He Knows Better

Another private message. Another email. So sorry, no one wanted to read your submission. We only publish solicited work, but good luck peddling your wares elsewhere.

The form letters. The messages from friends “in the business” who can’t help. I look at the old ones along with the new sometimes.

Another friend suggests I self-publish. I would have to self-edit too because I can’t afford a bad editor much less a great one and yeah, we all know how that would turn out.

And many more encourage me to keep submitting. I do, but I’ve learned not to expect much. Maybe not even anything.

For a long time it bothered me. I would negatively compare myself to the other chosen to collaborate on a project. Even worse, there were times when I’d think, “I’ve got as much talent as her/him, they just know more and better people.”

A very kind journalist friend told me my writing is good but not the “wow, outstanding” that will easily win followers and garner me invites into the invites only club. My best chance is submissions and things falling onto the right editors desk.

An editor friend has said that my voice is unique, just like everyone else’s. So I just have to keep trying to find the one person who will love it.

I can easily fall into a pity party over rejection letters and advice that wants to encourage me while also whispering, “it might not work out.” Most days I try not to think about it. I try to keep doing…something. And to keep my chin up.

I think about the days when I wasn’t sure I’d get married because I hadn’t found a boyfriend at the Newman Center. He knew better.

I think about the day I stared at the sky after a miscarriage thinking parenthood would be something else friends would experience and I would not. He knew better.

My life hasn’t turned out at all like I thought it would. And that’s okay. Because He knew better. Maybe publishing will never be in my life. And that’s okay because He knows better than I do. Maybe all the rejection professionally and being passed over both professionally and personally will lead me to some great life lessons or some huge success. He knows better.

I know some of my family think this is defeatist talk. But I’ve left this professional stuff to God because He knows what He has planned for me. After a huge round of rejections in writing and job hunting a year and a half ago, I posted this on social media:

Well, got some disappointing news on the job front. I can probably stop waiting for the interview phone call. But I’m choosing to share this information because while I have been specifically asking God for this need in prayer, while I’ve done the positive affirmations and such…God’s answer is no or at least not yet and God is not a genie who grants our every desire and makes our lives easy and perfect (Job 1:21). He is our loving father and while He is able to make all things possible (Philippians 4:13), He will only do the right thing as a father should. His plan is not this, not right now. And while I’m okay with that, it’s okay for me to be a little disappointed (I am) because I do not know what is in store. I don’t know what’s next. Perhaps this “no” will lead to a better opportunity, or maybe better timing? Maybe God just wants me to be in my current situation longer so that I can appreciate it more? I can’t know, I can only trust and keep on praying. God has not abandoned nor punished me with this turn, He will mold me into who I am supposed to be if I allow Him to (Jeremiah 18:6). He will use what and who I am for His purpose. His plan is far superior to what I can dream of (Jeremiah 29:11). Through all of this I must continue to decrease while He increases (John 3:30). His mercy and goodness continue to follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).

To my shock, I got a message from a friend who’d just weeks before lost his three-year-old daughter in a horrific car accident. He said my message encouraged him and reminded him that God would work even through his terrible situation. I was embarrassed I had even been complaining when my disappointment was nothing compared to his grief. But God has a bigger plan than my disappointment or even the tragic loss of a child.

All those times that God knew better, He taught me to trust Him more. My husband was on the other end of a wrong number phone call not praying at the Newman Center. Trust Him, He knows. My babies were coming but I had to appreciate the difficulty of having a child with special needs. Trust Him, He knows. Maybe my writing will help someone else who is struggling in ways I can’t imagine…I think of the man in today’s Gospel: Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). I struggle. I cry out in moments of desperation. That verse is a prayer I rely on heavily. 364 days after our first failed listing of our old house, we closed on our new ones. Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief. I know You know better. You show me time and time again. You must increase, I must decrease. My faith is not written by what other people think should happen to me, it is written by You. I refuse to submit to others believe is success in my life and wait to see Your better plan. I will not hope in the plans of me, but believe in Yours.

 

Seven Things I Learned Losing Oliver

Seven-Quick-Takes-510x510

 

  1. It’s not silly to ask for prayers for your pet. No, he’s not a child and he’s not a child dying of starvation, dehydration, lack of medicine or from the ravages of war. But that doesn’t make him less deserving of prayer. And truly kind, truly Christian souls will recognize that, will not accuse you of assigning the title of “child” to your pet and will kindly offer their prayers. As my dear friend Katherine said, “If Saint Francis can sing to the moon and Saint Anthony can preach to fish, I don’t know why anyone can’t pray for a cat.”
  2. Even when you know in your heart you’ve made the best decision, the compassionate decision and as my grandmother said, “the merciful” one for your pet, it still hurts unbelievably to have to make that decision. It feels like no matter what decision you make it is the wrong one. And no matter what it will leave you wishing you’d had any other option. (Because the other options they gave you, they told you would do nothing but isolate him from you until he did die.)
  3. There will always be debate about what happens to our pets after they die amongst Christians of good faith. I think of Pope Francis telling the little boy whose dog died, “Paradise is open to all God’s of creatures.” And it makes me think, “why wouldn’t it be?” The Director of Faith Formation at our parish loaned me a book entitled, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, in which a little boy’s cat dies (the same story that played out in our house this week). The little boy’s father tells the little boy we don’t know a lot about heaven because we haven’t been there. I echoed that to my boys. And I told them that while I wasn’t sure, I hope it was a lot like this when I (hopefully) get there (eventually).

  4. Telling your kids that you had to put their beloved pet to sleep is the absolute worst. It’s like reliving the moment 1000 times in a second and their grief is like your own magnified by infinity. When your seven-year-old tells you, through tears, that his heart is broken and will never be fixed again, it breaks you like you’ve never been broken before.
  5. Grief is a very strange thing. It comes on strong as if it will never let up. Then seems to subside quickly only to creep in at inopportune times. It makes one boy withdrawn and another louder and sillier than before. It strikes when I pull up into my parking space expecting to see him sitting in the window…and he’s not there. I am fine talking to a co-worker about what happened but cannot put up the leg rest on my seat because he used to jump up there and snuggle but won’t anymore. Ever again.
  6. I pick up his ashes today. I have no idea what new pandora’s box of emotions this will open up.
  7. Oliver is special. I say that in the present tense for a reason. He reminds me still that pets are great reminders for all of us of the great love God has for us. The kind of love that truly comes without conditions. The love that forgives and bears all wrongs and therefore shows great mercy. I don’t think a day will go by when I do not miss Oliver, like I still miss my childhood dogs Winston and Misty and the dog I lost five years ago, Gilligan. I always thought Gilligan and Oliver would have been great pals. I am sure that he will continue to teach me about God’s love the rest of my life. And for that reason while my heart is broken, it is still full.

RIP sweet boy. I hope we made your lives even a small fraction as wonderful as you made ours. We love you. We miss you. We thank God we got to be your humans.

Check out more (happier, hopefully) Quick Takes with Kelly!

Binge-Watch Update: Bloodline

In her memoir of her friendship with the late poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy entitle Truth and Beauty, novelist Ann Patchett describes helping Lucy start writing her first novel. They are canoeing down the Little Harpeth River with Ann rowing (and pushing) while Lucy rides and brainstorms out loud. Ann recalls the event in part thusly,

Lucy went through all the characters in detail and each one was more despicable than the one who came before. When she told me the narrator, the abandoned sister, was wildly promiscuous and drank too much and probably has sex with the character of the nephew, I suggested she ease up a little.

‘We’ve got to have someone we care about,’ I said. ‘And it helps if that person is the one telling the story. You can write a novel in which every character is despicable later, I just think it’s a bad idea for a first novel.’ (Truth and Beauty, pp 214-215)

The creators and writers of Bloodline could have used a friend like Ann Patchett when they made this show. The tagline of the show is: We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing. The truth is they are just bad people. To say that each character is more despicable than the next is a gross understatement and there is literally no one to care about.

Bloodline is a Netflix original series that was recommended to me by two of Jeff’s brothers and their wives over Christmas dinner. I was intrigued and since I had just finished Stranger Things, I thought it might be another great series after that exceptional experience. I thought wrong.

It turns out not all Netflix original series are created equal.

Bloodline stars big names Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, John Leguizamo, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. The less famous Jacinda Barrett (of The Real World: London fame) and Enrique Murciano (of Without a Trace). And newcomer Norbert Leo Butz. And Chloe Sevigny makes several guest appearances.

Chandler is probably supposed to be considered the series’ protagonist. He is the second oldest son of the Rayburn family of Islamorada, FL in the Keys. He is a detective with the county sheriff’s department. The Rayburns are essentially the “First Family” of Islamorada and like all prominent families they have secrets. Butz, Cardellini, and Mendelsohn play his siblings. Mendelsohn plays his older brother, the black sheep of the family. Spacek and Shepard play their parents. And there is a fifth sibling, a sister named Sarah who died as a child. Barrett plays Chandler’s wife and Murciano is his partner as well as his sister’s fiance.

The series begins with a pier being dedicated to the family and eldest son Danny (Mendelsohn) coming back for the event. His siblings have all created lives in the town while a dark family secret (or maybe more than one) drove Danny away. The family are less than enthused about Danny’s return except for his mother Sally (Spacek). Where I thought the series would go would be in the direction of exploring the dysfunction within the family and also the repercussions of that.

Early in the first episode though, when Danny hooks up with an old friend who is trouble before seeing his family, I realized that this series was not going to stick with the obvious trope which would have been rife with complex characters and intriguing psychological explorations. But no, these characters are just bad people. They are incapable of doing anything ethical or even just kind-hearted. And just when I think it can’t get any worse, that they cannot make any more bad decisions, these characters outdo themselves.

And, um, there is the small matter of uncreative dialogue that heavily features f-bombs. A friend told me she and her husband called it their “effen show.”

The show has aired two seasons and will air a third sometime this year but has been cancelled after that. I am unsure if I will watch the trainwreck til the end as the second season ended in spectacular meltdown. Plus, as my aforementioned friend reminded me, the show is totally not edifying. I only have a small complex about completing things from a college professor who told us that we had to read at least 100 pages before we could throw a book down in disgust. That meant a lot of us finished a lot of books because 100 pages in…we figured we might as well finish it. And that transferred to tv series for some odd reason.

So while I remain undecided about finishing the series, I would highly recommend skipping this one altogether.

Currently binging on Community on Hulu, The Office (US version) on Netflix, Breaking Bad on Netflix, and Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime.

So yeah, it’s a new year, I have a blog and all that jazz…

We’re half a month into 2017. We’ll have a new president before the week is out. I’ve been back to school two whole weeks and…yeah, I know you’re bored already.

Long before Advent I had my patron saint for 2017, St Christopher Magallanes, the Cristero martyr. But the Holy Spirit had a surprise for me in the form of a smiling, hunched over Albanian born nun in a white sari with blue trim. Back in maybe September, I saw on snapchat via Catholic News Agency that the Missionaries of Charity in San Ysidro, CA were giving away Second Class Relics of Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Finally, around November, I got around to looking up the website information and sent them an email hoping to get one and realizing they may not have anymore to give. Suddenly, during the third week of Advent, Gaudete week, I got a package from San Ysidro and opened it to find approximately 20 relics and medals. I was blown away. Solved was my problem of what to get my co-catechist, director of Faith Formation, and priests for Christmas. And easily I knew I’d pass one on to my parents and one to my grandparents. When I gave one to our director of faith formation she said, “God must want you to evangelize about St Teresa!” Well, that was kind of out of nowhere and caught my attention.

So now I have two patrons for 2017: for faith St Christopher Magallanes and for evangelization for St Teresa of Kolkata.

My Bible verse for 2017 is John 3:30 He will increase, I will decrease. And I’m really working hard on this but you know, it’s a struggle. A lot. Because I’m really great at resisting grace. It’s this thing I’ve got called being human.

So, of course, my word for 2017 is trust. Like Psalm 27. Trust. And I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit is going to have a field day with this. But there you go. IF there was ever a reason that I knew I needed to trust, this is it. I need to know that this is something I really need to focus on. So, here we go. 2017, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

 

Binge-Watch Update: Stranger Things

Let me begin this post by telling you the genres that Stranger Things is classified as: science fiction, thriller and horror. Those are three genres that, with the exception of Star Wars, I never, ever watch any of those three genres. Just not my jam.

That being said, I loved this show more than I loved any show in a long, long time.

The show is a Netflix original and has aired one season so far of eight episodes with a second season promised later in 2017.

In summary, a tween boy named Will Byars, after ten hour day playing Dungeons and Dragons with his three best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas is attacked and disappears on his way home. His disappearance triggers a series of events that makes the sleepy fictional town of Hawkins, IN turn into a dangerous, conspiracy ridden, sci-fi nightmare. Will’s disappearance would be swept under the rug when his body is discovered by authorities in a quarry except for a dedicated and disbelieving mother and brother, a skeptical sheriff, and three devoted friends. Joining them is a mysterious girl with a shaved head who appears out of nowhere named Eleven (called El by the boys when they find her) and eventually a Mike’s older sister Nancy whose best friend Barb disappears mysteriously after a party with Nancy. Nancy’s boyfriend Steve also joins in at the end of the search.

The series is an homage in many ways to Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King as well as the 80s in general. However, it’s not cheesy or overdone. Even the film quality is reminiscent of 1980s movies which lends a kind of authenticity to the entire series.

The series also stars Winona Ryder as Will’s mother Joyce Byars and it is a departure from any of her previous roles. She plays the role with gravity and empathy. She is every single mother who has refused to give up. And her pain over her son’ disappearance and refusal to give up resonate deeply with every mother’s grief.

The story-telling is magnificently done, the characters are fully developed and the acting is amazing. And it does keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a total win whether you’re a genre fan or not. Whether you liked the 80s or not. And definitely if you’re a fan of great tv.

Week 2 down…

So um, still behind on the Advent Retreat. And falling moreso…BUT.

We made it to that all-important Holy Day of Obligation Mass. I emailed Jeff that morning and told him that if God-willed it, it would happen. Mass was an hour after work and it’s about 30 minutes from work home to get the boys and then like 20 minutes back to either of the closest parishes. We made it with four minutes to spare. We got a parking space and seats (which kind of bummed me out, but I hoped the earlier Mass and the Vigil were fuller). We weren’t at our parish but, we made it to Mass. The joy cannot be understated.

This was after I managed to throw together a last minute St Nicholas Day together for the kids that they all ended up being thrilled with.

So, Confession. I had to get it in at least once this Advent. And so we came to Saturday. Confession at 3 or 3:30 depending on the parish. We had plans to visit my mother-in-law out of town. We ended up leaving a little late, making more and longer stops than anticipated and stayed longer. Then, on the way home, we encountered multiple detours due to a Christmas parade. Joseph was getting nervous in the backseat and I was thinking, here we go we can’t go next weekend, we won’t make it :(. That’s when Jeff suggested dropping us off at the next parish (known as parish 2 of 3, with our parish being 1 of 3…we were at 3 of 3 for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) that also has a Perpetual Adoration chapel and he would pick us up in an hour.

So we got there within 10 minutes of the start time and were #2 and #3 in line. I can’t speak for Joseph but I had a wonderful Confession. The priest gave me, for my Penance, to pray and meditate on the 1st Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Annunciation. Joseph and I went to the Adoration Chapel and I prayed the entire Joyful Mysteries but I did spend extra time on that First Mystery. After finishing, I opened my copy of Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear…but the section on the Annunciation of the Birth of John immediately followed by the Annunciation to Mary. I don’t believe in coincidence, but the Holy Spirit has more than proved itself to me many times.

As I read, I was jolted by Papa Benedict’s speaking of John as much an Old Testament as New Testament “character” as it were. He mentioned how Zechariah and Elizabeth were not unlike many previous couples in the Bible, infertile and promised a son. He quoted God speaking to Sarah in Genesis:

Is there anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

Genesis 18:14

It so beautifully mirrors Gabriel’s response to Mary as she wondered how “this” was to be:

“…for nothing will impossible for God.”

Luke 1:37

I almost laughed out loud. Of course we made it to Mass, of course we made it to Confession. We were striving for what was holy and trusted God and of course!!!  The Holy Spirit has the most amazing sense of humor. I kept on reading.

And the Holy Spirit showed up. Again. I read how instead of the typical Hebrew greeting of “Shalom,” Gabriel greeted Mary instead in the Greek “Chaíre” or “Hail/Rejoice.” And being that we were fast approaching the vigil for Gaudete Sunday…

And now we’ve celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe. Well, this Advent might not be one where I accomplish all I set out to, but it certainly is a fruitful one nonetheless.

So, a week in, how are we doing?

So either Saturday night or Sunday you lit the second candle on the Advent wreath (if you’ve got one because I know life isn’t always perfect). How are we doing? Did we take on too much? Are we still feeling disconnected?

Around here, things are going pretty well. Advent music plays, prayer is the name of the game and fasting is fantastic :).

Seriously though, last week sometime I saw Elizabeth Foss on the Blessed is She instagram story and she said the one measure of her Advent she was paying close attention to was the Advent candles and if they were burned down as this would show how many times they had sat down as a family at the dinner table. So far, by that measure, we’re having a great Advent, despite the fact that I am not at the dinner table most nights of the week (because: work). Jeff and the kids are meeting there, praying grace, enjoying each other and lighting those candles.

I am online shopping for Christmas this year, so, the thing where people say, “Buy ALL the gifts before Advent, ” didn’t happen but that’s totally okay because my kids gave me lists and they were all pretty reasonable requests so I’ve finished or nearly finished everything. (Except Shelby because she is so all over the place, I will have to go into a brick and mortar store for her.) Because of a weird quirk in school system payroll and scheduling, I will have a paycheck before Christmas though so I’m not super stressed about what I haven’t bought yet.

We started our Jesse Tree on the First and Joseph did that entire long reading from Genesis by himself and I was completely impressed with his reading and his and William’s understanding of what was read. We’re a little behind but will catch up tonight. I came down with yet another cold last week so I can’t get too upset that I am a bit sluggish on weekends when I actually can be. Sometimes.

I met with our DFF Sunday to talk how Advent was going and we had a great talk. I felt refreshed and happy leaving. Next Sunday after Mass, the boys and I will attend a new Young Families group at our parish. This is our first time attending and their second meeting. It will focus on St Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since, aside from “Taco Tuesday” we’ve never done much for either feast (for shame!) I am excited the boys will get to learn more about them.

I’m feeling a little guilty because we aren’t doing a big “St Nicholas” day here this year but the boys said they were fine with just their stockings on Christmas and…maybe I’ll surprise them with a small something.

I am behind on the Pray More Retreat and hope to somewhat catch up this week (we’ll see how that goes). I also am behind on my reading (I have started Jesus of Nazareth the Infancy Narratives) but I refuse to beat myself up over that. I knew the additional reading would be a lot but I’m okay with that.

Things are getting to that wonky time of Advent as they do each year and I think it’s a little exaggerated because we have an entire week the 4th week of Advent this year before Christmas. I have ten days left of school, Jeff and the kids have eight. I’ve already spent most of my last paycheck between Christmas presents, bills, and an oil change. I get another check the 20th but that has to last six weeks…this is the time when it feels like everything is taking forever.

Kind of like the last few weeks of pregnancy…hmmmm