Thursday, September 18, 2014

Things are not always exactly as we think we remember them

A moment occurred the other night when I realized that a picture which I treasure from my childhood - one of the few things I still have - might not be such a treasure, after all. Suddenly, it made me sad.

I lay on the bed in the guest room, resting for a few minutes, and in that quiet time, I looked at this silhouette, and I really appreciated, so much, what my kindergarten teacher did with that project. You see, she used some kind of projector (whatever they had, circa 1958), and she put each of our silhouettes on the wall; and then, somehow, she cut each one out of black paper, & she pasted it onto a white background. How much dedication she must have had!

Now, to warn you, this story becomes very sad. If you don't want to go there, you can stop now.

When I was in...oh, I'm not sure...maybe fourth grade, the "estranged husband" of the kindergarten teacher at my school went into her classroom, before any children had arrived, and he shot her, and then himself. He ran through our woods; so the FBI came to my house to question my mom (she hadn't seen or heard anything).

I remember being freaked out, not liking to go to the kindergarten room for group activities, as we sometimes did. I don't remember grieving. So the other night, I guess I finally grieved (by thinking about her, and by appreciating her dedication and love for her students, and allowing myself to feel sad). But what I didn't realize until I did some research today was that this woman was not my kindergarten teacher!

I had looked on the internet before, but this time I found something...only, what I found wasn't what I thought. I didn't find anything about a shooting; but what I found was an obituary for a woman whose maiden name was the name of my kindergarten teacher, and who taught first grade at my school "until her retirement in 1979"...and lived to 2002.

The teacher who was shot was not my teacher. (I know. I said that already.) The story of the shooting is still a very sad story, and I'm still sad for that woman's family, and for all those in the school who may have known about it, as I did. (And I still say that the violence in the world isn't new, only the knowledge is more widespread.)

But when I look at my silhouette now, I can think of my kindergarten teacher the way I learned about her in the obituary...married, from some time after she taught me, until her death; teaching first grade until her retirement; and raising eight children. Dedicated? I should say! But she seems to have lived a long and peaceful life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Prayer Space

When we moved from a house to an apartment eight years ago, we couldn't bring the piano with us. But my husband sings, so we bought a keyboard from Craig's List, and I volunteered a desk, which I had previously used for my sewing machine, for him to use for the keyboard.

We are now in a different apartment, and we did finally bring the piano home; but in the meantime, with the dining room table often full of papers, I never took the sewing machine out of its case for years.

And then, after one of our sons moved out, I was debating whether to keep an old vintage desk - a different desk (we brought a lot of furniture from Kentucky) - which we had moved from a basement to a storage unit, to someone's bedroom, to a corner of the dining room. Many years ago, my husband had used it for his homework in college. He wouldn't have minded giving it away, but I like it. So I asked him if it brought back memories he would rather forget; maybe he didn't like remembering all that studying. No. He just didn't have any attachment to it.

So I took the old desk for my sewing machine. And I moved it to the newly-vacated room. This way when I start a sewing project, I can leave the machine up for a few days before I put it back in its case.

Then, since I was re-arranging the holy pictures and statues in our home, I moved my lovely St. Therese statue to the top of the desk, a statue that someone had given away years ago, and that my daughter Mary had repainted for me. I added a plastic statue of my beloved St. Martin de Porres and a statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as well as a little wooden Crucifix and a few other little resin statues.

The desk could use painting, but nevertheless, I think the dark wood makes a nice background, for now. It's so nice to have a little quiet spot to pray the Rosary or read the Bible.

Do you have a special place in your home that's all yours, where you can feel focused, and take a few moments of quiet?

P.S. In case you were wondering, yes, that is a plastic shelving unit to the left, with a Christmas tree stand, accompanied by a pair of two-pound weights, a stretch band, and a ball; and yes, I now have a focused place to do exercises, too. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What's all the talk about the Cross?

There's a lot of talk about the Cross, about its value, and about us carrying our crosses. But what does it all mean?

I think there is a balance to be had, somewhere in the middle of the crossbars. 

First, there are the people who say that if we profess Christ, we will have all the good things of this, a comfortable life, whatever we pray for, whatever we can dream about and work for, we can have it all. But we have only to look at the life and death of Christ...and after him, the Apostles, to see that wasn't part of His promise. (And I'm not saying we shouldn't pray and dream and work, just that it's not like a vending machine, where if you put in the right coins, you will get what you want.) 

Then, there are those who seek out crosses; who speak as if we should all have greater ones; who would even inflict them on others, weaker than themselves. That wasn't what He had in mind, either, He who said, "What you do to the least of mine, you do to me." 

Some say, if you are a Christian, you will need to have crosses, seeming to imply that Christians will, perhaps, have more crosses than the rest of man. But as St. Louis de Montfort (1600's-1700's) pointed out, everyone has them, everyone has suffering in their lives; it's more a question of how we will handle it.

Personally, I think it's a matter of where do we turn. Who do we turn to? Do we take them to Him who carried the heaviest cross of all, not only the heavy weight of wood, but also the cross of all of our sins? Do we take them to Him, no matter how weary we are? Him who will give rest to our weary souls? Do we take them to Him, even if we are feeling angry or confused or upset?

I used to think I had to be so very careful how I approached God. He is, after all, God, our Creator, great in His Majesty. But Jesus came to earth as a baby. He told us to approach His Father as our Father. I don't know about you, but as an adult - before my father had dementia - I talked to him pretty freely. I wasn't all, like, "Well, I have to hide my feelings and pretend I'm not human". And God knows we are human, because He created us human.

Last winter, I got caught driving through a snowstorm that sneaked up on me. As I neared my exit on the freeway, I saw that few, if anyone, had gotten off at my exit since the snow had started falling. I saw abandoned cars all along every exit, and I was in my little car, not my husband's Jeep. There was nothing for it; I needed to get off (I couldn't very well just keep driving around the beltway, which wasn't exactly a hay ride).

So I said to God, "You owe me one," and I proceeded, safely, off our exit. Someone I told that to asked me - with a smile - if I was afraid I'd be struck by lightning for saying that. No, actually, I wasn't, but I was amused that I had said such a thing. I honestly don't think God "owes" me anything. However, in my stress, I said the first words that popped into my head. What I meant was, "I've been through a lot in the past few years, would you please give me a little help here?" And He knew what I meant. He always knows.

Hey, this is just me, and I'm no theologian; but I remember that Jesus said if we want to be his disciple, we will take up our cross and follow Him, and I'm starting to think the most important part of that equation is the 'following' thing, the turning to Him, even if we are sad or mad or confused, even if we're embarrassed because, shoot, we've been forgetting to turn to Him; somehow, we keep thinking we can carry those darn crosses all by ourselves. But you know...maybe a little help would be nice.

Thank you, God, for helping us to bear the sufferings of this world, and for often bringing us joy and humor in the midst of them.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Does she really go by that long name, Margaret Mary?

Be prepared. You might find this a strange post.

For those who don't know (& for those who do, please keep reading too, if you don't mind a long read)...I changed my name at the age of 18. Peggy is often a nickname for Margaret, but my name was really just Peggy. Yes, I went from shorter to longer, and not only longer, but much longer. 

Yes, it was a crazy thing that happened to me on the way to adulthood. It was the 60's; what can I say? Actually, it was 1971 but I was a late bloomer. So...who calls me what? I'm going to go over this again to reassure anyone who might be puzzled. :) 

1) Yes, I really do go by the long, double name, "Margaret Mary", and I have for over 40 years; but if you are not comfortable with a long name, I answer to Margaret, & I'm not offended in the least. Some people who are very dear to me do call me Margaret; or Mary Margaret...& then apologize & I try to reassure them it's okay. Really. I get it; or MM or MMM, or one friend calls me M squared.  :)   But I prefer not to be called Mary, because that is my daughter.  

2) If you knew me before I changed my name, or you are related by blood, or you live in or near Vancouver, Washington, you are welcome to call me Peggy. Those are the only people 'allowed' to call me Peggy ;) , but from them, I often kinda' like it, you know.  :)  And I often sign that way to those people who "knew me when"...or are related...or...yes, you read all that already. ;) If you prefer to call me Margaret Mary because you got to know me at a high school reunion, or on FB, or because you see it all the time, or because it's what my more recent friends call me, or because you think if I changed it, I changed it; and you feel it's more respectful to go with my change, that's fine, too. Either way works, if you fit one of those categories. :)    

3) Isn't this the craziest thing you ever heard (although many of you already know all this). 

4) I have had people say to me, "I want to change my name". I say, "Don't do it". Please, "just say no". Have I regretted it? The same way I regret having gone to a cult, and so many related things. But then again, I'm not really sure you can call it 'regret', because you can't go back. If I could do my life over again and delete a month out of my life, it would be so very different. But would it be better? No, because everything would not have fallen in place for me to meet the wonderful man who is my husband; to bring into the world the great people who are my children; and to meet so many dear friends, as well. 

And I wouldn't have had two names that I love. :)  I do sometimes wonder, though, how the whole name change thing is going to go when I go to collect Social Security. Yes, I did it in a legal way. It was legal then, but it might not be quite as legal today, so there is another project for me. :) 

5) And I sometimes wonder, when it comes time for me to die, "What is Jesus going to call me?"  :)  It's one of those things I ponder on occasion. But I know. It doesn't matter, as long as he calls me, and it will all be good.