Monday, June 29, 2015

If Love Wins, God Wins

I'm a cradle Catholic -- sort of. I was born to Catholic parents, baptized in the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. I went to public school, but we went to church, too. When my sister was very sick as a child, my grandmother went to Mass every single day to pray for her. I didn't understand the enormity of her faith then, let alone the enormity of the Father to whom she was praying. I just knew Nana went to church early in the morning.

Then, I went to college. There, I learned to question things. A lot of things. And I became a cafeteria Catholic. After graduate school, based on an article in the newspaper that essentially said you're either Catholic or you're not  there's no such thing as "I'm Catholic, but...."  I decided maybe I wasn't Catholic after all. I believed in birth control and a woman's right to choose. I still loved the liturgy, but believed profoundly that the Church and I parted ways when it came to contemporary issues.

And then I lost 15 years. Fifteen years of church family and music and liturgy and foundation. Fifteen years of blaming a whole church for a misguided newspaper article. Fifteen years lost because of one person's opinion.

It was a strange thing that brought me back to Mass. Shortly after my daughter was born, my mother was telling me about a visit she'd made to a boutique near her home. On that particular day, lots of little girls were there, shopping for First Holy Communion dresses, parading around like little princesses in white.

And it hit me. My daughter wouldn't do that. She wouldn't grow up with the liturgy and traditions that had been so much a part of my childhood -- so much a part of the person I became.

The following Saturday night, I went to Mass for the first time in fifteen years. A few months later, I found the church we attend now  an imperfect place filled with imperfect people, many of whom struggle with the same things I do.

But my church is losing people  good people. Some who were born into the church, and others who chose it, only to feel rejected by it later on.

And when well-meaning, church-going people preach others into corners, they perpetuate this loss. God didn't send His son for just a chosen few. As I understand it, nothing would make God happier than to have heaven overflow with people He chose who chose Him back.

But so many of us insist on being obstacles to that, throwing up walls held together with doctrine and aphorisms and thinly veiled judgment. And then we shake our heads because people refuse to climb those walls. Man-made walls. I wonder if God is shaking his head, too, but for a different reason.

The thing is, God wants to be found. But people keep getting in the way. No matter how well-meaning. No matter how well-read or seemingly well-informed on what it is God wants, these people are human beings. Flawed. Imperfect. Wrong.

And me, with my big mouth and my Jersey attitude? As I see it, my job is to show people the best that God has to offer so that they don't lose any more days. To love and accept and keep my judgments to myself so they can tune out the noise and find out from God what it is He wants for them. Some days are successes, others are not, but all have three things in common.

Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Special: Cheap, Easy Ways to Store Stuff

When it comes to wall decor, I am the chief hammer-wielder in our house. It's not because I'm good at it (I'm not); it's because my husband abhors even the idea of putting holes in our walls.

His feelings on the subject of holes would be one of the reasons I love this post from Pinterest on simple storage ideas. Not only are they inexpensive and easy, but many employ small (also inexpensive) plastic clips rather than nails. 

Simple solutions. No holes necessary :-)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Feature: Life is Good, 6 Ways to Make Someone's Even Better
Remember when common courtesy was, well, common? For some people, it still is. Sometimes, it's so easy to do something nice; other times, it's just as easy to forget to.

To kick off this summer weekend, here are Six Ways to Pay it Forward, brought to you by the folks at Life is Good, because after all, we can choose to make it that way.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Talking Myself into It

Neon Trees cover via
It's funny how writing about organization has influenced my own home and behavior. As I look around my house, I still see plenty to do -- plenty of clutter to be sorted, diminished and stored, plenty of spaces to attack and improve upon -- but I also see the fruits of my bit-by-bit, one baby-step-at-a-time labor.

I noticed it most -- the good stuff, that is -- when we returned home after almost a week away. I walked into my living room after a long car ride home from Boston, and saw floor. It's not that my living room floor is usually buried, (even at its worst), but I'm definitely guilty of a "nest" beside the sofa in the spot where I sit. Writing and teaching are both paper intensive tasks. Add reading for business and pleasure, and sometimes, the pile-up gets out of hand.

But it was gone. And little by little, other messes have been disappearing too. My house has a long way to go before it's ready for its close-up, but the power of suggestion has definitely inspired improvement. A baby step here and a baby step there started a march toward order.

Still, this is not a permanent state of affairs. This week, I'm teaching a class, and so within 24 hours of the "ahh" inspired by my living room floor, I'd wreaked havoc on my office -- my beautiful office that had only recently begun to take shape. Why? Because I needed to dig out materials that I hadn't used since I taught the class last year.

And so, for the better part of a week, I cringed every time I picked my way through the tiny space that I'd made even tinier by a pile-up of bins and notebooks. I hated it, but there was no sense putting everything back until I was sure I was finished. Furthermore, since it was already out, it only made sense to reassess it and see if any streamlining was possible.
Ed Sheeran cover via

Indeed it was. Last night, I sorted through not only the pile I'd created on purpose, but also the accumulated materials in the vicinity. And I downsized. About one third of the papers made their way to the trash or the recycling bin, and when I put things back, the office looked better than it had before. That particular space looked better than it has in a very long time.

Sometimes, talk is just that -- talk. But sometimes, it's thinking out loud.

And sometimes, it's the beginning of a plan.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

A week or so ago, a friend of mine drew some heat on Facebook for a post about people ringing her doorbell in the middle of the day. Like me, she works from home, and is frustrated by interruptions, especially those that come from uninvited strangers. In addition, she's legitimately concerned about opening the door to someone she doesn't know.
Yeah. I don't look like this.
(Photo credit:
As someone who works from home, I immediately identified with her post, but instead of considering the dangers of opening the door to total strangers, I leapt immediately to wardrobe concerns. On days that I don't have morning appointments, I'm likely to stay in my pajamas (or a similar substitute) well into the day. And we won't even discuss the accompanying issues with hair and makeup.

If I have work to accomplish -- especially work that requires an expenditure of creative energy -- the early I tackle it, the better. Anything I do between getting out of bed and getting started on the task-at-hand is merely an obstacle. And a succession of obstacles -- not surprisingly -- leads me on another journey altogether. The more obstacles I have to contend with, the less likely I am to get back to the path I'm supposed to be on, and the more energy I have to expend doing battle with demons like procrastination.

For me, getting up, showered and dressed first thing in the morning is like getting off the interstate one exit before my destination. Sure, I can still get where I'm going, but it takes longer, I'm likely to get distracted along the way and when I arrive, I have less energy to accomplish what I set out to do in the first place. And that's just not a smart way to work.

Like my friend, when I'm immersed in an important task, I don't accept interruptions. I don't answer my door or my house phone or even my cell phone unless I've checked caller ID to make sure the caller is interruption-worthy. I may be home, but I'm also at work, and if I wouldn't accept the call at a place of business, I should feel free to let it go to voice mail when I'm working at home.

It was interesting to read the comments my friend received in response to her post. In addition to single women, women home alone during the day and work-at-home folks of both genders, stay-at-home parents weighed in on the disruption of a ringing doorbell timed just when a child has gone down for a nap. Third-shift workers shared their frustration of trying to sleep when the rest of the world was awake. And a few people were offended that there are those of us who opt not to respond to them at the precise moment they wish to make contact.

Photo: randy_burden via Morguefile
So, let me just say this. If I don't answer your call or respond to your ringing of my doorbell during the day, please don't be offended. It has little to do with the importance of our relationship and everything to do with the fact that I'm working, and that the elusive little thought trains sometimes depart for destinations unknown when they're steered off course by an interruption. Sometimes, even a text chime is enough to re-route the whole kit, caboodle (and its little caboose, too).

Or maybe I'm in the shower.

Either way, if you leave a message, I'll call you back.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Special: How to Store Plastic Grocery Bags

Last night, we made our usual Friday foray into the aisles of Target. I'd meant to bring our reusable canvas bags, but left the house without them (again). After rummaging around in the back of his car, my husband managed to come up with one crumpled reusable bag. Hey, it's better than nothing.

Unfortunately, since we were away last week, we bought more than usual last night. Add that to our one, sad bag and a clerk who was less than efficient when it came to packing, and we ended up with quite the collection of plastic bags.

And so later last evening, when I found a blog about how to store plastic bags, I was intrigued. A little more reading led me to an entire page on Pinterest on this same topic, with lots of pretty, crafty, do-it-yourself options.
In the end, I defaulted to a style I rarely employ, but have been using in this situation for years: cram and jam. As it turns out, I don't need to see my stash of plastic grocery bags, and I have zero inclination to fold them into little flags or wind them around each other so I can neatly pull them out of a repurposed plastic container.
Instead, I owe my plastic bag solution to a television show that predates Pinterest by decades. Years ago, on a show called Homeworks, decorator/host Lynette Jennings suggested repurposing an empty facial tissue box to hold plastic bags. I learned this tip more than 20 years ago, and I still use it today. While plastic bag flags may look prettier, they require more effort than I'm willing to apply to something that's most likely going to end up lining a trash can.

I guess there are a few things even an I need to see it organizer doesn't need to see.

How do you store your plastic grocery bags?