Saturday, October 14, 2017

To be



I remember the first time I heard a priest say, "God made us human beings.  Not human havings and not human doings."  It struck me dumb and I had trouble listening to anything else he said.  We were sitting outside a hotel in the Philippines listening to Fr Duc, a priest from Vietnam, and it was the first time I recognized how much I placed my self-worth on what I did, for others, for myself, and for God.


Today I listened to Father Mike Schmitz from Ascension Presents talk about how our culture has evolved from the status symbols of the eighties (what I own defines who I am) to our current cultural rush for experiences (what I do defines who I am).  He says this take on existence is easily understood in the light of social media and our phone cameras which allow us to show and document every little thing we DO.  

What he said really struck me since I tend to document my trips and other experiences on Facebook (and somewhat here) with multitudinous photos and comments.  Someone else gave a talk recently, at the Catholic Medical Conference in Denver this past September, and she talked about how easily social media turns what should be a qualitative appreciation of the things we share (people looking and thinking, Oh how beautiful) into a quantitative appreciation (how many likes do I have?! how many comments?).  And I think she is right.

I'm just not sure what to do about this in my own life.  On the one hand, would I be better off just closing down my social media pages and not interacting at all?  Is there a place for sharing pictures in my life without being drawn into a false sense of worth because I base my value on the cool places and stuff I do? When is it sharing with people I love and when is it showing off?  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should shut off Facebook and Instagram for Advent and re-evaluate this after Christmas....after I have some distance between it and me.

Anyway, thanks for listening.   On the day after the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's final apparition, I bid you good day!




Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Visiting North Africa: Morocco


The mystery that is Morocco...think magic carpets, snake charmers, medinas and souks.  Spice markets and pickpockets, tangine and riads.  And that is just the beginning...


Moroccan sweets...super yummy!


We started our expedition in Rabat, one of five imperial cities and the current capital.  We visited the palace of the king, drank tea at sunset and stopped at the ruins of Chellah to visit the cats.



All the kings of Morocco are named Hassan.  The current king is married to a commoner...an educated, red-haired moroccan woman! They have two children and live across the river from the capital in Sale, a town of middle class and poor people.  They say it is because the king wants to be close to the people.  Of note, he has a palace in every major city.


Those Romans got around!  This is from an ancient ruin left by the Romans 2000 years ago.


The colors of Morocco I mentioned earlier.  So beautiful!


This is a pastilla.  It is made with chicken and vegetables inside.  Then they sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar!


We had the most amazing view of the spice market from Nomad, a hot tourist spot in the Medina of Marrakesh. 


Hookah is a much bigger deal in Egypt apparently but we found a nice place to share this contraption.


This is from the Majorelle gardens in Marrakesh, built by French designer Yves St Laurient.  The French gave Morocco its independence in 1956.  Everything is still written in French along with Arabic.  The garden also houses a phenomenal Berber museum.  The Berbers are the mountain people of Morocco and they say it is almost impossible to learn their language.  Our guide was Berber.  He also spoke Arabic, French, English and who knows what else!


This is the Catholic church we visited, Our Lady of Lourdes.  There was another Catholic church but it was under construction.  Inside we found all the Mass times for the ENTIRE country!  There are so few Catholics and all are foreigners, so they can fit all the churches in the country on one page!



This fountain from Casablanca is from Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world.  An example of the beautiful tiles and artistry in Morocco!


Sea shore in Casablanca.  This city is the biggest in Morocco.  Also near where a replica of Rick's Cafe from the famous movie Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart can be found.


After seeing all the city life, we took a 2 day trek to see the Sahara...after a long 12 hour drive through the lower atlas mountains.  Here we witnessed the rain...amazing to see in such a dry place!  There was no where for the water to go so the rivulets just went willy-nilly down the mountains and formed puddles EVERYWHERE!


My camel from my ride...I love their faces!  And riding it was fun but wow were we up there!


This is Ait-Ben-Houdoo, an 11th century mud city that has been preserved and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.  It was pretty neat...and also the site of many films including Laurence of Arabia and the Gladiator.


These are called trade beads, slave beads or mille-fiore beads.  They were used to trade on the Sahara route.


And...this is completely out of order!  Here is Hassan tower in Rabat.


This is the medina of Fez as seen from above...from the outside it looks like a pretty drab area...inside it is fully of winding, hidden streets and walkways...and color and lots of things for sale.

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Like these purses!


This is the tannery where they dye all the leather.  The odor was pretty daunting but with pieces of mint under our noses we were able to stay up and watch the men work for some time. 


Sorry for the randomness of this post and my not very well thought out comments.  I hope the pictures speak for themselves!  Morocco was amazing and so different.  The women in their djellaba that cover everything but their face and hands...cafes full of men drinking tea and not a single woman...minarets and the call to prayer played over a loudspeaker five times a day...it is a different world.  Glad that I went and grateful I don't live there! 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

His ways are not our ways


These past three weeks have been straight out loco.  From a trip to South Carolina to be with my grandma when she died, to Denver to attend the Catholic Medical Conference, to California for her funeral, to South Carolina to be with my mom, to Vermont to hike...and now to Africa this coming Friday...  In between there were 12 hour shifts, car troubles including flat tires and broken windshields, another episode of Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome for poor Clare (kinda like vertigo for dogs only they can't really walk and don't eat for a day or two), interviews about my book and of course a beautiful, yet heartbreaking, funeral. 

We buried a good man, too early (it feels), this week.  Only 46.  Husband, father, friend.  My grandma's death was easier to handle; 93 years of living and then dying a holy death.  It's so much harder when someone passes unexpectedly and they leave behind what feels like unfinished business.  My heart mourns for his family.

But as Job said, "The Lord giveth and He taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord."  His ways are not our ways.

And praise God for the ability to grieve.  And to heal.


















Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's been 6 years since I went to Greece!


A little over six years ago I planned a beautiful trip to Poland.  I had finished grad school and started working as an NP in the ED, following a year of teaching at the university, and was ready to travel!  I had always wanted to see where St John Paul 2 (a Blessed back then), St. Kolbe and St. Faustina lived.  So I booked what looked like an amazing two week trip with daily mass and a visit to everything I thought I would want to see in Poland.  

Two weeks before my trip I got the news that I was being cancelled due to lack of participation.  I was so disappointed!  This was a trip I'd wanted to make for a very long time and, since this was six years ago, it was before I had really traveled (outside of a trip or two to Europe and the Philippines for mission work).  I still had two weeks vacation to do something so I decided to look for another trip to Poland online.  

I found one that was only a week long but I thought, hey, that's better than nothing.  I called the agency and while they put me on hold to see if there was any space on the Poland trip I had a sudden inspiration to ask if they had any other trips available the same two weeks, since I had already taken them off for vacation.  The response?  A two week trip including a three day cruise to Greece...walking in the footsteps of St Paul and it included daily mass.

Without any deliberation, I told the lady "sign me up."  Two days later I ran into a dear friend and guess what?  She wanted to come too!  So the two of us left less than two weeks later for one of the most beautiful, amazing trips where we started in Thessalonica and worked our way down to Corinth, through Adelphi, Athens, and my favorite place: Meteora (and no, not in that order).  We were surrounded by old people while we walked where St. Paul had walked and read the books of the New Testament, seeing the site of Lydia's baptism, where Paul was jailed and where he preached to the Greeks of the Unknown God.  Then we took a three day cruise around the islands, where we were constantly immersed in beauty.

All through the trip I kept saying, "I wanted to go to Poland but God brought me to Greece!"  And I said this with awe because Greece was almost supernaturally beautiful.  (Not to knock Poland, God brought me there in the footsteps of St John Paul 2 and we ended up in Rome for his canonization several years later...just showing me once again that God's ways are better than mine).

So all this to say, even with the ups and downs, God's plan is there for each one of us and it is greater and more precious than any we can imagine for ourselves.  Looking back, my life has really gone from 0-60 with traveling, friendships, spiritual and personal growth, family relationships, and just love.  I can't always see clearly where I'm going, I might walk through a misty wood with no vision of the beautiful ocean on the other side, but God is leading and where He goes is always good and always worth the walk.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A beautiful life: Barbara A Wilson



What do you say about the woman who raised 4 kids, built her own speakers, travelled the world and then took her husband back into her home to care for him on his deathbed after being separated for more than 25 years?

Grandma took me in, too, for a year.  And I know I wasn’t the first stray she welcomed. Every morning we’d go to Mass, Tuesday nights were prayer group, and Wednesdays were for sightseeing.  We’d have dinner with her best friend, Ann or her dear friend and neighbor, Monica, and of course lunch every Sunday with grandpa, rain or shine.

I loved hearing her stories.  About Uncle Robert with his surfboards and Aunt Mary with the holes in her Catholic school uniform, my mom, Nancy, at girl scouts and Uncle Jim, permitted to exist, but only because grandma promised grandpa it would be a boy if he said yes to a fourth kid. 

There was the time she traveled to Estonia with Aunt Jean and the tour guide upgraded them to the penthouse suite because he was “sweet” on her…and she made me promise not to tell grandpa, “Cause that is something he would have worried about.”

There was the fifty-something anniversary dinner they included me in, where they regaled me with stories of their first years together…the apartment they shared with an old stove that turned the kitchen wall black…counting their pennies to buy meat to eat at least once a week…and my favorite about the drunk neighbor who built a crib for my mom, Nancy, because he wanted to do something for them when he found out they were having their first.  I remember grandpa saying, “And it changed his life, didn’t it, Charlie?”  And grandma responding, “Oh brother” and rolling her eyes.

I remember hearing about the great earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco.  How grandma was driving across a bridge at the time and her library in San Jose was completely de-shelved when all the books came tumbling down.  I remember how cool it was to have a grandma who was a medical librarian and how even after she retired they still wanted her to work there.

I remember her stories about being sickly as a child and then moving to the Colorado mountains so her mom could teach in a one room school house.  She told me she had a very vivid recollection of her mother holding a small child on her lap and teaching him to read and that she treasured that memory.  And at least as far back as I can remember, there was always a picture of her mom by her bedside.

I can go on.  When grandma had her first stroke while working on her antivirus program on her computer and the doctor told us that would have given him a stroke too.  When she came back from Medjugoria and told us her rosary turned to gold and her back was healed.  And then there were grandma’s cats, Phoebe, Minerva and the rest.  There were her loan-outs of money, constant prayers and, always, her quiet wisdom.  There was her tamale pie and beef stew, the time she played a funeral dirge during Christmas dinner, and her complaint about Honda taking out the 25 cent piece that enabled the car to heat up super-fast.

But I really don’t need to continue.  If you knew grandma, you knew she was a woman of grace and of beauty, both inside and out.  Grandpa always said grandma was going to get him to heaven; I imagine she’s working on getting all of us there.  I love you grandma and I thank you and I will always remember you.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer days

It's nearing the end of summer, and I literally just blinked, so now it is probably fall!



Where did the time go?  Just returned from an awesome weekend in Pa with all my sisters and their families.  We had our family reunion with relatives I haven't seen in probably over a decade!  It was great!

It's funny but with family, especially the older generation, the bottom line is always: Are you married?  I remember an older unmarried cousin telling me once, when we were kids, that you weren't accepted as a "grown-up" in our family until you were married.  I laughed at that but now, after spending time with the extended fam, I think she might be right!  On the flip side, it's nice to be the young'in, so there is that!

My 93-year-old grandma went on hospice this month.  I'm flying down to see her again in September, after a medical conference in Denver.  With all this travel, I'm not getting nearly enough written on my new book which is bothering me.  I guess I'm going to have to buckle down and do it without allotting myself huge chunks of time.  It's harder that way because once I get going, I'm kinda in a zone.  Oh well, better to get started and write poorly than not to write at all!  



I survived the solar eclipse of 2017!

And on that note, one day at a time, lived to its fullest.  To God be the glory! Amen. :o)


Saturday, August 12, 2017

I feel like a chameleon


Me with one of the kids from my section

Back from Guatemala (minus my suitcase) and with a whole new level of gratitude for my year down there!!  

Playing at baby house

My visit was phenomenal.  I went as a trip leader for 16 kids and 7 adults and (as leaping before looking seems to be my life plan) I didn't realize I was the leader until the week before when I got an email with my name next to the title: NPH Trip Leader.  Sheesh.  
I thought they just wanted someone to accompany them.  :o)

Picking beans...ironically I never did anything like this the entire year I lived there

I met up with the group in Atlanta and immediately they welcomed me into their Bahstan circle.  Loved these people!  And honestly, by the second day I realized I was having more of a Boston-cultural experience than a Guatemalan one...mostly because I know Guate, but apparently not Boston!

Day trip to Antigua...my first attempt as a tour guide!

Visiting NPH itself was a gift.  I received so many hugs, kisses, well-wishes, "I miss yous" and welcomes from the kids, caregivers and admin that I spent the entire week on a high.  

Central Park

I also appreciated that I was with a group because it led me to spend time with every section of kids and if I had gone on my own for a visit I think I would have spent most of my time with my own special needs kids.  Instead I was able to talk and catch up with ALL the kids...who remembered the nurse who used to give them their shots and pills!

Miss this view!

So the chameleon comment comes from the feeling that I've just been going from group to group and fitting in.  My flight to Atlanta I sat next to a beautiful, devout woman and talked about EWTN, Cardinal Sarah, Rome, vocations and all things Catholic.  On the flight back I sat between two drunk people and talked AA, football, life decisions and bar hopping.  

Visit to outlying pueblo...brought supplies to their school

Comparing my back-to-back high school group experience: at camp we were on our knees every night for an hour and a half for adoration with fully habited friars, however with the youth group in Guatemala we didn't kneel even during Mass as they have their own special youth thing going on...but I loved being with both!  In each instance I felt connected to the group/people I was with...however, since they were all so different and I was following their lead, I'm beginning to wonder if that's normal!  Hence the chameleon comment.  Oh well, God connects to each of us, so I'll trust Him.  Sorry for the bizarre thoughts!  Glad to be home and so happy to know all these amazing people!!

Only in Guatemala

Oh and as goes along with my random life, we found $1500 USD in a couch while down there.  How weird is that?

For real!