Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another trip...



Another trip...I leave in a few hours for Vancouver.  Someone once asked me what I am running from that I continuously traipse off all over the world, always seeing something new?  It's hard to explain what drives me, even to myself.  I'd like to attribute it to my "sense of adventure" (like I'm living the adult life of the kids from Up: "Adventure is OUT THERE!!")  But I'm not sure I can honestly pinpoint it like that.  I know I LOVE seeing new things, how people live, how they think, feel and operate.  I love seeing things related to history or stories I've read.  I love meeting and entering into others' worlds, if only briefly.  And I love encountering beauty.  And quite honestly: I love people.

One of my bigger fears is that I travel for the simple reason that I can't say no...to the allure of certain places, the invitations of friends, or just the opportunities presented by life circumstances.

I think though, at the heart of it all is a desire to please God and do His Will.  With that in mind I find that the pleasure of travel comes from a peaceful flexibility with all situations.  When things go wrong: that is the adventure.  When things are difficult: that is the challenge.  And when there is peace and excitement: that is just as much partaking in what God is asking of me as when I am leaning over low to the ground carrying my cross and feeling each painful step.

I don't foresee myself traveling the globe for the rest of my life.  Each trip, each opportunity, comes as a gift and at each moment I find myself focused on living in the moment: just being.

I recently read a beautiful blog entitled Simply Be.  It spoke to my heart and I wish to share it with you.  God bless you!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi

Love today!  Such a beautiful feast!  And taking on more meaning as I begin to delve into St. John Paul II's writings.  Did you take in the second reading at Mass today?  Wow!



Reading 21 COR 10:16-17


Brothers and sisters:

The cup of blessing that we bless,


is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?


The bread that we break,


is it not a participation in the body of Christ?


Because the loaf of bread is one,


we, though many, are one body,


for we all partake of the one loaf.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wine when it is red



Today was such a beautiful summer day!  (Well technically I guess summer begins tomorrow.)  

Cool, breezy but sunny: I realize that I am a New Englander at heart...the heat of Grand Cayman was great as long as I was on the beach or in the ocean... but I can't image walking around in that kind of weather for several months and having to wear clothes.  (And please don't take that the wrong way...I mean real clothes, not swim suit and cover-up.)

I don't have much to say today.  I read a tongue in cheek article by GK Chesterton called Wine When It is Red and then looked up the bible verse (Proverbs 23:31) that he quoted...only to find that his article highlights the blessings of wine but the scripture verse uses the same words to caution against the evils.  I decided to sip a glass of wine while I thought about this.  In conclusion, I've decided they are both right.

Tomorrow is another day.  I will once again demonstrate my artistic inability and attempt to paint another wine-altered masterpiece.  Not sure who I will be gifting this to...poor person! 

Turning off the computer to do something old fashioned now: read a book!

*and no I am not in London today...that's from a different day*

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Running away doesn't lead to happiness


I just came back from the most AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL ISLAND, possibly in the world (I say this because I haven't been to very many of them), in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, CI.




 My only previous visit to this magical water-covered, island-littered part of the world was Haiti...not exactly a taste of blue water, white sands and gorgeous sunsets! (But beautiful and amazing in its own way!)

This trip was instigated by a close friend who, three months ago, asked, "Do you swim?"  And of course, having no concept of what that meant, answered, "Of course!"  "Then come with me to the Flowers Sea Race in Cayman!"  Me: "Sure!  What's a swim race?"




It turns out my friend is on a Masters Swim Team.  Providentially I had just begun swimming with another friend in preparation for our triathlon at her pool...an olympic size pool that incidentally I can only get into if I am with her...do I really think God worked it out so I could prepare for a mile swim race in the Caribbean?  Well I trust Him in ALL THINGS...and God works in mysterious ways!  He has brought me into some strange places...He continues to mystify and lead me in ways unseen!



Por ejemplo: This race is attended by a multitude of olympian and world champion swimmers.  My friend's swim team is coached by two former olympians.  Do I know anything about swimming or former olympic swimmers?  Of course not.  I just couldn't understand why all these people around me had the olympic symbol (5 O's) tattooed on their bodies...even a pregnant woman!



Lo and behold...every where I went...I saw this elite group of athletes...even to the strange occurrence that my friend and I were accidentally separated from our group's catamaran and placed on the olympians'!  We were surrounded...and had no idea why!  At several points I looked to heaven and laughed..."Lord, why in the world am I on this boat?  You are so weird!"



This trip was probably the closest I have come to a luxurious vacation...since mission trips in Haiti really is more my style.  I truly enjoyed the entire experience, the beauty, the warmth, the blue water and white sands, the water sports and exercise, the accomplishment of finishing the race (longest I have ever swum!), the exotic animals and flowers, the friendliness of the local people, the delicious food, and the feeling of adventure.  The enjoyment of being alive!  And the gratitude of being allowed to participate in something so amazing.

On Sunday we went to Mass and prayed with the locals, upbeat and caribbean even in prayer.  Every day we walked the beach, praying our Rosary. And at the end a prayer my friend had been making for the past several weeks was answered.



Is a Caribbean vacation the ideal place for spiritual growth?  I think the biggest take home point I took from this experience, surrounded by natural beauty, luxury, wealth and people who are a bit more important than me: happiness is not something we can create or find by seeking.  If I had gone on this vacation seeking to be fulfilled or made happy...I would have failed.  The peace that passes understanding? Sometimes that comes with sorrows and sacrifice but it can also come in moments of joy or delight...that peace is from God.  It's a gift for within.  God is good.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What I learned from my first triathlon

Or what I hope to remember next time.


I woke up at 5:18 in a panic that I was late before it registered that 5:18 is before 6am which is when I needed to leave.  I quickly got dressed in my bathing suit and casual exercise clothes before making a quick trip for coffee to the local coffee shop.  I came back to find my friend at my house, ready to go, and we quickly loaded up and headed over to my brother-in-laws to collect him.  We had loaded the bikes on the rack the night before so that was set to go.  It was the shoes, socks, wetsuit, swim cap, goggles, towel (to wipe sand off feet), sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, luna bar  and helmet that I was worried I would forget.  Not to mention my running shorts and shirt!

We arrived in plenty of time.  What I forgot: baby shampoo (to defog goggles) and to shave my legs (yesterday was a little hectic).  We collected our registration packet, ankle bracelet and bib number before going over for "body-marking" which I don't understand because the wetsuit covers the numbers in the water and the rest of the time we have a bib with a number on our shirt and our bike...but oh well...traditional I guess.  

After both arms and one calf were marked we set our bikes up in the transition area.  This was a roped off part of the parking lot near the beach that had racks to put your bike on, set up your towel, and lay out your supplies for the biking and running.  Looking around I realized my friends and I were the ONLY PEOPLE with hybrid-mountain bikes.  Hmmmm.

SWIM: So the swim started off okay.  We got into our wetsuits and then waded in and did a few laps.  The water was BRACKISH which I was unprepared for.  My practice swims had been in a heated pool with one quick dip in a lake.  I was not prepared for salt-water!  Or waves! Or boats!  The men started out first.  I watched the majority of the women race out before I dived in and started swimming.  Seeing all those people so close together made me nervous!  What made me even more nervous was seeing the jellyfish under water!  Swimming straight into my face!  And the buoys were so far away...back and forth in a pool for half a mile is not a good mental prep for visually seeing half a mile stretch before you!  I do have to say wetsuits are awesome because they buoy you up and make it easier to swim...even $20 wetsuits from local discount stores.

BIKE: Eventually I finished the swim and made my way up the beach to the transitional area.  By this time there were only a couple of us left to claim our bikes.  I walked my bike through the gated area to the road and climbed on, feeling shaky like you do after you've hyperventilated or something.  

Another mistake: I never bought a water bottle holder for my bike.  So I decided to carry the bottle in my left hand, hanging over the handle, while I changed gears with my right.  I think it was the 8th or 9th mile when I realized why my bike was so slow picking up speed and almost stopping going up hill...the bottle was pushing the brake!  But with only 7 speeds and mountain tires...well it would be hard to go anyway.  At least that's what the sweep told me as he rode beside me.

RUN: By the time I got back to the transition area (the second time) I had everyone cheering me on...because I was in last place.  I have never received such support!  It was awesome!  Made me smile from ear to ear...I even asked the volunteer at the beginning of the run if I was allowed to run...or was I too late?  She laughed and told me to go for it!  On the run I surpassed one other person.  My friend saw me coming from the opposite direction and decided, with true camaraderie, to wait for me so we could finish the race together.  We crossed third and second to last.  Having benefited from all the support from the race crew, we decided to wait for the final finisher to cross and cheered her on just as loud as we could.



Could I have done better?  Undoubtedly.  Am I proud of myself?  Even more certainly.  I remember doing my first 5k two years ago and finishing dead last...and also feeling like I would die.  After this race I felt pretty good.  I'm confident that if I work on my swimming skills and invest in a road bike I can come a long way from today.  And was it fun?  Indubitably!  Already signing up for our next sprint tri!

*Picture above is the "medal" my niece made for me

Friday, June 6, 2014

Empty Frames



Today on the anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko I would like to remember the love and devotion of the Polish people who even in the midst of socialist and communist persecution continued to love and revere Our Lady, even to the point of processing with the empty frame of her picture when the very religious items they revered were stripped away.  Grateful and blessed to belong to this faith!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One of those days...



It's just been one of those days...three people I know have died unexpectantly in the past 24 hours.  One was a co-worker and two were a married couple in their 40's who died in a tragic car accident this morning, leaving three kids orphaned.  

Surprise lay-offs at work have left almost 70 people unemployed at my job and many of these people I have worked along side for years.  

And I came home to dog urine on my floor from my crazy, mis-behaving when she doesn't get enough attention which I can't give her when I'm in the middle of a work stretch dog.  

Spent the day listening to several co-workers vent about the divorces they are going through.  

My Facebook page is reminiscent of the Newtown Shooting where everyone is posting about the pain and distress they are feeling at our friends' early and shocking demise.  

It's just one of those days.

SO GRATEFUL FOR MY FAITH!  Even in the midst of frustration, pain and loss, it sustains.  Praying and taking each moment at a time.  We have our ups and we have our downs.  The Lord giveth and He taketh away.  BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When you're the best of friends...

Having so much fun together...



I had a good friend over for dinner last night and we shared a bottle of wine.  She recently lost her sister to suicide and is still recovering from the tragedy.  We talked until late at night and when she was gone I felt sad and I felt grateful.  Sad that she was suffering and grateful that she trusted me with her troubles.

One thing that I have learned from my own experience with suffering is that I am more readily available to listen and reach out to those who are suffering.  Honestly, if God hadn't given me such a low time, I would have no idea what others are going through.  And I know some of my most difficult moments have also been when I have felt closest to God.

My friend explained how this crisis brought her to a concrete decision in her faith: either she had to reject all that she believed about a loving God or she had to accept and trust His ways, though not hers, were best.  There was no middle ground.

God often leads us closer to him through pain.  Guilt, confusion, the fog of misunderstanding: just holding on is sometimes all we are able to do.  But when we are answering the Lord with a "yes," its enough.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Princesses



The king of Spain is abdicating the throne to his son.  The country seems to be welcoming both he and his wife, amidst mixed reviews, with a sense of acceptance.  My 2 year old nephew has been claiming to be Elsa and freezing everyone until this morning when his mother showed him Iceman clips from Marvel Comics.  My nieces continue to sing "Let it go" at the top of their lungs whenever I come over...what is it that opens our hearts to the idea of royalty?  To be a king, queen, prince or princess? 

Hence how much greater the reality is that we are the adopted sons and daughters of the true King.  It is in Him that we can really partake in royalty.  And he is such a kind father.  Today a friend and I talked a long time about suffering and the reason trials come into our lives.  We might not always understand the whys or wherefores but we both agreed that in the moment of crisis we have two choices: either to stay with the King or abandon Him.  Not quite as obviously the choice is also there before us in moments of quiet, peace and contentment: Christ or not.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

34



It came so quickly!!  How have 34 years passed already??  I remember when I was a kid and I had a piano contest to prepare for.  I was nervous and asked my teacher how old the judges would be.  "Probably in their mid-thirties," she answered me.  "Oh good!" I said, "older people!"

And now that's me: older people!  I remember when I actually turned 30: I felt a huge weight, "I am now old."  After that, it appeared I just became what I am: older.  No one can convince me otherwise!!  My friends in their 40's, 50's, 60's or even 90's laugh and say I am "so young" and act like they have no idea what I am talking about...but I know.  It's the threshold to not...being...young...any...more.  

That doesn't make me not like being old!  Crazy as it may sound, I am enjoying my 30's way more than any other decade of my life (okay, so I only have two others to compare it to).



This flower is a hibiscus. It is from Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square Pa where I went the day before my birthday with my mother and 90 year old grandmother.  She just turned 90 last week!

All the Hibiscus were in bloom. And honestly, in my 30's...I feel that my life is bloom too.  Yep, I'm liking it...and guess I'll just be grateful to God and take each moment as it comes!




This pic I took at the gardens made me think of a line from a country song, "Tossing pennies into the fountain of youth, every laugh, laugh line upon your face, made you who you are today."  

My sisters all married and had children young.  I realize that ironically if God is good enough to send me a spouse and children some day, my kids could be 10 or even 15 years younger than my younger siblings' kids!  Weird!



I wonder what this year will bring!  Desolate thoughts tempt me to think a big fat nothing...but God is good!  And how many wonderful and beautiful things He has brought me already!  On to the adventure!



My special day ended with a birthday party planned and executed by my 9 year old niece and god-daughter.  She not only made and sent the invitations, she made the cake and organized the other kids into making a sign and other decorations (including green H&R Block balloons on the mailbox!)...probably hard to see but the letter 'i' in the sign above is supposed to be me and the word cloud says, "I love bath days!"

Which is 7 year old code for what I really mean: I love birthdays!!