Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Saturday morning found us sitting inside the church at the Abbey of New Clairvaux to attend the Abbatial Blessing for Father Paul Mark Schwan as the new abbot of the Abbey.

I met Father Paul Mark last fall when I wrote a story about their Sacred Stones project, and truly enjoyed our conversation. I believe it was from that interview that we were invited to attend this remarkable ceremony.

I'm not Catholic, although I've had friends who are, and in high school I spent some lovely times with several nuns (and a couple of friends) in Springfield, Mo. It was right around the time of Vatican II, and the sisters were going from traditional habits to much more informal ones, and changing their names to boot -- i.e, Sister Mary Noel became Sister Mary Carol. They belonged to the Sisters of Loretto. I don't know if the order is still associated with the Catholic schools there or not.

But the "highest" service I've ever attended was the Easter Vigil Mass. The liturgical purpose was different, but it had all the lovely ceremony and very formal liturgy. We sang most of the service, led by an intrepid quartet of monks, much of it in Latin. There was a magnificent processional with representatives from not only Cistercian orders, but -- I believe -- others in the area and perhaps from farther away. The service was led by Father Jaime Soto, the bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento.

It was all incense, candles, music, prayers, liturgy, and an incredible wave of holy energy surrounding Father Paul Mark and all of us in attendance. He has shouldered a magnificent burden -- to be the "Christ" among the community -- and it was an honor and privilege to be present.

The Abbey itself is such a peaceful place, surrounded by walnut and plum orchards and dotted with vineyards whose harvest makes their signature wines. We had cloudy skies and splatterings of rain throughout the day, but the rain feeds the trees and plants. It was good for our souls to experience and participate.

Later that afternoon I went to a drumming demonstration at Heartfelt in downtown Red Bluff. Although my purpose was to take photos and get interview for an upcoming story, I was drawn to the drums too, I'll confess, and was invited to participate.

Drumming is very old and is rooted in every culture, although I believe the djembe is the favored drum for drumming circles. It is elemental: reflecting the heartbeat, the breath, and is at once a communal and deeply personal experience. I found it therapeutic, energizing, and I want more! Although very different from the morning's experience, this one was no less spiritual.

Blessings come to us in many ways, if we open ourselves and our eyes to acknowledge and accept them. I felt very fortunate to be part of both experiences this weekend.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nature and nurture

In a comment to me the other day, I heard an implication that two of our daughters' situations may be our fault in some way because of the way they were raised, despite any genetic influences one way or the other.

And maybe I'm particularly sensitive right now as far as they're concerned because of the particular brand of parental angst their choices have caused us, and the mess they've both made of their lives because of their choices.

But I really take umbrage at the suggestion that their lives are messed up because of something we did.

My beloved and I did not raise them together. But both were reared in middle-class homes with strong middle-class values, went to church and camp and Sunday school, were Girl Scouts, played soccer, had proper health care and went to good schools, and had parents who tried to make sure they were able to take advantage of enrichment programs like drama, music, art, and the like. Their parents attended their games and events pretty faithfully. Both fathers worked hard to make a living; both mothers stayed home with them at least until they were school age if not longer. They both grew up with parents who had strong work ethics, who encouraged them to find what they were good at doing and make it happen.

Were there mistakes? Of course. Did their parents have it all together? No. I don't know any parents that do/did. But both girls were raised with love and attention; both were raised pretty much as only children.

There were some bad things that happened to them both at young ages, things that were not our fault or by our doing, and in my case, one biggie that I didn't even know about until last summer.

They're not the first children to whom some icky stuff has happened. They won't be the last.

And that may help explain some of their individual issues now, for sure.

There are also genetic factors at play here, we believe -- inheritable traits and illnesses that compound the issues. None of us have any say over what we inherit through our genes, alas. What we do have a choice about is how we choose to react to an illness, an inherited predisposition. What are we going to do with the hand we've been dealt?

But the bottom line is that they mostly are where they are because of their own choices: who they hang out with, what they choose to pursue in education or the world of work, how they make choices, what their work ethics are, what they decide to put into their bodies.

You do all you can, where you are, with what you've got.

There is so much compounded crap in their lives right now that I don't know if they can dig their ways out from underneath the piles. I hope so. I believe it is possible, and there are many stories about people who have overcome significant odds -- socio-economic, physical, mental -- and have become happy, successful adults.

But what they accomplished was because they wanted to do it for themselves. That's the only way it happens: when you want something badly enough to work through the obstacles to get it.

We have never stopped believing that it is possible. But we also know that we cannot love them out of their problems nor into the kind of life we hope for them. It can't be bought or bargained for. There is no easy fix, not that their lives are ours to fix anyway. They get to choose how they want to live their lives.

It is our choice how we accept their decisions.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Check 'em out -- little bytes of interest

Bits from the news today:

Awhile back I wrote about print newspapers and their struggle to stay in business. A new poll shows that while my generation and the ones before me value print newspapers, those born after 1977 generally do not. Most say they get all the news they need from their televisions. Scary. Sad.

If you travel via plane, be careful what's in your luggage. Like organic chocolate, rosemary, or natural soaps -- all of which can test positive for illegal drugs with a quickie test. Yeah, you'd be cleared if you were innocent, but it could cost you lots of money and major hassle.

The fat police apparently are trying to regulate what we are allowed to put in our mouths. But when they start messing with chocolate, I think they've gone a bit too far.

A local opportunity to learn about the media industry -- podcasts, video games, and the like -- is coming up soon, and it's free. I just read about it here, and then found lots more info and registration for Playing with Ideas here. Especially if you know a young adult who is fascinated by the possibilities -- or if you need a creative kick-in-the-pants, this is an unbeatable deal right in our own back yard.

And finally, a bit of cheer. This video was filmed in London's Liverpool Street station as part of a commercial for T-Mobile. Big hit for the ad agency! And a lot of fun to watch.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Struggling for balance

and I don't mean the stay-upright kind (although that too is hard for me!)

Mostly I've covered all my current worries in another post, a little over a month ago.

Same old, same old. Different day.

Predictably, one is going back to live with her abusive BF -- in another few months, she says, to "make sure" the changes she thinks she sees are real. (He's in counseling and going to AA meetings, she says) We've covered everything there is for us to say in many previous conversations. And what she apparently doesn't realize is that our perception of the guy is more than 90% based on things she's told us over the last 31/2 years!

The other -- she's trying to learn how to live a completely different life, and to no one's surprise, is having a hard time with it. Problem is that you don't make friends worth having quickly: you have to work at it, and it takes time. The friends you make quickly are usually out to get whatever they can out of YOU. Couple that with new meds, probably too much alone time, and her sister moving out, and it doesn't make for happy days. She's not able to work right now -- both good and bad to that, and I'm also handling her finances, so she feels very dependent (which she is) and hates that too, understandably.

So I'm working to let it go, let it be, and return my focus to my own life.

On the plus side, we got outside this weekend and sprayed gallons of RoundUp around the house, up and down the driveway, around the garden, on some slopes -- got a little sunburned, and it felt good to be outside and doing something besides hunched over a computer keyboard! Need more of that, the being outside thing.

I know the Universe isn't done with the girls yet, nor with us. Things will change -- that is the one thing I know for sure. Pray that they can learn to change too, and to make better choices for themselves and their lives than some they've made in the past. Pray for me that I can accept the fact that they must learn their own lessons just as I have had to learn mine.

Friday, March 06, 2009


We "spring forward" this weekend to daylight savings time -- an hour later. Always throws off my body clock for about a week, but I confess I like having it stay lighter longer.

And reluctantly I'm admitting it is spring. Our harbinger tree -- the one that pops its leaves earlier than the others -- has been out for several days. Our neighbors' daffodils are dotting their driveway with their cheery yellow heads. We have hummers at the feeders -- although I've actually kept the feeders full all winter too. The deer are fat and happy.

And thanks to a month of rain, we have about 76% of what we need, according to the weatherman. I'd love to see more of it though, even into May and early June.

We're planning to tackle weed abatement this weekend. We bought a large sprayer and will RoundUp the heck out of the weeds that are EVERYWHERE all of a sudden. It's been too windy or rainy to do so earlier.

And I'm also beginning to think about what to plant in the garden this year. I'd like to get out spinach, lettuce, and sugar snap peas in the next few weeks, and then think about what else to plant.

And then there is landscaping to be done with the front area, buoyed up by a lovely new retaining wall now, but liberally sprinkled with rocks and weeds already. A trip to the garden center is in order to find plants that are drought-resistant and also deer-resistant.

Everything inside looks a mess to me too, and I'm wanting to clean cupboards, sort through stacks of papers, dust, clean, toss. Minimize. That's spring's clarion call to renew, reuse, recycle!

But I confess I enjoy having woodstove fires in the evenings when it cools way down, and watching movies in the snug warmth of our great room.

Spring's arrived, no matter the calendar. It's a good time to evaluate what to keep, what to toss -- both externally and internally.