Sunday, October 19, 2008

Moose's Tale

Well, I have acquired for myself a fine young Labrador Retriever. He is a very good boy named Moose, and I adopted him from the Plano Animal Shelter.

One day I just got a jones for my very own man's best friend, and I determined that I would have one before the day was out. Well, by the end of the day I had picked out my friend, but I had to leave him at the shelter with the fear of someone else adopting him, because I needed to get my apartment set up for him with kennel and food bowls, etc.



Moose is yellow and beautiful. He is one year old, and although he has Lab-like energy springing from an inner fountain of eternal youth, he contains himself much better than some Labs I have known, even including my favorite childhood dog, Maggie Blanchard. Although he tugs at his leash, he has yet to drag my flailing body down the sidewalk, sacrificing my flesh in his pursuit of any one of a plethora of neighborhood squirrels (yes, Maggie did that). We are trying to learn many things, starting with the basic commands ("sit") and moving up through the sophisticated lessons of Caesar Millan (whose lessons are mostly for the human regarding dog psychology). He is trying hard to be good in between urges to eat trash or cat litter or to pee on the carpet. I had to teach him how to go up and down the stairs to my apartment, but he's got it down now.

Yes, I said apartment. Now my 704-square-foot one-bedroom is shared between me, Moose, and Coconut the Cat. No, they're not friends yet. Yes, I am aware that keeping a Lab in an apartment is a very strange decision, but I felt certain that my activity level would justify it. I started out taking Moose on two 30- to 45-minute walks each day, until the vet told me to cool it. I myself am guilty of that fountain of undying energy from time to time, so Moose and I make a good pair.

You see, Moose is actually heartworm positive. :( This means that he has been bitten by a mosquito carrying the heartworms. I don't know how long he has been infected. The shelter found him as a stray, and estimated his age at 1 year. I have no idea why he was stray: did he run away? Was he let loose on purpose? Did something happen to his owner? How long did he live the stray life? I don't know. All I know is that no one came to look for him once the shelter picked him up, and so eventually he went on the market for adoption. Heartworms can discourage people from adopting, but the animal shelter pays for the procedure to be done on animals who are adopted once they have stayed with their new owners for at least two weeks and gotten all acclimated. Moose will have the procedure in approximately three weeks. The shelter workers told me that I'll have to keep him absolutely as quiet as possible for 1 month after the procedure, but what the vet told me is that I should really try to keep him as quiet as possible from now (before the procedure) until one month after the surgery! Consequently, Moose is feeling a little stir crazy these days ... he doesn't know I'm trying to save his heart from permanent damage resulting in death!

When we went to the vet last week, Moose almost turned himself inside out trying to befriend every person and animal he met. He had two ear infections as well as one other issue (too personal to mention here) that we received prescriptions for. The vet told me he has allergies and needs to take Benadryl twice a day! Otherwise, Moose is an incredibly beautiful and healthy dog. People stop and comment on his appearance all the time. He is gorgeous, and his temperament is heart-warmingly wonderful.

Soon I will take him for play dates with other dogs, but right now I have to keep him out of overly-exciting situations, per doctor's orders. After the next couple of months go by, Moosey and I will be running together every day. :) And Coconut... well... My Precious will one day appreciate the company, she just takes awhile to accept change. She and I have a lot in common that way.

Obligatory Political Statements

So, I'm guessing you're tired of hearing about the pre-election activities, unless you have been a genius and kept your nose out of the news entirely. You'd have to be more than a genius, I think you'd have to be a superhero with powers of avoidance and invisibility (so no one could rope you into a discussion about things).

I know the big talks revolve around the economy and the whole energy crisis, as well as health care and such. The brutal battles are endless. The jargon is absurd. John Stossel (sp?) is pretty much the only person I've seen on television to successfully cut through the crap and reveal the empty promises of both candidates, making a striking comparison with their claims and the claims of the last several Presidents: they all want to promise the same things, and they're still not delivering results. Interesting. Janet of course would understand that the President wields very limited power and that most of it is about the Senate and the House. :)

In my weekly youth group meeting we were talking and one of my girls told me that she believes God would vote for McCain because she thinks that it would make sense for God to be more conservative. We all laughed at this a little bit, just because of the absurd thought of God being confined to the lines that all us voters subject ourselves to. It's hilarious to imagine God joining in the petty squabbles of Presidential candidates. We concluded that God would most likely write Himself in on the ballot.

Somebody please tell me if every election has been about this, but for some reason it seems like this one is way more about what people want to get for themselves, rather than the difference between right and wrong. Has "What's In It For Me" always been the mantra? I think that's what the candidates are appealing to most, and it makes me sick. I don't particularly want to vote for anyone! I want to stand for something that's true... And I guess they're both finding themselves prone to bending the truth here and there. I just want it to be about what's right for our country, individuals, and the world. I guess it doesn't work that way, though.

I will vote, I will. I feel like it's my civic duty. But that's all it is ... just a duty. Not an impassioned decision made with moral conviction to be pro-somebody.

Disappondment

It seems like these days everyone I meet thinks I am 3-5 years younger than I really am. This is nice, I admit I am not in a hurry to age visibly.

I wish I felt so young.

There is nothing worse than disappointment. Some of the most searing losses I've experienced in my longer-than-it-looks lifetime have been the disappointment with people that truly held a lot of faith in.

It hurts worse to be disappointed with myself -- day in, day out. This makes me feel old because all I can see is wastedness. I don't know why this happens, but I know I'm not the only one to go through it. I've concluded that disappointments are a chief motivator of self-destructive behavior. It's a spiral: think a bad thought, believe it's true about yourself, and then start living accordingly.

When Christ set me free, I'm convinced it was for freedom from this downward-trending cycle of living as though "This Is What I'm Worth." It is so easy to think that we should spend our days berating ourselves for all our failings. Yes, we fail. But we are so loved. We are so precious. We are so created in the image of God, for the purpose of of His pleasure, to bring glory to His name, to do Good.

Addictions, compulsions, impulsiveness, obsessions, overindulgence, negligence: I can identify all of these in my life, and the lives of so many I know. We live in quiet desperation, growing more disappointed in ourselves each day, fearing to share our thoughts with others, trying to patch over the wounds with everything but the salve that it needs ... until one day we reach crisis. And we fall. And everyone knows. And then it's too late. And the disappointment has become contagious.

But it's not about how others feel about me or you, it's not about what people think of us. It's about not letting that discouragement take us so far from our true form -- distorting the truth about who we are, and Whose we are. What He says about me is true, and what He has sacrificed for me defines what I can become. If He will help me, I will break this cycle of creating so much noise all around me to block out the Enemy within me. Then I will open it up to His power, and He will defeat it, instead of watching as I apply my own random First Aid of destruction.

Please, when you feel desperate, don't hold it inside. You will try to fix it yourself. It will not work. You will make it worse. Christ came not for the healthy, but the sick. If you feel sick because of yourself, He came for your healing.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oktoberfest!

Well, it is finally beginning to feel like Autumn in Texas! Even some trees are trying to change colors. They try so hard -- it's really cute. Because we don't have the stark definitions between seasons that one might find in such a place as ... oh ... Maryland, for example, we are forced to celebrate the changing times with our own embellished punctuation. This means we try very hard to keep up with changing our decorations in a timely fashion, try seasonal-flavored things in their proper turn, and celebrate even the smallest holidays with a great vehemence. I love holidays ... they help us so much to mark the passage of time, to make memories with loved ones, to forget about what's not important and capture all those smiles and people who are so important. Michael and I pored over the pages of last year's October edition of Martha Stewart's magazine. We got very excited about some ideas we have for pumpkin etching, glittery skeletal things, and cookies with delicious filling and caramel apples.

For today however, we mostly focused on trying to get organized. You see, my apartment is terrible evidence of the fact that I am a busy lady with 1 million things on my mind other than maintaining a living space. It is just beginning to become very important to me that I create a space that is a haven, a getaway, a place of healing and help for myself as well as others. I want to make a home like this, but the flip side of this concept is a lot of work. I may as well start practicing now, while I am single with many independent choices. Someday my life may consist of choices shared 50/50, or 20/20/20/20/20.... You get the point. If only setting new habits were more immediate and much less overwhelming. Mom, I am finally starting to understand the ownership that you felt over the appearance of our home, and why you felt that it was such a reflection of the very fibers of your character if someone saw a messy house. Not that our house was ever messy... But anyway, environmentalism, I guess that's what I'm getting into nowadays. Creating the right environment that says what I want it to say -- no, what I believe it's supposed to say.

I am very excited about the future...
1) October: My sister's birthday! Finishing my training for my new job!
2) November: Going home to Maryland! Thanksgiving!
3) December: NEPHEW!!! Christmas!!!!! Home again home again, jiggedy jig.

I am very excited about new work from
1) Robin Thicke
2) Ani DiFranco
3) India.Arie
4) FEIST!!!!
5) Michael Ruiz. :D

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mystery Timeline

After making a big decision, it is strange to be given impactful information that might've changed the decision had the news been uncovered sooner. Unsolicited, this information was rightfully mine to receive a couple - few months ago. There is no question that a disservice was done to me.

But there is a reason for everything. There is a time to every purpose under heaven. So, though I doubt myself as much as ever, and that self-doubt mingles with disappointment in the people I trusted, I cannot doubt the Creator of my path. I know this decision seems huge now, because it is changing the course of my career. However, in the future, I hope it will seem relatively small and insignificant.

Certain character lessons emerge in my little pan of gold, which is what really matters.

1. I may go back on my word once, but it is ill-advised to do so twice. Sticking with a commitment is going to help me catch up on that sleep I've been losing at night.

2. I must learn meaningful ways of telling people how much they mean to me, before it's too late. I don't know if it might already be too late, but I want to learn.

3. Do not expect to be affirmed by the people you lead for your great leadership qualities. Leadership is lonely when you haven't gotten a network of comrades -- if you intend to persist in leadership, find those comrades. Later on you will find out how much your leadership is appreciated, but not in time to feel like your role matters enough to motivate you to persevere.

4. Perspective, perspective, perspective. What you longed for once may arrive, and then you might complain about it until you've drowned out the echo of the praises you used to sing for the thing. Facing the future, choose to emphasize the advantages of a new situation, while never failing to be honest if it's time to move on to the next thing.

I know I broke the rules of grammar here by using the "you" pronoun. I guess it's only because I'm really talking to myself!

* * *

In other news, my cat is stinky.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm an Obstacle to Me

A visiting priest came to talk to us on Sunday. Yes, he did get around to requesting money for his mission to the rural villages of the Philippines. Before that, he brought tears to our eyes with his simple homily delivered in beautiful, broken English.

The Gospel was Mat 16:21-27, and he focused on the moment in that Scripture when "Jesus began to show his disciples he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed on the third day and be raised." Because this did not fit with the typical understanding of the kind of political Messiah the Jews envisioned, the disciples were confused and even a little angry that Jesus would propose this eventuality. In response, Peter "took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, 'God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!' [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.'"

The paradox here is that the greatest triumph -- eternal salvation of millions upon millions of souls from death row -- is shrouded by the appearance of absolute defeat. Many had placed their faith in Jesus to deliver them from earthly, political bondage when all of the sudden things went terribly wrong. He was killed. Had He accomplished nothing? To be caught up in that appearance of defeat is to think not as God does, but as human beings do.

I can become easily obsessed with my failures, and I spend a lot of time berating myself for all the ways that I've failed others or fallen short of my goals. Can I learn to rejoice that I am defeated? Space is created for me to stop thinking like a human being, and start thinking in absolute terms -- thinking as God does. Now my failures are triumphs -- now I am being asked to rebuild my house on the Rock, wherein I may safely place my trust, and cease building up my confidence on such shifting sands as my own moody self and my waxing and waning competencies.

Suffering is an epidemic that is spreading to every family I know. Friends and fellows they trusted are betraying that trust. The economy brings varied levels of difficulty to my own life, and the lives of all those I love. "Natural" disasters bring death and destruction. Far across several oceans, endless unrest continues senseless killing; poverty is suffocating; hope is unrealistic, absurd, long forgotten. Those wealthy enough to help are often too caught up in their own troubles to give the help they could. (Yes, I confess I am passing judgment on the wealthy.)

What can I do? I want so badly to help! There is nothing I can do to touch the suffering of the world! I feel trapped in the daily cycle of survival -- will I ever get out of taking care of myself paycheck to paycheck and become an instrument of hope and change in the world? There is a flame that burns inside of me, trying to reach the nooks and crannies of self-obsession and self-pity and short-sighted focus on all the temporal comforts I am longing after, trying to burn them away so my heart will function with more freedom and guide my mind in making the right kind of decisions for the future -- decisions based on thinking not as human beings do, but as God does.

The very present truth that occurs to me is that people right here, right now, in the United States of America, the richest country on the earth at this time, are in desperate spiritual poverty. I don't mean this even in the sense of condemning our lack of morality, but in the sense that the ordinary person has lost all hope. We have no hope for resolving conflict between family and friends -- we've lost sight of the true meaning of love and forgiveness. We have no hope of overcoming depression or obsessions or addictions or compulsions. We have no insight into an eternity of freedom from the strangehold of sinful habits and self-destructive habits. There is a cycle of self-defeat and disappointment with ourselves and our little failures that add up to a grand scale disillusionment. There is such high value placed on "doing what's right for you" and protecting ourselves first from those outside; no value placed on laying down our lives for our friends. We never get to experience the sustaining grace of Christ, because we are striving at all times to experience our own grace to ourselves.

I am taking to praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, "for us and for the whole world," so that we may persevere in carrying the flame of hope inside us to the darkest places of this country as well as the far corners of the earth. I am praying that God's particular mercy toward us will be to give us the grace to continue in hope and faith, not to reach defeat, not to rest our understanding on shrouds of appearance meant to discourage us into covering our flame with a blanket of silence. I pray that I and my friends will be found faithful, like the apostles and all the other martyrs for the cause of Christ -- when times get tougher, which they most certainly will, that we will perservere.

Stop looking for signs of hope in the world, and start bearing the sign of hope.

"When the Apostles preached the cross, and embraced it in their own lives, it seemed to others to be 'absurdity' and a 'stumbling block.' Today's Scriptures confront us with the stark figure of John the Baptist. He lived an ascetic life and died a martyr's death. Yet, Jesus lauded him, 'among those born of women there has been none greater' (Mat 11:11). So, too, most of Jesus' first followers, like their master, died at the hand of persecutors.
"The cross is the mysterious wisdom of God. To others this may seem to be folly. But for us who follow the master, the cross is the 'power of God.' As we embrace the crosses of our lives, we find the hidden life of God buried within." ~
Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Let it Rain

In Texas, we do not get a lot of rain. Last year we were suffering from severe drought for several seasons, then all of the sudden the skies opened and just didn't stop. We got all caught up. Our lakes and reservoirs refilled. Our grasses were green once again. It's interesting how much people complain, even so. Even when the water restrictions are lifted because the rain is finally falling, people are opposed. We complain when it's too hot or the skies are not cloudy for too long; when it finally rains, washing away that dry season and all the cracks that come with it, we complain some more.

This week it's been raining since last week. I don't know exactly when it'll stop, but the Weather Channel forecasts it through the weekend that I'm supposed to be attending a wedding in Maryland. Hopefully the airline will not take the opportunity to cancel the flight.

I love the rain. I love running in it, dancing in it, watching it fall. I love seeing something different and refreshing, I love the mystery of how it starts and stops on its own time schedule. I long for it because it's elusive and I can't make it happen, not for any great desiring. It's a renewal, a hope of new beginnings. It promises a future of growth in the middle of a desperately long dry spell. It washes away the gentle soot that piles up over time, so slowly we don't even notice it until it's dripping off into murky puddles and falling down, back into the ground. Grime another day!

Today I imagined a bright, sunshiny world that had a period of rain at some designated point of every day. Wouldn't it be great? We could make all our plans around it! We would know just when to NOT walk outdoors with freshly curled hair. We would know how and when to tap those brakes on the road. We could take our lunch breaks at the perfect time to watch the droplets fall. No farmer would fear! No gardener would agonize! Every animal would know that a fresh opportunity for drinking and bathing was soon to come.

But that would ruin the whole thing. Weather -- we can't plan it. Even the most skilled meteorologists get it wrong, and then we berate them. When it comes to rain, we face one of the most basic, simple aspects of all life on this earth, worldwide, that we cannot control. Not one bit.

Maybe that's what I find so beautiful about it? It's comforting to me to remember that I am not the central power of the universe. Also, that whatever I plan may be changed by something small just out of my control. I like knowing that something bigger than my life is happening in this world. I am a small part of a bigger story. Very small, but very much a part of an important purpose. And thankfully, certain weather systems are in place to prevent me from getting too far off the beaten path of my purpose that goes beyond my personal plans and intentions.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Blog?

For quite awhile I have been personally boycotting the whole blog thing. It's recent that I've begun to think about taking it up again. In highschool / college it was mostly a social thing, or a self-indulgent rap-session. Now I want to get back into it because

1) I've been inspired by some recent blogs I've started following;

2) I have many loved ones far away that I'd like to keep up with a little better, at least providing them the opportunity of interacting with me on the latest thoughts that run through my head;

3) I really want to write. It's a driving force within me, and I can't lay it down. The other day a customer of mine at work found out that I like to write, and he asked me why I'm not keeping a blog? It's the way the world works now. A successful blog does not necessarily make or break a writer, but regular practice writing certainly will, as will dabbling with "publishing."

So enjoy. Comment. Dialogue. Contradict. Engage. More to come...