to him. I almost did that very thing. I wanted to say, “God bless you, and be safe.” But I didn’t. I was too shy, I guess. But I looked at him and smiled. He smiled back, and for a brief moment, we made eye contact.

When I got home, I was greatly disappointed with myself. I thought about it and wondered, why was I too shy to say what was in my heart? And I remembered his smile. Then a quote came to my mind. And that quote is by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And that quote says, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” So even though I was too timid to say the words, I hope the officer understood what I was saying through my smile.

The Essay

Originally Posted On August 29, 2015

A few weeks ago, my co-worker (and friend) gave me an essay to read. It is a brave thing to do—to share with someone else a piece of literature that moves you. We have all been there. We have all shared something that changed us or helped us to see the world in a new way, only to be disappointed when the person we shared it with just doesn’t get it. It can be alienating. When something you see as extraordinary becomes ordinary in someone else’s view, it can actually be painful.

So when I was given the essay, I knew. I knew that it was something extraordinary. I knew it was something extraordinary because he was sharing it with me. I knew it had to be. So I took great care in reading it. And I was right. It was extraordinary.

My point here is not to discuss the subject of the essay, although the subject cannot be discounted. The subject of the essay is heart-breaking—the destruction of nature. But rather than discuss the subject, I would rather discuss the effect the essay itself had on me and why. You see, the subject would not have hit me so hard, if the writer didn’t construct the essay in the way he did. And the way he constructed the essay was beautiful—beauty in the midst of destruction.

Words. These are the only tools a writer has, and he has to use those tools to create an emotional response in the reader. It is a difficult thing to do. It takes an immense amount of work. But the right words in the right order, turns the ordinary into extraordinary.

Here is my favorite section from the essay:

“We paused beneath red and white oaks and poplars towering sixty feet to their first limbs. Their branches, joining overhead, gave the impression of a green-and-gold cathedral ceiling supported by massive wooden columns.”

Yes, he is talking about trees, but to him, and now to the reader, ordinary trees become much more. They now become a cathedral, or even more profoundly, a spiritual experience—all due to the right words in the right order. And as a writer, you are never quite sure if it works until you get a reader’s response.

I was never really one to believe the phrase “art for art’s sake.” Art in any form cries out for a response. Art cannot exist for its own sake. All art is a form of communication, and at its best, it takes the reader (in the case of literature) out of his ordinary existence and places him into the extraordinary.

When my friend shared this essay with me that day, he gave me a gift. The essay created a response in me: I was moved to tears. Why? Because the spiritual experience the author felt through his communion with nature was communicated to me, and it changed me. And the only tools the writer had were words.

Words have power.

The Human Condition: Good versus Evil

Originally Posted On August 1, 2015  

When I was a teenager, I went through my first real conversion experience. It was nothing mystical or dramatic. It was just a prompting of my heart to look deeper into the faith. I began reading about the saints and specifically the apostles. Peter was my favorite. I could see his humanity, and I could relate. I didn’t fully understand the role Peter played in the Church. That all came much later. I just understood him, and he became my patron saint, although I didn’t have a name for it back then
I used to put myself back in the time of Jesus. I remember wondering, if I had been alive during Jesus’ time on earth, how would I have reacted? When Jesus was arrested and put on trial, would I have been one of the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” or would I have been one of the Women of Jerusalem crying for Him on His way to Calvary? Today I still don’t know the answer, and it is troubling.

If we move through history, we are confronted with so many moral dilemmas. We look back with a clear vision on slavery in America and see the wrongs. But if I lived during those years, would I have been on the side of the Abolitionists or would I have been on the other side . . . the side that did not see slaves as human beings? Would I have been in support of the Fugitive Slave Act or not? It is hard to know, and it bothers me.

Then, if we move again through history, this time to Nazi Germany, where would I stand? Would I have been brave enough to speak up for my Jewish neighbors or would I see them as subhuman? Would I remain silent? Would I have been lost in the propaganda of Adolph Hitler and deny the atrocities? Which side would I be on—the side of good or evil? I honestly don’t know, and it worries me.

I used to wonder about all these things. I used to be grateful that I was spared the test. Well, we are never really spared the test because we are always in the face of evil. We are always forced to make a choice. It has been the human condition from the beginning: Good versus Evil.

And today we all have to make the same choice the people of the past had to make. Which side am I on?

What am I referring to?

Planned Parenthood and the whole abortion debate. I’m sure you have heard some things about the videos, the selling of body parts, the baby boy.

Why as a nation are we in denial? Why are we lost in their propaganda? Why do we see the unborn as non-human? Why do we think it is okay? Why do we look the other way?

Do we not want to know? Do we want to remain in the dark?

Do we want to be spared the test?

The truth is each one of us is being tested. And there is a choice to make: Good or Evil. Which side are you on?

I started this blog entry talking about my first real conversion experience and my fondness for St. Peter. Why? Because it is never too late for a change of heart.

Peter denied Jesus three times. He deserted Jesus on the cross. He denied and he deserted Jesus. But Peter had a change of heart. He betrayed Jesus just like Judas, but he had a change of heart and chose good over evil.

This week I was reminded of a quote by William Wilberforce. Who is William Wilberforce? He led the abolitionist movement to end the slave trade in Great Britain. There is a wonderful movie called Amazing Grace that tells his story. I highly recommend it.

So I will leave you with a powerful quote by this amazing man who saw first-hand the suffering of his fellow human beings, someone who chose good over evil: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”


When Two Paths Cross

Originally Posted on June 6, 2015 
               
If you know me, or if you have even crossed paths with me, be forewarned. You may end up in my blog. And this time the subject is a very unlikely candidate.

When I was hired for my new job, I was thrilled. Finding my way to work was inconsequential. I had the job, and I would get there no matter what.

Then as my first day approached, reality began to set it. I would have to take the bus every single day because my husband needed the car for his job. We have been a one-car family for years, and it has never really been a problem.

But now it kind of is.

I’ll be honest, the idea of riding the bus every single day was not inviting. I have to walk twenty minutes to get to the bus stop, and then it is a forty minute ride to the campus. If I had my own car, it would take one third of that time, and time is precious these days.

But I had the job, so I would get there no matter how.

So I have been riding the bus every day. Some mornings I am spared. If my husband works the later shift, he is kind enough to drive me. But most days I still ride the bus home.
And something interesting happened.

Someone’s path has crossed mine. And he is the subject of my blog today—the bus driver who drives me home most days.

Now being a bus driver is not glamorous, and most bus drivers do just that . . . drive the bus. It is hard, tedious work, and some drivers can be grumpy. Can you blame them? Usually they say hello or good morning and they say goodbye or have a nice night, but mostly they drive the bus without much interaction. My bus driver is different, very different, and he makes a difference.

He carries on conversations with the passengers, and yesterday I was the only passenger on the bus for half the ride home, so I was the lucky passenger he chatted with. I know more about this bus driver than I know about some people I have known for years. But he is not a gossipy kind of guy. He is just nice. He makes the ride pleasant, and I see him as kind of a lesson to me. And I wonder, because I wonder a lot about these things, if our paths were meant to cross. Because two weeks of riding the bus with this bus driver has made me see things in a new way.

I won’t share the personal details about him or his wife or his life. He probably wouldn’t care because he shares it with the bus riders all the time, but to protect his privacy, I won’t get into that. It is how he relates to people that I would like to talk about.

He is cheerful. On the second day, when he picked me up on campus, he said, “I guess I have a new customer.” I blathered on about . . . well, for now and I just got a new job etc. etc. etc., and then he said, “Well, remember me at Christmas, and my birthday is January 23.”

Who says that? He does, and he doesn’t know who he is dealing with. Don’t think I won’t remember what he said.

He is a real people person, and I could learn a lot from that. I am not. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I am an introvert and would rather write than talk. But the moment-to-moment or day-to-day encounters with individual people can really make a difference. I never really understood that until recently. And you don’t have to be a charismatic personality in every day encounters with people. You just have to be kind and be observant and be willing to reciprocate.

I haven’t told anyone this, not even myself really, but here I am telling the world . . . that after some reflection, I have felt like a failure after leaving my job at the public library. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deal with the public and the pressure and the chaos and the stress. And I felt like a failure. The job helped me at a low time in my life. For that, I will always be grateful, but I felt like a failure when I left.

But the truth is I am not a failure. I endured that job for 2 ½ years. I tried to go against my nature—to be an extrovert, and it never really worked. It created stress in me, and the reality is there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. That is who I am.

But even introverts need people, and certain people, like my bus driver, bring out the best in other people.

Most people ride the bus these days with their ear buds in their ears or their heads in their iPhones, and they are slowly missing these one-on-one, day-to-day, individual encounters. And the lesson I learned is this: you never know whose path might cross yours. And you may miss a great gift if you are looking down instead of looking out . . . And that is how I would really become a failure.



Miss Cathy's New Bracelet

Originally Posted on January 20, 2015
    
Miss Cathy has a new bracelet. And here is the story of how she got her new bracelet.

Maddie loves to read and she likes to visit the library where Miss Cathy works.

One day Maddie came to the library wearing a beautiful bracelet she made with her new loom.
Miss Cathy admired her bracelet and asked Maddie if she would make her one. Now, Miss Cathy knows girls like Maddie are very busy, so she was in no hurry for her new bracelet.

The days passed, and Miss Cathy forgot all about her bracelet. But Maddie didn’t forget.
Last Saturday, Maddie came to visit all the librarians at the library, and she brought Miss Cathy her new bracelet.



Miss Cathy loves her new bracelet because it brightens her day. Miss Cathy wears a lot of black and gray, so a pink and orange rubber band bracelet is just what she needs in her wardrobe.

But that is not the only reason her new bracelet brightens her day. The real reason her new bracelet brightens her day is, because every time Miss Cathy wears it, she thinks of Maddie and how kind she was to make Miss Cathy such a wonderful gift.



Reflections on A Future Spring

Originally Posted on March 18, 2014
         
I’ve been thinking long and hard about my first blog entry. Some ideas I would like to explore in the future are my views on the writing process, how I survived my first publication, what advice I would give to new authors, and how I feel about publishing my first book. I imagine, with time, I will address all these subjects, but today, for my first blog entry, I have decided to write about how I feel about my first book—the book itself, not the process.

A Future Spring was officially published on February 26, 2014. It was a long, hard journey. It took a full three years—from the first thought to the final publication.

My book is very ordinary by today’s standards. It is not paranormal, YA, or coming of age. It does not have aliens, witchcraft, vampires, or zombies. The story is what I classify as general fiction or a story of self-discovery. I also see it as a love story with a bit of Catholic Theology thrown in for good measure. My book is not for everyone.

I write books that I like to read—about real people, in real situations, who overcome real obstacles. I most enjoy stories that have a moral theme, and I have tried to incorporate some of that thinking into A Future Spring.

I imagine people will wonder and ask what authors influence my writing. I’m not sure how to answer that. I know what type of writing I aspire to—Flannery O’Connor, Betty Smith, Judith Guest, Carson McCullers. But that is reaching for the stars.

A Future Spring is special to me. It is my first book—a realization of a dream. I love my book. Why wouldn’t I? It is a part of me—my heart laid out onto the pages. It is by no means a classic. It is not an epic. It is not perfect. It is a simple story about forgiving yourself, finding a second chance at happiness, and being loved for who you really are. My story is not original. These are themes that have been explored before because they are part of our human existence. My story is nothing grand, but it is mine. Sharing it with the world was a scary prospect, but when all is said and done, if someone somewhere is moved by my story, and maybe even sees a bit of beauty in it, then I will be very happy.