To Snark Or Not To Snark: Question Of The Day

I have felt very “snarky” in my Twitter posts this a.m. Perhaps it is this half-headache I have due to sinus stuffiness as early as mid-February in an Atlanta that has seen daytime temps up in the 70s and turn around and be in the 40s the next day. But stuff has started blooming. And my head IS hurting. Should I blame weather or climate change? Frankly, in my present mood, I will just blame President Trump and call it a coin toss today. (Ah, finally, I have found a use for Trump – blamecatcher.)

While I didn’t watch The Donald vs. Beto competing rallies, I have read much about them. I have repeatedly looked at the video of the BBC cameraman assaulted by a Trump supporter. And I think that everyone is missing that at that moment, Trump was not only denigrating immigrants and asylum seekers from the Southern Border, but Asian Americans as well.

I did not realize the border wall would also keep Asian Americans out of the country. Oh wait…they are Asians who ARE American. I think they ALREADY belong here, Mr. President. 🤦🏼‍♀️smh

Had I been in El Paso, I would definitely have been jamming with Beto and the band. His vision of who we are as a nation is much more appealing than Trump’s dark, dystopian world. I mean, the man won’t even keep a dog. That alone should have been his absolute disqualification to be President-forget Putin.

Speaking of Russia, Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov says we need to be more afraid that Russia is worming its way into our conscience than its interference in our elections. Yeah, that bare chested photo of Putin on horseback is rather unforgettable. But am I conscience-stricken about it? Not really.

Meanwhile, the Moscow Times announced that an “aurora” of polar bears has landed on a remote Artic archipelago. After checking the dictionary to make sure “aurora” was not also a grouping of polar bears, I felt compelled to send them the proper definitions of the word. And those bears were sooo cute. Like I said, I am full of snark today. (Also sinus stuffiness and my half-headache.)

I even snarked about Laura Ingram sending Trump a “comfort photo” of the crowds OUTSIDE his rally so his feelings wouldn’t be hurt that Beto had more people INSIDE his venue than Trump did. Well, snarking at Ingraham is actually something I periodically do, so maybe I shouldn’t feel too badly about it.

Is begging Hillary Clinton to sue Trump for copyright infringement for appropriating as a printed slogan the title of her book, “Stronger Together,” “snark?” How about sending her a tweet with praying hands that she at least send a cease and desist letter?

Oh Lord, he is on TV talking about his “big, beautiful Wall” and how well we are doing economically with the Trade War with China. He may keep going to the border with great frequency, but he obviously hasn’t talked to any soybean farmers in the MidWest recently.

My headache just got worse. For this, I do blame Trump.

To snark or not to snark? My Catholic belief would tell me to “not snark” is the more Christian attitude.

But my headache. So – snark. My answer and attitude for today.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“God Bless Texas”

For the past couple of days, I have written about the looming issue of teen rape allegations that have been leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Basley Ford.

It has roiled emotions in me that as a 65-year-old woman you wouldn’t think would still be so tender.

But I have always been a deeply reflective person, admittedly with a bit of the drama queen thrown in.  Hopefully it makes what I write a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be.

I just read a “Washington Post” article by a writer named Elizabeth Bruenig that I wish I could lay claim to – except she deserves every accolade she receives for having written it so beautifully.

It is the story of a teen rape that occurred in her high school and how justice was never obtained by the victim, even though she reported it in a timely manner.

But mostly it is about the cruelties of high school and small, insular communities and how people come angrily together in their denial to harm a victim even more.

And it is how the gentlest, most vulnerable among us are easy prey for hunters who can kill us with harmful acts and deadly lies as easily as if they shot us.

This story took me back to my own teen years and school experiences. As it takes place in Texas, it also makes me wonder about what one of my nieces may have experienced that has led her to a life outcome I desperately didn’t want for her.

Some things I know.  But a great deal I am sure I – or maybe anyone – know nothing about.

She doesn’t know how much I still love her and ache for her to turn her life around.  She doesn’t know this because we don’t speak any more.

That is on me.  Because there comes a point when you have held out your hand to help someone, and they continually slap it away, you just stop.  There comes a time when they do something that – while you can forgive it – you can’t stand by and quietly observe it any more.

Because maybe what they did hits a little too close to a raw childhood nerve that never heals. Even when you are 65-years-old.

Ours is a family dominated by a matriarch who was never my mother, not in a daily sense, as she didn’t raise me.

But her imprint was stamped on me at birth and repeatedly pointed out to me by the parents who did raise me, my grandfather and his second wife. Down to a “sneer” I didn’t know I possessed and a physical resemblance I am constantly told of by my sisters.

As I came to know her as an adult, we searched out the similarities in each other, from the exact same outfits hanging in our closets to our shared love of reading and doing crosswords.

Although I don’t think she graduated high school, as she was 16 when I was born, she was a smart cookie, my mother.

I am a smart cookie too. Except we both had terrible taste in men. In fact, except for my youngest sister, none of us has had much luck on that score.

It’s generational, it seems, touching my niece’s life in very dramatic ways.

Which is a round about way of getting back to the main issue. How, in a society supposedly as advanced as is our own, are women still prey and men the hunters?

What are the biological and psychological imperatives that drive that dynamic so that it cannot be educated out of us? Even at the “highest “ levels of our society?

If we are, indeed, created in God’s image, what does that make God? Why ever would the angels envy us, as my Catholic religion teaches, we creatures with one foot in the material and the other in the spiritual world?

No, I am not blaming God for our fallen choices.  Just for knowing in advance that we would make them. And knowing that his dying on the Cross to expiate their sin wouldn’t make living any less painful for us all.

I have always questioned what purgatory really means, if it really exists.  Perhaps this is it: knowing some of us are prey, and others hunters.

And screaming #MeToo doesn’t seem to change it very much at all.

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90 Day Challenge: Day 19 – Patience

The three grades of patience are: Lowest: to bear difficulties without interior complaint, Middle: to use hardships to make progress in virtue, Highest: to desire the cross and afflictions for Christ’s love, to have something to offer up, and to accept them with spiritual joy. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Until I read this morning’s “Challenge” meditation, I never knew there were three degrees of patience.  Lord help me, I have enough trouble just keeping the garden variety, every day definition of it! I.e. “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” ( Dictionary.com)

I don’t know if irritability is genetic or not, but I can tell you there is a strain of irascibility that definitely runs in the Johnston blood-line (Johnston being the maternal side of my family; not to be confused with my married name Johnson.)

While I have the vaguest of memories of my great-grandfather Robert, you can see in his high bridged nose and paper-thin lips a countenance that brooked little opposition.

I remember that same trait present in my Great Aunt, Mickey, and her brothers, including the “father who raised me;” my grandfather, Elmer.

I even experienced it with my birth mother, Jo Ann, on those few occasions in adulthood we spent time together.

I will never forget a Christmas at my sister’s house in Texas.  I was just dozing off to sleep when Jo Ann barged into the bedroom, yanked one of the two pillows out from under my head and said “so and so doesn’t have a pillow,” then marched out of the room.

As a woman in my forties, I was aghast that I hadn’t been politely asked if I would give up a pillow for someone instead of being treated like a child without the will to resist parental exercise.

It was a full on display of the Johnston, bull-in-a-China shop, “I alone can solve this” attitude of impatience for a situation more peaceably resolved with a bit of cooperation from others.

I always recognize in others the things I am most guilty of inside myself.  And as my birth mother would search out all the similarities between us when we spent time together, so I search them out in the presence of my own son.

God bless him, I definitely see the Johnston in him from time to time, especially during times of problem solving.  It does not matter what he has never confronted before, in his mind he should be able to perfectly execute a solution right away.  God help you if you offer a suggestion.

My impatience in my own nature comes out when I feel pressed into doing things against my will that I am too timid to say “no” to doing.  So I do them, but if I know you well enough, I do them with a lack of grace and impatience that is clearly displayed.

Yesterday was a prime example as I stood impatiently in line to make a return at Target.

There were obviously two clerks on return aisle duty, but one of them swooped around tidying product rather than wait on the line of customers forming because the other clerk was struggling to assist the customer before me.

I could say in my defense I wasn’t feeling my best, but my irritability at being ignored became evident enough that the swooping clerk finally walked up to a second register to assist.

”I’m sorry,” she said, “but they really don’t want me waiting on customers.” (I’m sorry, I thought, but in what universe does a store think lack of customer service is a good policy?)

Then she had trouble identifying which items of cat food I was returning because yesterday I had bought a mix, and the clerk rang them up as if they were all similar in kind.

I explained my 16-year-old cat is having kidney failure and being very fussy about what she will and won’t so I have to search for new flavors every few weeks to keep her interested in eating and weight on her already tiny frame.

”Oh, are you giving her plenty of water?” The clerk innocently asked.

”Of course I am!” I exploded as I impatiently walked off with my refund to purchase more of the type of food the cat today was willing to eat.

I felt ashamed of myself later and was reminded of that jokey prayer: God give me patience, and give it to me NOW!

I have 72 days left in this 90 Day Challenge of spiritual, exercise and diet regimen.

If I can better develop a virtue of patience in any of its three degrees, it will evidently be a miracle of biology indeed.

“My brothers, when you have fallen into various trials, consider everything a joy, knowing that the proving of your faith exercises patience, and patience brings a work to perfection, so that you may be perfect and whole, deficient in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 

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Great-grandfather Robert Johnston

My Unusual Easter Vacation

I had expected to be very busy during Holy Week attending Mass and tending to Lector obligations I had for Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil.

My sister’s ongoing illness and a fear that they had found an altogether different mass in her esophagus  instead sent me to Texas for two weeks to what the local newscasters call “The Big Country” somewhere south of Fort Worth and east of Abeline.

While she was seriously ill and hospitalized, my sister’s feared mass turned out to be misidentified and she got to convalesce at the home of our other sister while I was with her the second week. She is doing much better, thank God.

For me, while I missed Holy Week obligations, it provided a time that though fraught with personal worry, gave me a chance to decompress from all the Church volunteer activity this past year, as well as from current political news.

Instead, I spent downtime reading books on my Kindle that were like airplanes waiting to land; purchased but not downloaded to read, circling in a digital holding pattern on my I-Pad.

But first, I read “Killing Jesus,” which I purchased at the airport bookstore having forgotten it was one of those books waiting to be tapped on my Kindle. I figured if I couldn’t participate fully in Holy Week, I could immerse myself in the history that led to its institution.

(Full disclosure: politically, I am light years in separation from the book’s author, Bill O’Reilly.  I also didn’t like paying money that may go to his legal defense fund for alleged sexual harassment.  But the title and subject matter fit a need of the moment.)

It was actually a very interesting and factual accounting of the history of the era, including the process of crucifixion,  Next to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” it is the most disturbing accounting of the event I have encountered.

But the book that brought an interesting spiritual twist toward the end of my time in Texas was called “The Fifth Gospel” by Ian Caldwell.

This is the story of two real Catholic artifacts – the Diatessaron and the Shroud of Turin – set in a real Catholic country – the Vatican. But the two protagonists-priestly brothers-were not in themselves real, though their vocations most decidedly are.

The older brother, Simon, is a Roman cleric and member of the Secretariat, which is the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The younger brother, Alex, is Catholic Orthodox, a teacher of the gospels, and a beard wearing, married priest who is separated from his wife and raising his son Peter in the Vatican that was homeland to himself and his brother growing up.

There is a mystery involving the death of the man mounting an exhibition at Castel Gandolfo involving the Diatessaron and the Shroud, and mysteries surrounding both very real items used as plot points in the novel.  It was as interesting to learn about them as to read about life lived within the walls of the Vatican, as well as the differences between the Roman, Catholic Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The Diatessaron, for those who don’t know (as I now do), is a compilation of the four Gospels of the Bible to try to make them read as one story.  Part of the murder mystery relates to a study of this process. While the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke have many points of agreement, incorporating the more theological John does not as this writer speaks of many things not found in the other Gospels and in a far different voice.

This is one of the struggles Alex, the teacher, has to deal with.  Both he and Simon have to struggle with the history of the Shroud, how it came to Western Europe and how to use it in an attempt to unify the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and what place the Catholic Orthodox have with one foot in each encampment.

Incorporated are the last days of a dying Pope John Paul II, who has spent a part of his Papacy trying to bring about this reunification in the face of recalcitrant Cardinals and obdurate Patriarchs.

There is Catholic and European history to be found in this book, and an interesting conclusion about what the Shroud might mean for Catholic art and iconography abjured by the Protestant world.

This is a highly recommended read for those who don’t mind having their faith questioned and tested by a “secular” novel.

Now onto my class on the Communio of the Trinity, the meaning of family and our role in the dance of the Divine.

 

My Sister Is One of Donald Trump’s “Victims”

It is with my sister’s permission that I write this story.

Monday, she called me, upset.  She had opened her mail to discover that the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance that she was paying about $12 a month for had gone up in January to $1,500 per month – more than her house payment and far more than her $8 per hour CNA job allows.

She was confounded and I was angry.  This is a result of the instability of the insurance market due to Donald Trump’s “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” make payments to health insurance companies as required by law under the Affordable Care Act.

This leaves companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield “projecting” its needs – more than likely based on the presumption Trump won’t pay, as he is deliberately dismantling the ACA using every tool he and the Republican Party can come up with to deny healthcare to the poor and working class in the United States.  Somehow, this will make us all “great” again.  I am still working on figuring the “how” of that one out.

Her problem is compounded by the fact that she lives in Texas, a “gray” state that did not take the Medicaid expansion option when it had the opportunity to do so and help people like my sister, who cares for three people in her household:  my quadriplegic niece, who was head injured in an automobile accident when she was 15; my half-sister Jackie, who became brain damaged after a high fever caused by viral encephalitis when she was 29; and my 11 year-old grand-nephew, who lives full-time in her custody.

She is one of the people Paul Ryan’s “Post Card” tax dream has hurt, not helped.  She is hardly the “welfare to work” candidate the GOP thinks is so misusing the Medicaid system (again, she can’t get it).  She is the person the GOP claims it is working for.

Instead, she found out just how far they are willing to leave her behind.  She did not vote in the last election, but vows to vote in the upcoming one.  I will be holding her to that promise.

She asked me to do an Internet search for her and was lucky to find a policy for about $250 per month that sounds as if it will afford her the protections she needs and enough doctors in her zone to have a good choice on who to care for her.  Still, that is roughly 25 times higher than her current rate.  And it will make a tight budget that much tighter.

I am proud of her for keeping up her insurance; you see, before the ACA, she was one of those people who didn’t carry insurance, because she isn’t much on going to the doctor.  She is one of those “plow on” people, no matter how much it hurts.

But, because she “had” to, she took out an ACA policy and over the past couple of years has had the much needed “wellness” check-ups every woman should have.  It also helped when a rabid raccoon attacked her in her driveway, although she still has co-insurance and deductibles she is paying on for that accident, which was no fault of her own.  The raccoon just came out of nowhere while she was enjoying a few moments of sunset on the patio of her carport.

Which is why everyone should have health insurance.  Because who could predict a rabid raccoon would bite you?

And because the rabid raccoon in the White House and his like-minded GOP buddies  will not care about our health care needs going forward.  They have already shown us that.

My sister is their example.  And Medicaid is next on their chopping block.  Our Medicare and Social Security won’t be far behind.

My Sarah Huckabee Sanders Thanks List

Taking a page from the White House press secretary’s playbook, let me take a few minutes to list the things I am most thankful for at this time in my life:

  • I am always thankful for my son. I have been since the day I learned I was pregnant with him. He is my great love and the reason I got up every morning from the day he was born. He is a kind, decent, intelligent human being. I am blessed to be his mother.
  • I am thankful for my daughter-in-law, most especially for how much she loves my son. I know that together, they are each so much more than they are separately. They complement each other well. I am grateful they are best friends, that throughout the 13+ years they’ve had as a couple, they have been tested and come out stronger for it. I am grateful for her friendship to me and the time we spend together.
  • I am grateful for my sisters. Though we did not grow up together, we have grown close as we’ve aged. They have helped me know myself and my birth mother better. It is nice to know I have sisters to visit and nieces and nephews and their little ones to watch grow in life.
  • I am grateful for my friends, some of long standing, others more recent. Often they have been like family to me. We have laughed together, cried together, traveled together, prayed together. Sometimes we fight like sisters, which is good training if my sisters and I ever have a fight (it’s been 15 years of growing closer with my Texas clan – so far not a cross word between us!)
  • I am grateful for my Savior and the Divine Mercy and grace He so lovingly shares with me. He has sent wonderful mentors when I have needed them most. When I need to hear Him, He speaks and tells me exactly what I need to understand the things I find so incomprehensible at times.  He is my rock, my shelter, my teacher, my friend.
  • I am thankful for the goodness God has brought into my life after many years of hardship and heartache. In Him, I know who I am – His daughter, an heir to His kingdom and an eternity in His presence.
  • I am thankful to have a day of respite from the cares and worries of the world, from the many things that tug at my heart strings I would change if only I could. But I don’t have a magic wand, and I can only let God’s will be done. Then trust He will make it all nothing but goodness in the end.

Small Hands, Jesus’ Thirst, Oceans of Love

What do you blog about when the day has been a blur?  What color and shape does that even take?

Actually, colors and shapes have been a daily delight since I downloaded the app “Colorify.”  I have become as addicted to it as I was to adult coloring books and Prismacolor pencils last year.

For the first time in his life, my son actually got a coloring book page from me at Christmas last year.  I remember fondly the things he used to color for my delight, and I still have the picture he did of me when he was five.  It said, “My Mommy is beautiful.”  He got the hair color wrong – hope he wasn’t talking about a different Mommy.  Still, I treasure it and the collage of his hand prints he also made that year.  When I look at his rangy 6’2” frame now, it is hard to believe his hands were ever that small.

Small hands have been on my mind a lot today.  No, not Donald Trump’s, but – well – enough said.

No, I have been thinking about children a lot today.  About the infant grandson of a prayer group friend in hospital now because he has the same congenital heart defect that Jimmy Kimmel’s son was born with.  I prayed the St. Michael prayer chaplet for him as soon as I heard the news.  I don’t know if it was the right one to choose or not, but if this child is in a battle for his life, I want an Archangel warrior and his battalions fighting on his side.

I also spent some time this morning brooding over the lives of the children lost in Texas on Sunday.  Such a senseless act of violence.  Whom did it serve?  What does so much hate and pain bring to this world, and how much beauty and potential does it destroy?  I have no answers – just the question.

My bible study led me to wonder if Jesus also asked the same from the Cross.  I am just now grasping how much greater than His physical Passion was the pain of His soul and the heartache He felt bearing all the burden of our sin upon Him, including that of this past Sunday.  There seems to be no end to the sin.  Does that mean there is no end to His suffering until our final end?

The book we are studying right now is about “Consoling the Heart of Jesus.”  He longs for us to do so by turning to Him and answering what St. Teresa of Calcutta said was His cry of “I Thirst.”  He longs for souls who seek His Divine Mercy, but not enough do.  He has graces He yearns to pass out, but not enough takers.  So, paradoxically, He is both happy in Heaven but still aching with pain for more people to reach out to Him and accept His infinite ocean of love.

My prayer for the people of that Church in Texas this Sunday was that in those final moments, through the sheer panic and fear they must have felt, they were reaching out to Him, and He was holding their hands, ready to take them home to live with Him in glory.

I pray they reached out to Him for His healing mercy and grace, and that He happily gave it in abundance and that, in that moment, neither He nor they thirsted at all.

 

When Cain Slew Abel

How can we be both one of the most democratically, technologically and economically advanced nations on the planet and at the same time be one of its most violent as compared to other societies with our advantages?

It is as though the evil of Cain’s heart has never progressed from the time he picked up the rock and slew Abel.  We are still that hate filled as a society.

We didn’t need another 26 dead people in Texas yesterday as proof of this.  We have had plenty of it this past year, including Las Vegas.

As yet I haven’t read the papers this morning to try to contextualize why this occurred, if authorities even know yet.  Last night I watched some of the breaking news of this story but after a relatively peaceful day, just didn’t want to dwell on more tragedy, so I turned it off.

But these situations involving semi-automatic rifles are becoming more and more prevalent and more and more deadly all the time.  They impact not just places like Las Vegas with its neon and glitter, but sleepy little churches in small Texas towns.  They touch us all, gun owners and non-gun owners alike.

I have yet to have anyone give me an answer as to why any citizen should be able to own a weapon capable of mowing down dozens of people in a matter of minutes, other than the bold assertion “it is my right.”

It is “my right” to say anything I please, yet I try to choose my words carefully because I know they have a power of their own.

These guns are meant to be killing machines and nothing more.  Just be honest and say so.  And then ask yourself why you just “have” to have one, if you are one of the people who do.

Again, I don’t live in fantasy land. The Second Amendment has been interpreted in such a way that everyone feels they are empowered by government to own a weapon.  So I know guns will not be going away from our civic life.

But why any reasonable person thinks they need more of them, that they need to be more powerful, have more of anything to them – well, that’s just falling for the same slick sales, gimmicky advertising of any consumer product, even if the NRA does wrap it all up in the flag and wave it proudly around.  No, the liberals are not trying to take away your guns, no matter what the NRA tells you.

But we who are moderate in view want moderate gun policies that offer some measure of control over who does and does not have access to weaponry that only the military or the police should own.  And in the case of the police, they wouldn’t need to own it if the citizenry were not so easily able to get their hands on it in the first place.

It is time for a conversion of hearts that examines deeply why we feel so threatened by life – or such a need to have power over others – that we allow such weapons to exist in regular society.  It is an existential threat.  Period.

Yes, someone can drive a truck into a crowd as an act of terror and it is just as deadly.  But cars exist for reasons other than as a killing machine.

Semi-automatic weapons and the attachments that make them fully automatic exist for no other reason than death.

And therein lies the difference.