Author Archives: Eileen
My husband, Julian, our five children and spouses, eight of our nine grandchildren and three great-grand children gave me a marvelous birthday weekend. They rented a large suite at the beautiful Montgomery Bell State Park near us and decorated it with a New Orleans and Mardi Gras Theme complete with Dixie Land Music, Mardi Gras Masks, beads, balloons, flowers, and all kinds of tinsel spirals and confetti. There was an awesome feast of New Orleans foods. I was born in New Orleans, baptized in the St. Louis Cathedral and lived in the Pontalba Apartments on Jackson Square in the French quarter. We moved when I was six,and I have lived since 1961 in Tennessee, but somehow New Orleans and the French Quarter are still my hearts home. My grown children also put some poster size and other smaller collages of pictures of me from the various stages of my life all over the walls along with signs and pictures of New Orleans. I thought that was cool, until they started snapping photos of eighty year old me next to twenty and thirty year old me. No fair!
I’m not very good at posting photos. I couldn’t get them to stay in a reasonable line. They started stringing out.
Here I’m a Senior in High School in Houston
About forty years ago, our quite elderly parish priest had been a Scripture Scholar and a consultant for Vatican ll, so he was very up to date on the changes that were being made. I guess I was as close to being a feminist as anyone in our small rural church, so he asked me to carry the large Bible at the front of the procession into the church at the beginning of Mass. (A first for laity and a first for women in our parish) I was to carry it open, held out prominently, bow, go up the two stairs to the altar and then carry it over to the lectern on the left. I would then step down on that side to sit until time for the scriptures to be read. I would then be the first woman in our parish to read the Scripture aloud as part of the Mass. It was a great honor, but very scary, since I am a terribly clumsy person and the potential for disaster was mind boggling. I was terrified. I made it all the way down the aisle without dropping the rather heavy bible, but unknown to me, carpenters had raised each of the two steps up to the altar an inch or so that week. So, I tripped on the first step, staggered drunkenly up the second, and did a juggling act trying to keep the Bible from flying out of my hands. Some how I got it onto the lectern and started shakily down the two stairs to the pew on the side, looking down to make sure I didn’t trip again. I forgot there was a pillar there and ran head on into it, almost knocking myself out. I sort of fell into the pew and by the time my eyes could focus, it was time for me to do the first reading. It suddenly hit me as funny. It seemed like God’s somewhat warped humorous way to remind me to let go and let Him do it. And I was able with His grace to read the scripture with clarity and feeling and understanding. And ever since, when I get nervous about preaching, reading or leading prayer at worship, I remember that beginning and think……well, I’ve already done my total humiliation thing…and with grace survived it and learned from it. Then I am able to chuckle to myself as I visualize that first time and let go and let God do Her thing.
Since my experience of the total love of God through Jesus when I was thirty after several years of rather hedonistic agnosticism and then several more years spent searching for spiritual meaning and purpose, my heart’s desire has been to somehow communicate that love to others.
God’s love didn’t make me perfect, but it brought meaning and purpose, an acceptance of the reality of my human weakness, and hope for growth and change through grace. Change for the better has been slow and spotty, but is still part of my journey at “almost’ eighty. ( I have a couple of hours left till the eighty.)
My most natural gift is speaking. And a Spiritual gift of seeing the connection between Scriptures and daily life came with my conversion. For a long time I just did whatever needed doing, like teaching, making soup for the sick and poor, smiling at people, organizing my husband and children into a work crew for church and school events, recruiting and getting training for religion teachers, and and at that time a new ministry for laity and particularly women, reading the Scriptures aloud for worship services.
Some of the more obvious experiences of God curtailing my tendency to hubris seem worth sharing, if only to give others a chuckle.
One came to mind this morning as I was checking my old lady chin for whiskers. Forty years ago when teaching a fifth and sixth grade confirmation preparation class in a Catholic School, I was (I thought) waxing eloquent on the opportunity at confirmation to make their own choice of Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord and how wonderful that is. At the end, I asked if anyone had a question. One rather quiet boy raised his hand. My heart filled with joyous expectation as I said, “Yes, Jesse?” To which he replied quite seriously, “Mrs. Norman, Do you have a mustache?”
I do believe power corrupts. As far as I can see, Christianity died when Constantine made it the state religion. I’m getting to do my once a month sermon from the molehill tomorrow. I’m telling about trying to get my youngest son, at three years of age, to speak into a recorder to send a message to his Grandmother. He froze when faced with the microphone, so I encouraged him to start by saying who he was. He just looked more and more frustrated. Then he cried out, “I’m somebody! I’m somebody.” A universal cry of our hearts, I believe. Unfortunately it leads to all sorts of idols/addictions: The need to be right, righteous, rich, powerful,special, a winner, A moment that has stayed with me is when 4 first grade boys in a Special Olympics race were clustered together and almost to the finish line. Then, suddenly, one of them fell down. Simultaneously the other three all turned back to help him up. And they crossed the finish line together holding him up.
I’m 80 and I’m not there yet.
I think now and then
that it would be best
if all of us could fall into
tumbling to the ground
without our past knowledge
of walking, talking, sleeping,
It would not be
glorious renewal —
I’m no Utopian.
Instead I see it as
a fitting end to things:
all of us helpless, seeing
every other one of us
from ground level,
lying there uneasily
as if new born, waiting
in complete equality
for an explanation
that will never come.
by dark claims of
mastery from those
utterly in thrall
to a lie called history.
It would be fitting,
even at such cost, if
they were freed long enough
from that spell
to know how it felt not to be
To see the world as it is,
from the ground up.
Finding what we love and have the talents for takes longer for some of us than others. We may have a lot of small talents and interests, so we tend to move from one project or job to another.
Often those who naturally have good study or work habits will out-perform those that appear to have more talent or higher IQ’s.
And lack of confidence can cause us to be over sensitive to suggestions for improvement, making us unteachable and leading to discouragement and giving up.
But, when we combine our natural abilities and focus those on what we value most, it makes a huge difference in how well we do.
Then motivation becomes the key to perseverance. And even those of us who hate detail and repetition can manage to do the necessary nitty-gritty to accomplish what we consider important.
PRIORITIZE: What interests and energizes you most that you are reasonably competent to do?
FOCUS: Identify resources of time, money, space, training, materials, and support people needed to accomplish this.
PERSEVERE: Don’t give up if you fail. Learn from your mistakes. Get help when you need it. Constructive criticism is instruction. Be realistic in your goal.
To my mother & daughters: “Sorry about…you know… the world.” #Mother’sDay Apology #SundayBlogShare #humor
For the past year, I have done very little work on my current writing projects. We bought a house, and for the first time I felt like I understood my mother.
Mother had her first five children in six years. Someone asked her about that childless year in the middle. “That was the year,” explained Mother, “we bought the house.” The Year Of The House included but was not limited to:
- My brother falling into the hole being dug for the new basement bathroom (one broken collarbone)
- My attempt to slide down a bannister which stopped halfway down the stairs even though I didn’t (stitches in chin)
- My brother running his arm through the wringer-washer (skin grafts)
- My sister releasing the handbrake on their first new car (totalled—the car, not the…
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After falling and breaking my shoulder last year, I now sleep with a light on. Tonight about midnight, when I got back from my first trip to check out the plumbing, what to my horrified eyes did appear, but a sizable centipede crawling right over my head. Too short to reach it and too arthritic to climb, I was afraid to swat at it and have it fall possibly under, or even worse, into my bed.
Keeping one eye on it as it began to start down the wall, I grabbed a file folder to carry it out. Then cringing and gritting my teeth as it turned heading higher and more out of my reach, I woke up my husband for help. While he groggily tried to wake up, I turned back to do battle. As I pulled my bed with its nest of pillows and covers away from the wall, the centipede started back down. Holding my breath, I managed to lure it onto the folder. .
While considering my options, toilet or disposal, it raced on its hundred legs toward my hand. I screamed. Loudly! Then tried to think what I would tell the police if a neighbor called 911. “But officer, it was a centipede attack!”
But my hero arose and took the cardboard folder in time. I cheered quietly as he hurried with it toward the front door, then groaned as it took a dive to the floor.
A floor the same color as our centipede escapee.
Since neither of us had on our glasses or shoes, we tiptoed gingerly bending as low as we could. When wounded or killed, this kind of centipede gets its revenge. It stinks up the house. And if it’s just scared, it has tiny teeth that can bite. We would never have found it if it had stayed still. But as it raced to hide, it ran onto the folder. I grabbed the door and it was thrown out of sight.
As I whispered “Hooray,” I thought my husband was taking a bow. But at our age, it’s easier to bend than get back upright. Once helped back to bed, he fell quickly to sleep.
But as I looked at my bed, I thought of its mate and that centipedes travel mostly at night.
Now as I type, I imagine things tickling my legs and my back. And shudder as I imagine a hundred little feet and tiny teeth that can bite. So, my plan now is to stay up all night.
An opulence of travel visions:
Paris, London, Lisbon, Prague,
beauty rampant with history and art.
Yet etched forever in my mind
the beaches and cross-crowned cliffs
above the shores of Normandy.
A cliff face sheering from the ocean,
Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers
climbed point blank into German guns.
Now, just empty bunkers on pitted earth
and beaches, wave washed innocent
below silent sentinels left behind.
Row on row of small white crosses
guarding fields of blood-rich ground,
Old Glory whipping, snapping in the wind.
Today I am realizing that when our children or couples we love divorce, there’s a mourning period involved. Particularly with friends that we only knew when they were married. We have to mourn and let go of those we have loved in relationship. It has nothing to do with thinking they should or shouldn’t divorce. It just involves coming to grips with the differences.
With a child we knew and loved long before they married or divorced, we at least have something to look back to, but not with the spouse that we only knew as a unit with our child. They simply aren’t the same person now that we have only known. There really is a necessary time of mourning, particularly if we truly came to love them as part of that unit. And mourning involves the stages of grief…..denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I think recognizing this can help us not bog down hopelessly at any point in the process. I am also beginning to reflect on the possibility that we have to go through a similar process when either people we love or we ourselves change because of aging or illness.
I realize now that I need to cut myself some slack and take time to reflect on the effects of this recent period in my life that includes my own losses of abilities and joys through age and illness, my husband experiencing losses from these also, one of our adult children and a spouse that I loved deeply as a couple for many years now being divorced, and friends that I have loved and only known as a couple divorcing.
The last year and a half have simply been overwhelming and I have been bogged down in emotional denial of some of these things and in anger over others.
Hopefully, recognizing this and my need for grace will help me move through to the peace of acceptance.