St. Jerome, Doctor and Curmudgeon

I’ve had a soft spot for St. Jerome ever since I heard on a radio show that he was a pretty crabby guy.

caravaggio_st-jerome-writing-smWe cranky people have to stick together.

I know that Franciscans are known for being joyful, but I have this tendency to be pessimistic, critical and snarky–and even harder on myself than I am on others.

Evidently, I’m in good company.

St. Jerome is proof that by cooperating with Grace, even grumpy, snarky people can become saints.

There’s hope for me yet.

You can learn about St. Jerome by listening to this short audio biography from Franciscan Media, or read his biography here.

Apparently, he’d have been a more-than-worthy Jeopardy opponent too.

Art: Caravaggio – San Gerolamo” by CaravaggioOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Dead Leaves and Sloth

You know those chores that nag at you and nag at you while you put them off? The ones that bug you because you know they need to be done, but you just don’t feel like doing them?

stopwatchI did one of those just now.

There’s a place at the back of our house where we keep the recycling buckets. All winter long, dead leaves from trees several yards over collect into the corners and spaces between the buckets. And now that it’s spring, it was time to do something about it.

So I pulled out the can and got a rake and a snow shovel and cleaned out the mess.

It only took 15 minutes–and what a lift it gave me! Now that spot is nice and neat.

The consequences of laziness:  those tasks that take very little to do will just eat you away. And for what? Why do I always put these things off, letting them get to me, when only a few minutes and a bit of effort will get the job done?

Today I began to shovel and rake away that sloth in the form of a big pile of dead leaves. I wonder what tools I’ll use tomorrow?

image source

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers About Timing

With two weeks to go until Tech Week, I sent out a second long email last night, begging for donations.leaning tower of beverages

There are some nights when I only have 3 helpers (we really need about 10 people) and there are still a lot of food items that we need.

Excuse me while I panic now, over the possibility that I’ll have to finance 600 chicken nuggets, 6 bags of tater tots, 42 cups of fresh fruit, 8 dozen eggs, and 7 crockpots of soup with 10 servings each.

Apparently everyone likes soup, but no one wants to bring any.

Several people responded immediately with a generous list of what they could donate, and I’m thrilled about that.

This morning I woke up to an email that began, “I was waiting for the latest update…” and another one with, “Let me know what else you need. I can contribute more.”

I am trying to balance my gratitude over the generous offers with my frustration that they wanted to wait and see what blanks would be filled in before they offered to fill any.

Frustration is winning. And I can’t let it show, because I am asking people to be generous with their time and donations of food.

My prayer today is for trust:  that in the end, we’ll have what we need. If I had a deeper trust, I wouldn’t be so worried about this right now.

 

Anger Management

I’ve got a Lawn Chair Catechism post going up in a few hours, but I’m not feeling it.

What I’m feeling right now is anger, frustration, powerlessness.

And if I’m a Saint In Training, I want to quit right now. No more training! I can’t take it.

I’m trying to do the right things. I know I’m not thinking the right thoughts. I know that my powerful resentments are leaking out all over the place, and my anger is evident in my clenched teeth.

I am angry at people who do not shoulder even a small share of the burden, frustrated by open defiance, and powerless to stop behavior in others that is both self-destructive and family-destructive.

I am also awake, long past the hour when I should be.

And the people who do not shoulder their share of the burden, but enjoy the credit? Maybe “they have already received their reward.”

But frankly, I’m tired of being the one gnashing my teeth.

Grudgingly

I’m holding a grudge.

OK, I’m holding many grudges. I’m good at multitasking that way, and my superpower is hanging onto a hurt/annoyance/outrage and blowing it out of proportion.

Holy Mountains-out-of-Molehills, Batman!

But even I knew that this one particular grudge was getting out of hand when I started to consider going out of my way to avoid something that the Grudge-Target and I both enjoy, because it reminds me of said Grudge-Target.

Can you say, “What, are we in middle school?”

Just for the sake of example, let’s say that the Thing We Enjoy is root beer. (Because it’s not. I can’t stand root beer. But it works in this story).

Root beer is widely and conveniently available. Therefore, reminders that root beer exists happen quite frequently. When I am reminded that root beer exists, I am reminded of the Grudge-Target and how this person likes root beer.

And here’s where my Inner Middle-Schooler is tempted to avoid choosing root beer, even though I like it, because the Grudge-Target likes it too.

I have a fear that if I bring this up in confession, Father will just laugh at me, because he has no idea what it’s like to be a middle-school girl.

At the moment, making peace with the Grudge-Target may not be possible. But I have decided that it’s ridiculous of me to stop drinking root beer just because it reminds me of someone with whom I have a conflict.

I need to do something else instead. I need to pray for the Grudge-Target. I need to pray for myself, too, that I will have the courage and strength and grace needed to make peace with this person.

So I have resolved that each time I have a root beer, I will pray. May God bless me with the grace to forgive, and may He bless the Grudge Target as well.

Much Ado About (Paying) Nothing

Because I write for several shopping blogs, I come across a lot of offers for free or inexpensive items. It’s my job to choose several of these each week to highlight at one of these blogs.

Many of these offers come from the Facebook pages of shops, restaurants or other companies.

Usually I just write up the deal, link to the source and get on with things, but in the past couple of days I’ve read a few of the comments attached to the posts announcing some of these specials.

Yesterday, as I printed out my weekly coupon from the Dunkin’ Philly Fan Zone, some of the comments on the page were blasting Dunkin’ Donuts for offering a breakfast-sandwich coupon instead of one for iced coffee. On other posts for past coupons, people complained that other stores were offering better deals. Or they complain that these coupons are only good Monday through Thursday.

Today, I was posting a deal for teachers from Chipotle Mexican Grill and saw that many commenters complained because the restaurant hadn’t offered a freebie for nurses, daycare providers, student teachers and homeschoolers.

What an entitlement mentality!

I’m a former teacher, so I don’t expect Chipotle to give me free food tonight. And I’m happy for the low-priced breakfast sandwich coupon, but if I weren’t a breakfast-sandwich fan, I just wouldn’t print a Dunkin’ Donuts coupon this week. Next week, after all, there will be another.

These stores issue coupons to get customers in the door and generate some goodwill in the community. I didn’t see a whole lot of goodwill on the Facebook pages for either establishment regarding these offers, and that’s a shame. It’s people like those commenters on Facebook that will ruin things for everyone else, because the stores will eventually give up and stop giving out coupons and freebies.

Can’t use the coupon this time? Don’t qualify for the free offer this time? Oh well! Maybe next time you will. In the meantime, be grateful that the store still offers special deals and stop blasting them because each and every deal is not for you.

Priorities

This morning, while waiting for Little Brother’s basketball game to start, I was talking with his Cub Scout den leader (whose son was on the opposing team). He mentioned that after next weekend’s Blue and Gold Dinner, which will feature the boys’ crossover into Boy Scouting, his son probably will not continue in Scouting.

That’s a shame.

At first I thought that the boy just didn’t feel like Scouting was for him. I told the den leader that my older son had felt that way for a while, and we asked him to just give it a certain amount of time. If he still didn’t like it after that time, he could walk away.

Apparently, though, that wasn’t the case. This young man is having academic difficulties in school. His parents are considering after-school tutoring to help him improve his reading skills. That’s a good course of action to take, and I hope that it helps. But then, the den leader went on, they had decided that if he does go to a tutoring center, he won’t be allowed to go to Scouts until his grades improve.

That’s an even bigger shame. Before the opening buzzer to the game sounded, I tried to convince this dad that Scouting was definitely worth the investment of time, and that his son would learn about managing his time as part of his Scout training.

I probably failed, unfortunately.

In this town (and many towns surrounding mine) the emphasis is ALL on sports. Little Brother is one of the few boys his age who is held to a strict “one sport per season” limit. I’ve known several kids who play on two or more teams for the same sport during the same season, and always wondered what happens when the inevitable schedule conflict comes up. The boy in question here plays multiple sports in a season, sometimes on travel teams whose games are an hour or more away. I’m not against sports–my kids are athletes too–but a steady diet of nothing but sports is awfully limiting for an eleven-year-old.

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.–the Boy Scout Law

Yes, you’ll get some of that in sports. Ultimately, though, the goal in sports is to win. The goal in Scouting is to fulfill that Law. By doing so, it’s not only the Scout who wins.

And when a child’s punishment for poor grades (or poor conduct) is removal from his Scout troop, he definitely loses.

Day: Made

This afternoon I was handed a packet of thank-you notes written by the 5th grade at Little Brother’s school. Every child in his class wrote me a thank-you note last week, during Catholic Schools Week, because I am a weekly volunteer in the school library. The notes were hand-written on stationery that the kids decorated themselves. I know this class well, because I’ve worked with them for 4 of the 6 years I’ve helped in the library. This is a great bunch of kids–they’ve been together since kindergarten and as a group they’re pretty tight.

As to the sentiments expressed in the letter, they were often at the corner of Funny and Sweet, because that’s where ten-year-olds live. Here are a few of my favorite gems:

“We are all very grateful for you donating your time for the school. You’re a very thoughtful person. As they say in Spanish, gracias!”

“It is a massive responsibility for you to go to the library every single Friday.”

“Every time you come on a Friday it makes me feel happy inside.”

“When you are supporting us we are supporting you.”

“I hope you are proud of yourself!”

“I am thankful because you could be doing something other than helping.”

“You are the greatest book stamper ever!”

Two kids wrote “Go Notre Dame” on their letters as well. (After all these years together, they know me well. And I know them well enough to know that for one boy, that was a big thing–he’s absolutely not a Notre Dame fan. But he wrote it on my letter because he knows that I am.)

And one child made a special point of thanking me for finding a copy of a book she’d been looking for, and setting it aside for her until her class came to the library. That’s what it’s all about.

That packet of letters made my day. I love helping the school by lending a hand in my favorite place!
Plus, it’s good to know that my book-stamping talent has not gone unnoticed.

Cleaning Up My (Linguistic) Act

A few times in the past couple of days, there have been discussions involving swearing. Patrick Madrid, on Tuesday, hosted an episode of “Right Here, Right Now” where he called out people who use profanity in social media (or anywhere, really).  Then, Katharine Grubb, the 10Minute Writer, brought up the topic in the context of her ongoing series on chivalry.

I’m not one to use the F-bomb, but I do have a couple of other “choice” words that could stand to be eradicated from my vocabulary. Especially the whole “taking the Lord’s name in vain” thing.

It’s been on my mind.

So this morning I was on my way to school, same as any other Friday morning. My timing must have been a bit off, because I got stuck behind a school bus that I don’t usually see. As I drove through the neighborhood, that bus kept turning down the same streets I was about to use.

I hate following school buses, especially the ones that go to the early-elementary school, because they take for-ev-er to go anyplace, and kids’ moms stand there chatting with the bus driver while the little STOP sign sticks out from the side of the bus and the red lights blink, so I can’t pass.

School buses just don’t drive with the same sense of urgency I do.

Once again, that bus turned the same way I was about to go.  “Jesus Christ!” I yelled.

Then I thought better of it, figured I’d turn it into a prayer. “Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.”

Immediately, the bus made yet another turn–down a street that was not on my route.

Whoa.

I Confess

I fail at Confession.

Sometimes I feel like Confession fails me.

I definitely have to stop attending those “communal Penance services.” It’s like drive-by Confession, and it’s never a good experience–which is why I let two or three years go by between Confessions, until I feel absolutely driven to seek absolution, and I drag myself there.

For me, “communal Penance services” are a near occasion of sin. (So why do I go? Because they’re not on Saturday afternoons, which are always so nutty that I can never manage to get to Confession for the 45 minutes our parish offers it at that time.)

If it were up to me, these services would be simple affairs consisting of a hymn or two, a Scripture reading or two, and a short homily from Father explaining how to make a good examination of conscience. After that, everyone lines up for Confession.

Here’s how it went last night:

  • Arrive and find a pew. Listen to announcement by cantor that if you forgot a “worship aid” you should raise your hand and a “team member” would bring one to you.
  • Hymn, Liturgy of the Word, prayer.
  • A combination skit/prayer/examination of conscience in which 6 costumed actors represented Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus and lectors read prayers relating the examination of conscience to each of these Biblical figures.
  • Lineup for Confession. After the initial scramble to get in line for your favorite priest, I waited 40 minutes, only to end up with the hard-of-hearing priest who was older than Moses and looked like he might not survive the night. (Good thing the church has its own defibrillator. I was afraid we might have to use it.)
  • Parting gift. After absolution, Father handed me a handy-dandy refrigerator magnet “to remember this evening by.”

I don’t need “worship aids,” “team members,” costumed actors with props, and refrigerator magnets. And frankly, I don’t want them. For me, they get in the way.

I know I shouldn’t be snarky, and I’ll need to go to Confession again over that. To be fair, the service was well-done. Good music, well-prepared readers, good flow. But it felt like a performance, not a prelude to a sacrament.

In the end, the grace of the sacrament is enough–which brings to mind this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace; for this is enough for me.