short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sad News: Fr. Thomas Dubay

I have mentioned Fr. Thomas Dubay's publications a number of times on my blogs, and they are in my recommended reading list. For me, his works have been my sanity checks and mainstay when it comes to dealing with the mystical experiences that have come my way. About two years ago, after a string of locutions and having just finished his book, Authenticity, I wrote to Fr. Thomas to tell him how helpful I had found that book (probably not one of his most popular because it is directed to those people who have experienced sound, voice, touch, and, as I have found over the past four years, they are not found in every pew in the church). I also told him of some of my experiences, of the details of my quest to determine their authenticity, and of some of my questions and concerns. I did not ask for a response and did not expect one. Nonetheless, a few weeks later, I received handwritten comments on my letter from Fr. Thomas, who apologized for the format but said that he had just arrived from another trip, was tired, and wanted nonetheless to respond to my note immediately. He told me that he thought that my experiences, as described, were likely authentic and why, commented on my comments, and suggested some answers to my questions. His letter gave me greater confidence in moving more deeply into contemplation and not pulling away from God at the most intimate moments.

Fr. Thomas passed away this weekend, and his passing feels like a personal loss. I will now treasure those handwritten notes even more. If you have not read Fr. Thomas's books, please find some time to do so. They are, for me, second only to The Cloud of Unknowing/The Book of Privy Counseling on my list of books to which I am addicted.

The following is from the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C., who cared for Father Dubay during his final days; I have blatantly "stolen" (borrowed?) this information from his publisher and am certain that the publisher will be happy to have the word spread.
Rev Thomas Dubay, SM
RIP September 26, 2010

From Washington, DC:
This morning at 4:45, the Lord welcomed into His Kingdom Rev Thomas Dubay, SM, after suffering kidney failure and massive bleeding in the brain. Father’s frail health had been declining ever since his admission to the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Washington more than a year ago, but his suffering was even more noticeable in recent months. Despite this fact, Fr Dubay was just as witty as ever.

When Father’s superior, Fr. Bruce Lery, SM, called the Little Sisters on Sunday morning to tell them, he said, "We have a saint in heaven" –how true! Fr. Dubay was hospitalized about a month ago and then transferred to a rehabilitation facility for specialized treatments but his health was steadily declining. Yesterday he was re-admitted to the hospital with bleeding in the brain, and he was put in coronary intensive care. Although the ventilator was removed, he continued to breathe on his own.

Although he suffered from his loss of independence, he was happy to concelebrate Mass almost every day in the chapel of the Little Sisters Home in the shadow of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in our nation’s capital.

The Marist priests and brothers visited him almost daily, and Father depended very much on his superior, Fr. Bruce, who was always there for him. In a few words, Fr. Dubay literally practiced what he preached! Father was happy to give weekly classes to the Little Sister postulants –classes which he enjoyed as much as they! From his room, Father continued his spiritual direction with many persons who called on him and this also was extended to letter writing.

We can render prayers of thanksgiving for the wonderful support Father gave to religious communities spending a good part of his life giving conferences and retreats. Although his preaching and spiritual direction was delivered to contemplative communities, his teaching was not for them alone. Religious the world over benefitted of his spiritual wisdom and guidance for years. He will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace after leading so many souls to true spiritual peace during his lifetime! The opening prayer of today’s liturgy says it all: “Help us hurry toward the Eternal Life you promise and come to share in the joys of your kingdom”.

For more about Fr. Dubay's writings and work, see his author page at Ignatius Insight.
My note: Many have said that Fr. Thomas Dubay is one of the greatest spiritual directors and writers of our day. I believe it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Break a Rule

There are some folks in life who think that rules are made to be broken. Those who read Jungian psychology (or the more contemporary and popular books by Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, and Filatova) know that these are the 12% of the population belonging to the intuitive-thinking (NT) group of personality types. The label really does not matter except as a shortcut for referring to that kind of person who accepts as authority figures only those who have earned their respect through a show of competence in their performance. I am an NT. Therefore, traditions and law and order are less important to me than the principle of a matter and what seems right and fair on a broader human scale.

In a number of places I have worked, I have broken rules to help individual employees. In some cases, I have experienced some small difficulties as a result, but those have always been compensated by the good that has come to the person being helped and the resultant loyalty from the affected employee who would not only do anything to help me in return but also often has -- or has passed on the help to someone else.

One employee in particular comes to mind. We will call him Nikolai although that was not his real name. Nikolai was in the United States during the Cold War as a refugee. That status allowed him to work, and he ended up working in a program I supervised. Nikolai was well past 50 when he began working for me, and his dream was to own his own home. Over the first few years of his employment, he worked hard, saved money, and worked his way to a salary that would afford a comfortable home. However, there was a serious obstacle. He had no credit history, and his job was considered temporary although his position would clearly be needed for some time to come. Therefore, Nikolai could not get any bank to finance a home.

I suggested that he find the home he wanted, then have the bank officer call me. I counted on my persuasive skills. And so it happened that I did, indeed, get a call from a bank officer, whom I was able to convince that the actual situation was much different from the paper situation. Nikolai got his house!

Now, not only did I have no right to do what I did, but also even giving a financial recommendation was prohibited by the rules of my workplace. I could have been disciplined or fired, but, fortunately, my boss never found out.

In a few months, I was invited to Nikolai's housewarming where I was treated like a guest of honor. Nikolai's loyalty followed me even after I left that position. For a number of years, I received cards on holidays and congratulations on special events, often accompanied by flowers. My favorite "flowers," though, were the ones I saw at the housewarming in the wide smile of a new, proud homeowner.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Value of an Open Ear on the Open Road

Mommy talks a lot, including in a lot of different languages, but she does not listen very well. At least, that's what Daddy says. He is probably right. At least, he has some very good examples of when Mommy did not listen when she should have.

Many years ago Mommy and Daddy were returning to Montana, where they were living at the time, from visiting my grandparents in Maine. Daddy usually does not like to let Mommy drive, especially if he is asleep. You can probably figure out why.

Mommy and Daddy drove through many northern states. It was winter, and driving was tough. Daddy did all right, but Mommy sometimes had problems when it was her turn. For example, she fishtailed across the entire state of Iowa. Daddy kept telling her to pull over and let him drive, but she could not get stopped until she reached South Dakota. Then she did.

When Daddy got to Wyoming, he was really tired. He had driven most of the way, except for the state of Iowa, and he could not sleep in Iowa because he did not like Mommy's crooked driving. It made him nervous.

In Wyoming, however, he got really , really sleepy, so he decided he could let Mommy drive again. That was a mistake.

As soon as Mommy started to drive, it started to snow. It snowed and snowed.

As soon as Mommy started to drive, Daddy started to sleep. He slept and slept.

So, Mommy drove while it snowed and Daddy slept. Pretty soon, she was driving high in the mountains. There was snow everywhere, and no place to stop. She turned on the radio. The radio said that Wyoming was getting the biggest snowstorm in 100 years.
Daddy woke up for a minute, and Mommy told him that it was snowing too much to drive. He told her to pull off in a rest area, and then he went back to sleep.
Mommy found a sign that said rest area. She pulled over, but it was not an on-road rest area. It was an exit. She drove off the exit and down another road, where she saw a rest area. It was full of snow, and she could not get in.

Mommy wanted to turn around and get back on the highway, but she did not know whether the road she was on was one-way or two-way. She could not stop to look at the map because the road was isolated. If she stopped and got stuck, they would not be able to get any help.

After another 4-5 miles, driven very slowly, Daddy woke up. He asked Mommy where
they were. She said that she did not know. He looked ahead. There was nothing but a road leading into the wilderness with no tracks at all in the snow. He looked behind. There was only a road through the wilderness with only our tracks.

Daddy was not happy. He said that he told Mommy to stop at a rest area, not get off the road. Mommy did not think that there was a big difference, but Daddy did.

Daddy figured out that we were on a two-way road. We turned around and went back to the highway, and Daddy took over the driving.

Daddy no longer sleeps when Mommy drives. He especially does not sleep when Mommy is driving in snow.

Daddy has continued to drive with Mommy. He has also continued to be frustrated that Mommy does not listen to him very well when she is driving.

One time, several years after the Wyoming experience, Daddy changed places with Mommy at a gas station in Nevada. He did not plan to sleep, but he did want to rest.

However, they were driving a very small truck at that time, and the only place to rest was the covered bed. Daddy crawled into the bed, as Mommy pulled out of the gas station.

As Mommy blinked to turn back on the highway, Daddy began pounding on the window. Mommy figured she would stop and see what he wanted as soon as she was back on the highway and could pull over, but he stopped pounding once she merged. Then, she found out why he was pounding: She had got on the highway going in the wrong direction — back where they had come from. Worse, the next exit was ten miles away!

Daddy no longer rests when Mommy is driving. He especially does not rest when he cannot sit right beside Mommy.

Conclusion: Sometimes it is wise to listen, even when you think you already know something.

This story is excerpted from a collection of vignettes that I helped Doah, my severely mentally challenged youngest son, to write and publish several years ago (copyright 2003). It was my attempt to help him understand literacy and the purpose of writing and reading.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

If the Road Comes to an End, Find a Path through the Woods

I grew up barefoot and suntanned on a farm in rural Maine, the oldest of eight children. My father was a shoe cutter in the winter and a farmer in the summer. All the children I knew in the Maine farmlands grew up barefoot, suntanned, self-confident in the country air, and a little insecure when confronted with city bustle and impersonality.

We were bussed to the city for school. Everything in the city seemed better than on the farm. Our classmates had nicer clothes, shinier shoes, and spiffier haircuts. Life seemed to move faster, and you were supposed to have toys, gadgets, candy, money, fancy book bags, and all sorts of things. The differing levels of affluence were painfully obvious to all of us.

So, when it came time for the science fair, I did not consider the possibility of entering. I loved science, but the cost of supplies was not within my reach as a single exhibitor. I could not partner with one of the city kids because I could not provide my fair share. I could not partner with one of the farm kids because even together we would have no money.

My science teacher would not listen to my explanation. He personally signed up my girlfriend and me and challenged us to figure out a project that we could do with what we had.

"You don't have to buy science," he told us. "Science is all around you."

We picked the topic of light and color, then scoured our houses and barns for anything useful: some leftover pieces of glass from a broken barn window, oddly shaped pieces of wood from the woodpile, and some scraps of wool from my mother's sewing basket. We realized that we had the makings of a display. Perhaps our science teacher was right. Perhaps we could, indeed, make something from nothing.

First, we cut the broken window glass into triangles for homemade prisms. We found, though, that the light diffracted into a multitude of directions so that we could not get the clean spectrum that we wanted. After thinking a bit, we conceived the idea of gluing black construction paper remnants from art class to the flat slides of the prisms to absorb the ambient diffusion. It worked. We made a couple dozen homemade prisms to hand out.

Next, we built a stand by hammering and sawing the pieces of wood to the approximate size and shape we needed, and we hung the scraps of wood on the stand to make a lightproof enclosure. It teetered and sometimes tottered, but it worked.

Using scrap materials was fun. It required creativity and really helped us to understand principles of light and color better than learning about them in a book. We were satisfied that we had put together a credible project that cost us absolutely nothing.

On the night of the science fair, we carefully packed our multi-piece exhibit into some old cartons we found in the barn, lining them with newspaper to keep everything clean. Arriving at the school gym, which had been set up with dozens of conference display tables, we saw the projects our classmates had assembled from beautiful, expensive science kits. Suddenly, our window-glass, black-paper prisms and our rickety stand seemed shoddy. We could not even begin to compete with the blood circulation machines and the fancy optic displays of our classmates. Without a word to each other, we both turned around at the same time and walked out of the gym. We would have gone home, but there stood our science teacher with a stern look on his face. He marched us back into the building.

We spent the rest of the evening in embarrassment, watching the judges look at the impressive, professional-appearing exhibits of the other students. We crossed our fingers that none of our classmates would walk by and poke fun at our display. They did not. They were too busy showing their displays to the judges and parents. Although we did not understand how our homemade apparati could possibly interest the judges, we were enthusiastic about our project itself and appreciative that they came back several times to ask us ever more interesting and challenging questions. We were especially appreciative that they did not laugh at our homemade displays but thanked us and pocketed the prisms that we handed out as if they were just as good as those pretty, store-bought, sparkling ones.

As a seventh-grader, I was surprised and puzzled when we won first place although our science teacher was not. As an adult, I have found many applications of the lesson I learned at the science fair. It is not what you have that counts but what you do with it. Or, when the road comes to an end, find a path through the woods.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

Double-posted on Mahlou Musings and Clan of Mahlou.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For the Best Experiences in Life, Be Adaptable

At a recent faculty development seminar that I conducted, an American teacher of Japanese told me about living in Japan for 15 years. She volunteered that she had to learn much greater patience in order to fit in there.

Being adaptable goes a long way toward keeping our lives blooming. Those who are not flexible often become cantankerous and are viewed as difficult people by colleagues. I would not have but a portion of the wonderful travel experiences, much of the time living with friends, had I been unwilling or unable to adapt.

An acquaintance in Brazil told me that I was the most cross-culturally flexible American he had ever met. Cross-culturally flexible? I have difficulty finding differences between Americans and Brazilians. Brazil is definitely a first-world country in all aspects of things. Even the showers there work -- although I was so adaptable once that I did not remember that I was in Brazil, the land of working showers. Being able to draw only hot water, I drew it and let it cool off, then poured it over me. Used to living in places where some of the things Americans consider essential are, for the most part, luxuries, I did not stop to think that the shower should work. Later, I asked about it, and it was immediately fixed.

Being adaptable cured my bronchitis, too. After 18 months of coughing that would not go away (a frequent experience over a lifetime of struggling with bronchitis), I was giving a workshop in Siberia in 1993 where the workshop organizers heard the cough and sent me to a Siberian doctor. The medicine practiced there was different than in the United States, but it cured my bronchitis, which has not returned since.

Being adaptable can sometimes require the setting aside of one's most instinctive responses. The most challenging moment for me was when a Regional Minister of Education in Russia decided to hold a meeting with two members of her staff and me in the public baths, which she reserved just for us. Unlike in American saunas where one drapes oneself modestly in a towel, in Russian baths one sits entirely nude. A nude staff meeting definitely "pushed the envelope" for this American. (For heaven's sake, there was nothing to take notes on!)

Still, no matter what, adaptability is essential. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to gather the sweetest bouquets abroad unless one does in Rome what the Romans do. The meeting in the baths developed much camaraderie and collegiality among those who attended. We parted with hugs, not handshakes, and years later I still hear from some of these people and have worked with them long-distance on professional matters.

Yes, indeed, one cannot gather the prettiest and most unique flowers if one looks only in one's back yard. The most delightful and most delicate ones sometimes grow in the most unlikely places.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Driving the Big One

Later, when she was in the U. S. Army Reserves, Mommy was required to get a military license. To understand how it was that Mommy actually got licensed, you have to understand that Mommy is gullible. She misses details that would point out inconsistencies and tip her off that she is being had. Getting her military license is a good example of that.

When Mommy first joined her reserve unit, she was told that she needed to have a military license and that she should be tested to drive the biggest vehicle in the swamp. (The swamp is not a pool of water; it is a motor pool.) Mommy believed what she was told.

"Can you drive stick shift?" asked the sergeant in charge of the swamp.

"Certainly," said Mommy. "I learned to drive on a tractor." (That probably explains her problems with parallel parking and angle parking. I have never seen a tractor parallel parked or angle parked in our town.)

"Good," said the sergeant. "I can bring you a larger vehicle then. I'll be right back."

He drove up with a 2 1/2–ton oil tanker, called by the people in the swamp a "deuce-and-a-half." Mommy looked at that and thought about how she could drive something like that. The step was over her head, so she knew she would not be able to see out the window. She could not see out the window in our van, either. She had to use pillows. Ah, ha! She had a solution.

"Give me just a minute," she told the swamp sergeant. "I'll be right back."

She ran to the parking lot and returned to the oil tanker with the pillows from our van. The sergeant was waiting for her, and he helped her climb into the cab by pushing her up.

Mommy fluffed her pillows into place, then started the oil tanker. The swamp sergeant told her where to go. They drove around the military compound. Mommy found out that she did not need her pillows. In order to turn the wheel, she had to stand up and hang on it, using her body weight, not her arm strength, to turn it. So, she drove standing up.

Pretty soon, she and the swamp sergeant were dizzy from driving in circles. The swamp sergeant decided that they needed an adventure, and he told Mommy to drive out of the compound. They drove down the road a little bit.

"Okay," he said. "Just turn right here." "Here" was McKnight Road, a major thoroughfare through Pittsburgh.

"Wow," thought Mommy. "I hope all the people out on the road are going to watch out for me." She did not have to worry. She was the biggest vehicle on the road, so, of course, the other ones watched out for her.

Finally, she was allowed to turn around and drive back to the military compound. There, everyone was waiting for her at the entrance.

"Just parallel park it over there," the swamp sergeant pointed to a very little spot. That was when Mommy figured out that the swamp was playing a joke on her. The joke was really on them, though, because they had to give Mommy a license to drive anything up to and including a deuce-and-a-half.

As for me, I say "Watch out, world! Mommy is really licensed now!"

Conclusion: Chutzpah will take you many places, including down McKnight Road in a deuce-and-a-half.

This story is excerpted from a collection of vignettes that I helped Doah, my severely mentally challenged youngest son, to write and publish several years ago (copyright 2003). It was my attempt to help him understand literacy and the purpose of writing and reading.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Honey and Humility

After all the animals were created, many decisions had to be made. One of these decisions involved who would be entrusted with carrying an amazing substance called 'honey'. The animals started to argue amongst each other, each trying to prove why it should be selected for this special task. The angels arranged for a competition to resolve this dispute. First, the elephant stepped forward.

"I am clearly the most qualified. Not only do I have an enormous belly where all the honey can be kept, but I also have a trunk that is perfectly designed for the task of inserting the honey into containers."

Next came the lion. He roared a few times and then said: "Honey needs to be protected and who is more qualified to protect it than the king of the jungle?"

Then the horse stepped forward:

"Honey", the horse proclaimed, "needs to be transported quickly and reliably. There is no one more qualified for this task than me".

As the animals were arguing their cases, one of the angels noticed that the bee was flying away from the scene. The angel inquired:

"Where are you going? Aren't you going to participate in the competition?"
The bee responded: "You must be kidding, how can I possibly participate in such a competition? I am completely and utterly unqualified to carry such an amazing substance. I am nothing but an insignificant insect".

At that very moment the decision was made: "Honey will be entrusted to the bee because it posses the most important quality of all. Not a large container. Not strength. Not speed. Humility."

The above story is excerpted from a book, Metaphors of Islamic Humanism, by my dear friend, Dr. Omar Imady, copyright 2005.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Power of Observation

Once my sister, Lizzie, had learned to drive, she was much more observant than my Mommy was. She belongs to that group of people that Mommy calls detail-observant, so she pays very close attention to all kinds of things that Mommy does not notice at all.

One night after work, my Mommy and Lizzie were driving home together. Well, Mommy, the grande dame of detail-obliviousness, was doing the driving, and clearly, it was Lizzie, the detail-observant, who was doing the watching. That is pretty typical of how they usually drive together.

At the light where Mommy had to make a turn to get onto the highway coming to our town — Lizzie and Echo worked in the next town over — there was a long line of cars. That was no surprise. There often was a long line at this particular light, especially right after work, so Mommy was sort of expecting a line, anyway.

Mommy could see all the way to the intersection, and the light there was red. So, she got into line behind the cars. She waited and waited.

The light turned green, but the cars in front of her did not move. After work, Mommy is sometimes patient. So, she waited through another change of lights, while talking to my sister.

Again, the line did not move. Mommy continued to talk to Echo and just waited.

"What are you doing?" Lizzie asked her.

"I am waiting for the line to move," Mommy explained.

"But, Mom," Lizzie said, looking out her window and figuring out what was going on, "all these cars are parked. You're sitting at the end of a row of parking spaces along the street."

Oops! Those little details fool Mommy every time!

Conclusion: If you want to make it home, don't line up behind a row of parked cars.

This story is excerpted from a collection of vignettes that I helped Doah, my severely mentally challenged youngest son, to write and publish several years ago (copyright 2003). It was my attempt to help him understand literacy and the purpose of writing and reading. Considering all that has befallen Doah recently, I thought it might be time for another of his stories.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time to Quander

I ask the indulgence and prayers of readers of all my blogs. Other than for an occasional, already-written post or the Monday Morning Meditation (I never miss an "appointment" with God and right now that is especially important to me), I will be taking a week or so off to quander (ponder a quandary).

Donnie received a shocking call today from the work place of Doah, our youngest son, who lives in a group home from the mentally challenged, and immediately called me: Doah had been raped. I immediately left work, and we headed north. We met with the sheriff's department, the folks from Doah's workplace in whom Doah had confided, doctors and nurses, an advocate for victims of violent crimes, and Doah himself. Doah went through five hours of medical tests and over an hour of interrogation from the sheriff's department. The medical staff said that Doah inspired them with his obviously deep faith that gave him an extraordinary resilience. The deputy told Doah that he was the best crime victim he had ever met -- Doah was straightforward and explicit, got the details right, and did not back down from uncomfortable truth. By the time the evening was over, the deputies had tracked down the rapist, an illegal alien without documents who seemed to have disappeared according to everyone who knew him, and had him behind bars. Impressive! So was the orderly procedure and all the help made available to us.

Nonetheless, this event has thrown our lives out of kilter, and I need some time to put things back together. We have brought Doah home with us until we can find another group home for him. We have to decide on any legal action we wish to take against the group home -- a difficult decision because I am suit-averse by nature. There is also more testing to do and results of testing to receive: hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV/AIDS. The latter is very frightening and very possible. I am asking all our friends to pray that Doah passes through this terrible experience without contracting HIV/AIDS as a permanent reminder and life-threatening consequence.

Thank you for your understanding and any prayers you are willing to say for Doah (or candles you are willing to light). God bless you until I am up and running regularly again.

About Me

My photo
I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.