Sunday, November 30, 2014
I don't think I'd ever be mistaken for a Scrooge, but I do try my best to only focus on Christmas after Thanksgiving is over. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to enjoy each holiday in turn, the way I always did growing up.
So on Black Friday this weekend, I finally gave in, and decided I was ready at last to start celebrating the Christmas season. I got in the car to do some shopping, turned on the radio for my first real listen to the Christmas carols, and then, not 5 seconds later, an SUV drove past me with a foot of snow on its roof.
It was like a sudden rush of mixed emotions, especially since we haven't had any snow yet here in my part of Long Island. Seeing so much snow just as I was beginning to embrace the season was crazy, and yet cool too...not least of which because I got to see it without having to shovel any!
The Christmas season is officially upon us now, whether you like it or not. For some, it means a month of joy and fun, presents and parties. For others though, it's a reminder of those who are missing: loved ones who have died or who still haven't shown up.
I love Christmas and all it brings, and though I'm no Buddy The Elf, I'm no Scrooge either. My life has been blessed in many ways, and though I've had my fair share of hardships and loved ones lost, I believe in the supreme potentiality of this season.
No matter where your head and heart are all year long, or even right now, Christmas is an invitation, an invitation to joy. It's like a hand reaching out, inviting you to dance, to try a nice new dessert, or to sing that funny Christmas song when it plays on the radio.
We may not always have good reason to smile, in fact we may have very good reasons not to, but Christmas invites us to jump in anyway, to let go and just enjoy it all as much as we can. You may not have the desire at first, but if you take a chance and join the crowd, the Christmas spirit really can be yours. I hope you'll try.
And for those who are already singing loud and dancing on the tables, you might want to pace yourself a bit. We've still got another three or four weeks to go, and I'm gonna need some help shoveling the snow!
Merry Christmas Spirit! : )
Saturday, November 29, 2014
I need to tell you about my computer, the one I'm typing this on right now.
I bought this computer back in 2005, so in human years, he's now about 198. Like most men his age (and there can be no mistaking his gender), he takes forever to start up, an eternity 'til he's ready to communicate, and even once he's up and running, I never know when he'll go back to sleep--or worse, just die!
People who work in nursing homes and hospice care can see signs telling them when a patient is close to death, and computers often have this too, only it's a little easier to see. Where some nurses may note a certain look in the patient's face, their eyes glazed over, computers leave no doubt at all once they display their "blue screen of death". Well, my computer's blue screen of death has been happening for at least a year now, although it's been happening much more frequently the past month or so.
Carrying the metaphor one step further, doctors might inform the families of their patients, "It looks like this is the end now". My computer though? I was only given a pop-up telling me I've now lost all support from the professionals. It's like the doctor left a post-it note on a dying body, saying, "Okay, I'm outta here. Golf game at two. See ya!"
And so it is with great sadness I announce the end is near. My computer, who's been with me now for almost 10 years, is going to the great scrapheap in the sky. There will be no wake or funeral services. Not even a Shiva. Instead, I'll be taking him off all life support later this week, and replacing him right away with the hot new model I bought on Black Friday yesterday.
My new computer will also be a male, I've decided, but sleeker, sexier, and much faster than this one. In lieu of flowers, please send money to my credit card company. Thank you.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Today's the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, so I'm still basking in the first half of my four-day weekend.
Most people spend this Black Friday shopping, as all the stores have amazing sales today. And yes, I'll do some of that too, but not much. I have two or three places to shop today, between real life and the interwebs, but for the most part, I just need a catchup day, a day to sit at home in my pajamas and catch up on life.
I've got an online poetry group I run that boasts over 1,600 members, and I've been neglecting my duties there lately. There are dozens of poems awaiting my pro bono critique services, and though I've been slowly catching up, I still have a ways to go.
I also have reading and writing I'd like to catch up on this weekend. Of the three books I'm reading at the moment, two are taking me forever to get through, and I want to just finish them up already. And my writing, though going well overall, is definitely awaiting a proper return of my full attention.
Christmas decorating, house cleaning, desk cleaning, and file backup work ahead of my switch to a new computer are all on my to-do list. Oh, and Christmas cards too! Eek! So yeah, lots to do!
I hope wherever you are today, whenever you read this little reflection, that your mind and life are all caught up. There's always going to be more to do in this life, errands to run, places to go, people to see, and tasks to check off our master list, but catching up, at least for the most part, is doable. And sometimes? Sometimes by doing, doing, doing until we're all caught up, the reward of just being is that much sweeter.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
I won't make this one long, because I'm posting this on Thanksgiving morning, and I assume no one's interested in reading today anyway. For posterity's sake though, I need to share a list of just SOME of the many people I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving!
ANDY. He puts up with so much from me, and yet keeps loving me all the time! He's either my soul mate or mentally ill, but I'm willing to bet he's the former and not the latter! I honestly don't know what I'd do without Andy, because my life is just so perfect because of his presence in it. He's my best friend, the love of my life, and beyond anything to do with me, he's just a loving, sweet, caring guy who I'm so lucky to know!
MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY. My family's stuck with me, but they don't have to be. We don't live together anymore, and various cousins and so on never did, so I am just grateful they still want to be around me from time to time. And my friends? Well they came into my life by total choice! They've been given ample opportunity to run far, far away from me and they haven't yet. Thank you, of course, but what the hell? Why are you still here?! (I suspect they just like Andy too much.)
EVERYONE ELSE. This includes my coworkers, my non-friend Facebook friends, my extended contacts in the writing and spiritual worlds--everyone. I know a lot of people who probably wouldn't call me their friend (or vice versa) but who at least seem to like being part of my life. Thank you!
Life is good because of so many good people in my life, and I'm very, very grateful!!!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
November 26, 2014
I'd be remiss in this week of Thanksgiving if I didn't think at least once about all my unblessings in life, all the people and things that just never arrived the way I hoped they would. They were the crushes and the obsessions, the money and the objects. Dozens of them--people and things--could have come into my life in one way or another, and could have changed absolutely everything.
When the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers came out in 1990, I was still a freshman in high school. The kinds of crushes I had back then weren't any more major than the ones I have today, but they sure felt more major. My idiot 15-year-old brain only knew that I didn't have person x in my life, not even persons h or k, and that meant I would be forever unhappy. And yet this one song was like a beacon of hope. It truly transformed me.
I've always been an obsessive-compulsive type, so whenever I start crushing hard on someone, my idiot 15-year-old brain shows up all over again. It's thankfully gotten much better over the years, but every now and then, I start seeing the same old idiot-brain patterns showing up again, and I remember. I remember that phrase, "unanswered prayers".
I'm not sure why, but as soon as we get away from a person or thing we desire more than life itself, it helps us see the big picture better. Usually, it helps us see how happy we can be, and indeed are already, once we're away from person or thing x. Every once in a while, it may even serve to remind us we belong with person or thing x. Either way though, time and space do wonders!
So as I continue to reflect on all I'm grateful for in this life, and I thank God for all my so-called answered prayers, I thank her for all of the unanswered ones too. I thank her for having the vision and clarity that my idiot brain and I still do not, and I'm grateful once again, as always, for the beautiful gift of perspective.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
November 25, 2014
I was going through some old notebooks last night, something I do randomly now and then, and came across a passage I'd like to share here today. I wrote it in November of 2004.
"As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts turn to gratitude. It's an often-talked-about but still much neglected emotion. Say 'thank you', our parents taught us. And a thank you we would say until the day came when we didn't need to be told any more. But gratitude lives on a deeper plain. It resides in our emotions in a very real place that knows when we have been given something we didn't necessarily deserve to be given.As we approach Thanksgiving, now just two days away, let's start thinking and praying on gratitude right now. Let's reflect not just on all the stuff we own and the blessings we have, but on the in-between moments too. Gratitude is not just a reaction, an expected emotion in return for a kindness, but a proactive choice of genuine appreciation. It neither requires nor deserves a kindness or blessing to come first. It's simply grateful...for everything.
"We may expect a present on our birthday or on Christmas. We may expect a tissue when we sneeze or a postcard from a friend on vacation, but do we deserve these things? Do we deserve the many nice things we receive in our lives?
"Gratitude is the sincere 'thank you' from the heart that we really mean, the appreciation for an act or a kind deed, or for kind words that did not have to be done or said, no matter how much we have come to expect them."
Monday, November 24, 2014
|Not an actual photo from the monastery :)|
November 24, 2014
I was a young monk for just over four years, and for all four of those years, I was on laundry duty almost every week. Always on a Saturday, and always with three or four other monks, laundry day meant doing the entire monastery's wash for the entire week.
With 34 monks going through seven pairs of underwear and seven undershirts each, plus all their white dress shirts, socks, weekend and evening clothes, and assorted other items like tablecloths, sheets, towels, and napkins, it was an enormous amount of work! All of the white shirts had to be ironed too, which was a job unto itself!
(Oh, how I wished we could all just wear traditional brown robes instead!)
Even with four or five monks working all day long from 9 to 5 with two brief coffee breaks plus lunch, we never finished everything. Invariably, Brother Larry ended up doing more during the week.
Each brother had his own cubby hole for laundry. Dress shirts and pants were hung up separately. You'd squeeze as much folded laundry as you could into the generously sized box for each monk, and then leave leftovers on the table in front of the box. (I'd often pass a bit of silent judgment on the monks who went through more clothes than the rest.)
I don't think about those days much when I'm complaining about the one or two loads I do for Andy and me each week, but I probably should. Perspective is, once again, one of my greatest teachers.
The monastic laundry room was sometimes monastic, sometimes downright silly, and sometimes even contentious. Most of all though? It was a cooperative effort that always, always, always left us with a sense of pride and accomplishment. We worked hard and worked quickly for the whole day, and when we were finally done, we knew we'd done something major, together.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
A lot of my experience the past year has been in words more than actions. I write, sometimes at a furious pace, and when I stop writing at day's end, I'm in bed reading. Though a thousand other events and activities may befall or amuse me, it is in these words where I exist most often.
I'm reading three books right now, and though one of them is a real uphill slog, another is like a gorgeous, shining sun above my bed. Living Buddha, Living Christ is this star, and it's a beautiful collection of reflections unlike anything I've ever read before. Though I fancied myself an expert on all things Jesus over the course of my first 40 years, I'm beginning to learn more now about Buddhism, specifically how it's calling me to change.
Buddhism teaches us to not just walk, but walk mindfully, to be conscious of each step and movement. It reminds us to not just eat, but to eat mindfully, to appreciate each bite and taste as it moves through our mouths. And it calls us to be fully present in every conversation, activity, and thought, to become at one with the universe and its one song (uni verse).
As I continue to read this beautiful book by Thich Nhat Hanh, I can't help but see how it's part of a collection of conscious callings in my life leading me toward Buddhism. I don't happen to subscribe to some Buddhist teachings, as my core beliefs are and I believe probably will always be decidedly Christian, but there is a magnificent honesty in Buddhism I know I need. It's an honesty of consciousness, truth, and presence. It's a vocation to slowing ourselves down and really thinking through each moment, rather than flying off the handle when stress comes at us.
My Buddhist calling has been subtle, certainly nothing immediate, much like Buddhism itself, I guess. I see the sparkling lights of Christmas beginning to appear around the neighborhood now already, but in my mind, I see other lights too. I see lights that can help me grow as a soul, on this earth and beyond, and they reside in the teachings and writings of the Buddha and his disciples. Christianity will forever be at my core, and I will always have a profound appreciation for other religious beliefs and thoughts as well, but right now? Buddhism is definitely calling me. Not calling me away, just calling me forward, differently. And I'm going to listen more carefully to that calling in the days ahead.
The words I read and write surround me all the time. They are me, and I am them. I think on them as I read or write them down, but they live in the air around me whether or not I reach for them to add to my writing. Words are the catalog of thought, and thought is the catalog of understanding itself.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
|My beautiful mom, after Easter dinner in 2003|
I'm not sure why, but I've been thinking a lot lately about my loved ones who have gone on to Heaven. They've visited me in memories and photos alike, and I've called on them to guide me in my Shamanism classes as well.
I know SO MANY people who have crossed over now, so I don't think of all of them all the time, but the ones who pop up most often are my mom and dad, my maternal grandmother, my sister Esther, my friend Sal, and the monks I knew and lived with--Joseph, Francis, Larry, and Richard. There are more, but I recall these souls frequently.
There's no debate in your mind at this point, I hope, about my absolute belief in a beautiful eternity after our bodies die here, but I fully understand and respect your head space and non-beliefs if Heaven's just not on your radar. When I first met Andy, he called himself an atheist, and I helped him find the word agnostic instead: someone who just doesn't know, instead of someone with an absolute belief in no God. Over time though, Andy has listened quietly to my beliefs and reasons, and we've talked a lot about his thinking too. Together, we've gotten much closer to a shared understanding of God and Heaven, even if we still disagree in some ways.
For me though, my loved ones are safe and sound in a reality that I cannot even hope to understand yet in this life. Beyond my father's soul's visit to me after he died, I have had many other profound senses of knowing when the spirit is present in a room. Most recently at Andy's uncle's house the day of his funeral, I felt myself bump into a person who I could not see.
I'm no preacher and have no money or career invested in trying to sell you all anything, and I also hope you recognize I'm a mostly sane, smart man with a genuine willingness to talk about all possibilities and beliefs. I try to open myself up to other faiths as much as I do other non-faiths, the agnostic and even atheistic approaches to life, the universe, and everything. It is my firm belief, in fact, that our beliefs mean nothing, as long as we live our lives pursuing love at the highest level. We will fail, sometimes in a magnificent way, but the pursuit of perfect love must always be there. We must try. That's my belief at least.
So today I honor my loved ones who have died by publicly recognizing their many visits to my thoughts and feelings. I thank them--I thank you, kind spirits, for helping me to see better. My vision is still cloudy, and I understand if it never clears up while I inhabit this body, but I'm trying. I'm trying and I'm hoping all the time to see and believe better, more clearly. In the mean time, I am grateful for your visits and your help, and I look forward to reuniting with you all again one day.
For all those who do not believe, either because they've had enough religious folks try to force something on them, sell them something, or just judge them in horrible ways, I pray you gently help them too. Help them to see spirit outside of religion and inside their kitchens. Help them to see and believe as I know you've helped me. But even if this cannot happen for them either, I pray we all respect and love each other anyway, whether we believe in this or that or we do not. Life's too short, as I like to say, and in this life, I'd just like to find more love whenever possible. I think that's a great start for us all.
Friday, November 21, 2014
I did it! Last night, I finally crossed the 50,000-word finish line of my 2014 NaNoWriMo book. When I started the month, I didn't know how I'd ever be able to get 50,000 words written in just 30 days, but as sure as I am that my name is Sean, I managed to do it in only 20 days! Wow!
A close friend joked with me when I told her how well I was doing, "Okay, don't brag," and I get that. I do. It's just that I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and astonished that it's even possible for anyone to do this. Some people who participate in NaNoWriMo knock off 100,000 words by the end of the month. Again--wow!
For those wondering what 50,000 words amounts to, here are some quick facts about my NaNoWriMo book:
1) It's 104 pages long (so far).
2) It's 19 chapters long (so far).
3) The story begins in August, and I'm writing scenes in February right now. It will end in the summertime again.
I had to put my third book on hold, the final book of the Heaven, Hell, and the Planet In Between series, while I participate in this NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project, but it's okay! It's just awesome to know I've got so much of a fourth book begun already (or possibly fifth, as this blog series may be published in the fall of 2015).
Anyway, I'm done with the hard part--reaching the 50,000-word mark. I hope I can knock out a lot more now in the last 10 days of the month, but time will tell...as it always does.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
November 20, 2014
Yesterday after work, I went to my very first Pilates class. My company offers a free yoga class every Monday, and a free Pilates class every Wednesday. We've got a free gym here too, and all time spent at these activities rewards you with a $2 coupon from the cafeteria too, so they are an absolute Godsend for me and my pursuit of healthy living!
Health really is my pursuit, not a hot body. I've given up on perfection, but do believe I can achieve an aesthetically pleasing, fit look for my body type. In other words, I don't mind being un-thin as long as I can be non-fat!
Pilates stretch body parts you forgot you had, and as I sit here typing, I promise you I'm feeling body parts I've never, ever felt before! There's a sensitivity and tension--a good tension--throughout my body's various muscles and joints. It's awesome!
My only problem with the Pilates class here at work is that it's too rushed. Even though I'm a newbie to a weeks-old class, I feel like the instructor is going through an hour's worth of exercises in 50 minutes. Don't get me wrong: there's something good about this. The class comes at the end of the workday, and lasts from 5:30 to 6:20, but I was still hating one exercise by the time the next one started. I need time to hate in longer intervals, you know?
Anyway, last night was good. It's good for my body's health to do this kind of thing, and it's good for my aesthetics too. I know I won't ever fit into a tight leotard, but I don't want to anyway. I like having the generally solid frame I do, and I also like food...a lot!
My goal is simple: lose more weight, and tighten up all over. Be fit. Be healthy. And if at all possible, be sane too, you know?
Oh well. Two out of three ain't bad.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
|I love the mischievous grin on the picture-taker's face in the reflection!|
Choo-choo! The train is speeding along very quickly right now!
I'm having one of those days where everything going on in my life and in my head are just crowding around me like a dust cloud. We were away this past weekend, and though it was very restful, filled with fun, and blessed to have the company of some wonderful people, I'm just feeling very tired now.
Life has been hectic this year, filled with many sadnesses and stresses, and though November has been calmer than August through October were, the train I'm on is still chugging away quickly toward the finish line.
Next week, at last, is Thanksgiving. It's not just a holiday I look forward to very much; it's also a four-day weekend. Life itself will be on the pause button for four days, and for four days, I'll be resting and appreciating life's many blessings.
Yes, there will undoubtedly be another rapid train ride then until New Year's Eve, but I'm really looking forward to getting off this train next Wednesday afternoon, and recharging a while before my connecting train eventually arrives in the station!
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
This past weekend, Andy and I traveled down to Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia to visit with friends and family in the area. In Maryland we stayed with my dear friend Cherri, her son, and his partner. They've put me up on numerous occasions, and had to put up with me as well, so I'm very, very grateful for their kindness!
While there, Andy and I drove to Arlington, Virginia (Aurora Highlands) to visit with his Great Uncle Nilo, a renowned Filipino artist with hundreds of beautiful pieces to his name, many of which have been featured in galleries and exhibits around the world. Two of his designs were even featured on UNICEF cards, and some of his murals hang in the Pentagon as well as in various Air Force bases.
Nilo Santiago's website features many of his beautiful works for sale, so check them out! Andy and I ended up buying four pieces from him, and we're ecstatic to soon have them hanging in our home on Long Island!
Walking through Nilo's home felt like we were strolling through a museum in places, because his art is very nicely displayed in every room of the home, and since his style varies greatly from work to work, there are numerous paintings and pieces guaranteed to attract any collector's eye.
|Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory courtesy of Cherri!|
The show itself--I almost hesitate to call it a movie because you really feel like you're in the audience of a live event--was absolutely breathtaking and fantastic! Even though I've seen the stage show in London, on Broadway, and in multiple incarnations around the country, seeing it this way was truly a first for me. Something like 12 cameras captured the show from all kinds of cool angles, providing a unique new perspective. And of course seeing the show again with Cherri and Maria made it that much more special! We'd met for the first time at dinner before the First Preview of the Broadway show back in 2008, and have been great friends ever since.
So it was a weekend filled with art! From Billy Elliot The Musical to Nilo Santiago's incredibly expressive artwork, we were truly blessed from start to finish. Add in some really delicious meals and wonderful company, and man did we have an awesome time! Life is good!
Monday, November 17, 2014
Namaste (Nah mah stay)
My friend Reverend Laura Tria first introduced this word to me years ago, and it's happily stayed with me now in one understanding or the next. My favorite definition of the word is, "The spirit in me sees the spirit in you."
I absolutely love this concept, whichever definition you use, because it tells us multiple things at once!
1) We have a piece of the divine spirit within us.
2) Everyone else has a piece of the divine spirit in them too, and...
3) We must SEE/HONOR the divine in others all the time.
All of this is wonderful, right? We can all agree that in an ideal world, we'll all always feel this way about all people? But we don't live in an ideal world. We live in this world, a world with pain and disease, imperfections and horrors of all kinds. Sometimes our namastes don't stay. They leave. They're just not there when we most need them. Sometimes, amid all the heartache and pain we experience, we don't want to go up to a person and cheerfully tell them how much our spirit is happy to see their spirit. Sometimes our namaste is more of a nowmustgo.
And strangely enough, I think this is a good thing! If we're not able to fully connect with a person, whether they be a lover, a friend, or a relative, why torment both them and ourselves with forced peace? Why force anything, even a smile?
If you truly believe in the possibility for a perfect place in heaven once this life is done, you ought to also recognize a solid truth about this life: none of us have our wings yet! We cannot expect others to be angels if we ourselves don't exactly feel like being one too often either. We are, all of us, weak, broken versions of the higher self we'll some day be.
So I will keep saying my namaste whenever I can, whenever I'm able, but I also won't feel ashamed to admit that sometimes I need to send someone a nowmustgo instead. It doesn't equate to a "rot in Hell" or anything like that. It simply means that right now, until we're both in a better place, let's not force a relationship. Later maybe, and that'd be awesome, but for now? Well, nowmustgo.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
November 16, 2014
For 200 days straight, I've been
For the next 165 days or so, I have a bunch of ideas already roasting in my head. I turn them over like marshmallows over a flame, waiting for them to just begin to brown before I release them on you, though sometimes, I don't even get that far. Sometimes the idea just pops to mind, and I rush to the nearest keyboard to click away until the idea is out.
I'm toying with the idea of allowing a few guest bloggers here too. Would that be cheating?
I think I'd still end up typing a few sentences for each one if I did that, and it would provide a unique perspective. Of course I'd have each person sign a contract stating I can make millions of dollars off their words without any legal recourse, but I'll let my man Luc work out the language.
Besides that, I still have some dating stories to share, more Publishers Clearing House adventures to entertain you with, and definitely some tales from the monastery that have never been told before, which are just waiting to be finally unleashed upon the world once and for all!
Happy 200, Finishing Forty, you're lookin' good so far!
Saturday, November 15, 2014
If you had some free time right now--or really whenever--would you consider jotting down a few last wishes about what kind of a funeral you'd like?
|I don't! I just liked the pic and caption.|
We all have these little thoughts in the back of our heads, but how many of us ever get that perfect sendoff we've sometimes fantasized about? How many wakes, Shivas, or funerals have you attended where things just felt a little bit flatter than you think your loved one would have preferred?
If you've read this far, you've already had more than enough time to write down a sentence or two detailing your last wishes. A Last Will And Testament is ideal, but you could at least just start with, "The cash is buried under the floorboard in the attic."
For me, well, I'm not sure what I want. I told Andy recently that there's a passage about entering Heaven from the end of my second book that might be nice, but in general I just want people to look at my life through pictures and videos, maybe even my craziest ones on YouTube, and see what a wonderful life I lived. I want my loved ones to cry if they need to, or laugh if they need to, whatever will make them most comfortable, and just take time to appreciate the life I lived, through all my ups and downs, all my successes and failures. A little Broadway music wouldn't suck either.
So seriously, let's all do this. It's not morbid to plan our funerals. It's natural, and more than that, it's tremendously helpful to our loved ones who have to figure out what we would have wanted. Just no pink coffins for me, please. The cheapest wooden box you can legally use will work fine. I don't mind a cheap coffin, and you can dress me in a $50 tie if you think I need more color, okay?
Now do me a favor. Send me a private message about which floorboard in the attic the cash is hidden under. You know, just in case?
Friday, November 14, 2014
November 14, 2014
Here's the thing about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month): it's really, really hard.
As great as I've been doing, I'm hitting a mid-month snag. It's been a slightly off week for me, and busy too, plus we're going away from Saturday to Monday, so I'm almost definitely going to lose three days now from my writing.
Will I survive? Of course. I've already written over 36,000 of my 50,000 goal, so I'm ahead of schedule at the moment, but the part that scares me the most is, I'm basically clicking pause on the high-speed pursuit I've been in so far.
All of that said, I'm in love with my story! It's about a young, 21-year-old monk living in a monastery, not unlike the one I lived in for over four years. I started the novel with myself in mind, but quickly began fictionalizing everything. I use truth all over the place--true settings, true people--but change their names and the details A LOT.
What's the basic plot? Well, I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say, my young protagonist struggles with his vows. Poverty's not too hard, Obedience sucks, but he's used to it, and Chastity? Well, that one's his biggest struggle, and we quickly learn he's not the only one there who's not exactly succeeding in keeping this vow.
The NaNo No-No is to stop the progress at all, and I fear I might need to do some significant writing even while I'm away this weekend, but my heart still gives me a big old "NaNo No Worry!" in response. Time will tell, as will I. This is a daily blog after all, so once again, stay tuned...
Thursday, November 13, 2014
November 13, 2014
At some point maybe 12 or so years ago, my mother walked up to me and said, "Happy SHIT Day!"
I remember being very taken back by this, and gave her a very Scooby-Doo-esque, "What?!"
"Sure Happy It's Thursday" she counted off with her fingers to help me understand. And that's how it started--for me, at least. My mom had heard it from my sister Peggy, and she heard it from someone else before that. At any rate, it began in our lives, and it's stuck.
I don't think of the phrase every single Thursday, just every now and then, but Andy will often surprise me by saying it first, and it always makes me smile. "Happy S.H.I.T. Day!" I'll think, say, or even feel. It's that "almost there" day of the work week we all enjoy just a little more than Wednesday, a little more than every other day, because we can sit back with a grateful sigh and say, "Well, at least tomorrow's Friday!"
So today I wish you all the same. May today be an absolute S.H.I.T. of a day for you and all your loved ones. May the S.H.I.T. hit the fan, may you "Oh S.H.I.T." your way through the day, and may you all just experience an entire crock full of S.H.I.T. After all, S.H.I.T. happens...so enjoy!
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Okay, I need to vent again a little. Give me two, maybe three paragraphs here today, and I promise I'll be calm again.
This morning as I was getting on the Southern State Parkway here on Long Island, I had one of those very rare occasions when there was just no opening for me to merge in. Cars moved along quickly, but there wasn't enough room for me to safely merge in. So I waited patiently. Unfortunately, the huge SUV behind me refused to understand how this was possible. When my moment to merge finally arrived, the driver of the SUV jumped out into traffic, taking away my chance.
By that point, I had slowly moved up so far, I was now going over the gravel of the curb, and then two cars later, I was able to roll onto the parkway myself. I thanked the person behind me for not doing the same thing the last guy or gal had done to me, and then growled a bit to myself as I moved forward. I eventually caught up to the
I calmed down, and life goes on (thankfully), but it sure jarred me! I've got a lot on my mind this week, and a weekend away with Andy coming up, so there are several things I need to get done between now and early Saturday morning. Going a little crazy this morning was not on the agenda, but thanks to this blog, I'm making myself calm down now. Thank you all for reading! As always, I appreciate your eyes very, very much!
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
I don't know what our armed officers here and around the world go through, nor do I fully want to know. The horrors some people have witnessed or experienced themselves are simply unimaginable.
So for Veterans' Day, I can't say, I understand, or even I can only imagine, because I can't. I can't even imagine.
All I can say for sure is thank you. Thank you for your service, thank you for your time, and thank you for choosing to do this incredible thing with the one life you were given to live. Thank you. A million times over, I thank you. Only you and your brothers and sisters in the armed forces understand some of what you've been through, and at the end of the day, only you know exactly what you yourself have experienced, both physically and mentally.
Thank you for doing whatever you did to protect the lives of my fellow Americans, and for the citizens of countries around the world. Thank you for everything you chose to do, and even everything you might have reluctantly done, for the cause of good people everywhere.
Monday, November 10, 2014
As I approach the big 4-0, I can't help but think of all the clothes I have worn along the way, especially those of major significance to my life.
When I was just 4 years old, I wore a cute little suit to my sister Laura's wedding. As the ring bearer, my family knew all eyes would be on me during my procession up the aisle at church, so I had to look my best. Later on, I wore a special suit bought for me to wear on my First Holy Communion day in 1983.
Similar suits or combinations of jackets and khakis were bought for me for my Confirmation Day, elementary school graduation, and eventually my high school graduation too.
In 1993, I went to a tailor with my future Assistant Novice Master, who helped me get fitted for two new suits I'd wear during my four years as a Roman Catholic monk. The simple black suit and black tie were mine then for years, and I wore the simple black suit as my religious habit every day at Manhattan College. It was the habit I wore for my Aspirancy Promises my first year, and later again when I took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Wherever I went during those four years as Brother Sean, I wore my suit as a representative of the entire Roman Catholic Church, whether I enjoyed that responsibility or not.
In 2003, when I began to seriously involve myself in GLBT activism, I began wearing all kinds of suits--perhaps not the traditional jacket-and-tie variety, but other shirts, jackets, and insignia of all kinds that told the world once again that I represented something much bigger than myself. As I worked with local, national, and international pride groups of all sizes, I became the face of these GLBT community groups, and represented gay people everywhere.
By 2008 and 2009, I was wearing yet another suit, a simple blue jacket with a bright, yellow label that read, "Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol". It instantly made people stop in their tracks, and they'd stare at me in disbelief. Whether it was at Notre Dame University in Indiana or in Fargo, North Dakota, I was recognized as representing something much bigger than myself.
Throughout my life, I've worn these suits and insignias proudly. I've walked down the city streets of this world--in Rome, New York, and Washington, D.C. among others--and I've been a representative of something much bigger than myself. I have represented Publishers Clearing House, the entire Roman Catholic Church, and the entirety of the GLBT community too, all by the suits I've worn.
What suits have you worn, and which ones do you wear now? Are you recognized by your work as a librarian, doctor, or teacher just by the clothes you wear? How much do you identify with your field or fields of expertise by the clothes of the job?
Life changes, as do we. We may wear one suit one day, and quite another just a year later. But one thing never changes: the person we are inside.
You choose your suits throughout your lifetime, and none of them are yours your whole life long, but they can make you see through the eyes of something much bigger than yourself. And really, that's a great gift. Thinking big by seeing through something bigger than ourselves is an honor, and provides unique perspective in all things. It fits our lives like a jacket, and suits us in our journey.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
|This happens all the time in my house. :)|
"So how's everything?" I get asked this all the time, and I'm sure you've been asked this too many times. We always give a short answer, maybe really, really short like, "Fine," hoping the person will move on to the next person or topic quickly. Other times, we'll give a slightly longer answer that might include something about our pet, or house, or job.
Today I thought I'd just give the significantly longer answers to this question, just in case anyone out there is wondering. I'm doing this under topics though, so you can jump around however you'd like.
So how's work?
It's fine. Usual. I like my job a lot, I like my boss and coworkers a lot, and I'm happy to live so close to work.
So how's writing?
Amazing actually, thanks for asking. I write my Finishing Forty blog every single day, and now throughout November, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. I'm already almost 50% done, which means I've got almost 25,000 words written, and about 50 pages of a Word document completely filled. I'm very excited! My third book, the last of the Heaven, Hell, and the Planet In Between series, is on hold just for this month, but I'll get back to it soon. I've got almost 100 pages of that done now, about 40,000 words' worth, so that's going great so far too.
So how's Andy?
He's good. You know, the usual. He and I are going down to D.C. next weekend to visit his Uncle Nilo and buy some of his paintings, so we're looking forward to that, and Andy's flying down to North Carolina for Thanksgiving weekend. His mom's brother just died about a month ago, so Andy will be with his parents for the holiday, which will be nice. I'll go and visit his aunt up here on Thanksgiving too. All's good though.
So how's life?
Life is good. I can't complain. Well, I could, but I won't. I've got plenty of good in my life, so I try not to think too much about the bad. I mean, I do, but not too often, you know? So yeah, life is good.
So how's the diet going?
Ugh. Well, I mean, it's going, and I'm trying hard, but I lost three weeks this summer when my back, knee, and foot were all hurting at the same time, and then I lost two or three weeks because of the wakes, funerals, and jury duty time. But I'm back at the gym now, and really trying hard to keep working at it all. It's a constant battle, you know? I'm starting a Pilates class this week or next too, so I'm really looking forward to that.
So how's the house?
The house is good. I have to pull down the Halloween decorations now and at least take out the Christmas stuff, even if I don't put it all up yet. It takes forever to do, so I might start it a little this week before we go away, I'm not sure. We haven't done any major or even minor projects in a while, so I think I'm due for some projects or renovations right after the holidays.
What about you? How are you doing?
Saturday, November 8, 2014
A friend of mine who I haven't seen in a while asked me yesterday if I had plans for today. It was a Friday morning, I knew I had nothing on the calendar for this weekend, and I could tell he was looking for plans. I responded, "Nope".
It was a very casual answer, but it was rude too. He was reaching out to me, looking to reconnect over a nice meal somewhere, and I was throwing out my hand in defense. So when he clarified his purpose for asking soon after, I clarified mine as well: "We've had so much going on lately, so even dinner plans scare me haha."
He was understanding, which I appreciated very much, and I do hope to see him again soon, but yeah, this weekend I just need to vegetate. I need to become a potato on my couch and sit there until I start sprouting little green things all over myself.
Okay, okay, so maybe not to that level (but maybe).
My life lately has been very, very full, and Andy and I haven't had a completely free weekend in months now. I could be wrong, so don't quote me on that, but it certainly feels that way right now. Next weekend we're making a fun trip down south to visit Andy's uncle and another friend of ours, and the week after that is Thanksgiving, so it'll be nice to just completely relax this weekend, or relax to whatever degree we can, at least!
And that's it. No more blog writing for today. I'm done!
Excuse me now while I turn into a potato.
Friday, November 7, 2014
I talk a lot about perspective, but here's an odd thinking technique I often use. Anyone else do this?
I'll be driving to work, and I'll take a moment (safely) now and then to just look at the road coming back the other way. Not just look at it, but see it in reverse, see what it looks like as cars come down that side, just as I do at the end of my day.
Maybe I'll notice the trees I never take the time to look at from this angle, as I usually rush past them on my way home later, or maybe I'll just note the buildings or houses along the way--on the other side of the road--and appreciate them (briefly, safely) from a different angle. I'll even do this when looking at an on-ramp, imagining my own car rolling up off the parkway and onto this road some eight hours later, teaching myself how other cars have to slow down to let me merge onto their road.
Backwards thinking is usually a negative phrase to connote someone who's just got everything wrong, but for me, I've found it can also help me really see the whole road, and not just my view of it. It helps me appreciate that while I'm driving along life's roads, others are always doing things completely different from me. Some are driving in the lane to my left or the lane to my right, faster or slower than I like to go, but many others are going in the complete opposite direction. Instead of driving toward the sunrise, they might be driving in the direction of the eventual sunset.
Thinking backwards helps us appreciate one of the greatest truths we can hope to learn in this life: our way is not the only way. Whether it's our favorite church or our favorite restaurant, just because we like things a certain way doesn't mean others have to as well. We are, all of us, entitled to our own beliefs and feelings. Just as importantly, our neighbors are too.
So the next time you're driving along one of life's roads, pause to think about this, and take note of all the people who are happily traveling toward all the directions you are not.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Today is Day 6 of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), so I wanted to write a quick update on how I'm doing so far.
The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days. To do that, you've got to write 1,666 words per day. (There's something very devilish about this number, and can scare you at first, but I've already conquered the system pretty well.)
In fact, after just 5 days (I haven't started yet today), I've written 12,240 words, which means my average has been 2,448 words per day, or 782 words over the average needed. At that rate, I'll reach my goal in just 20 days' time. Not bad!
Here's the thing, though. I know I'll be away for at least three of those days, and that doesn't count Thanksgiving or other busy days between now and then. So I think that even though I'm well ahead of the game now, so far, I can't rest until I'm done. This fun challenge has only just begun, and I need to keep pressing on at the best rate I can, just in case.
I think I'm doing pretty damn well so far, and I am! But just because I've gotten off to a great start doesn't mean I don't still have 37,760 words still left to write!
The novel itself? It's been really fun to work on. I don't want to give away too much, but I'll happily share the already-public excerpt I've put up on the NaNoWriMo website:
Particular friendships in the monastery were frowned upon, the term itself a euphemism for anything even remotely crossing the line of friendship into something more. Cody’s eyes were wide open now as he strained to hear what they were saying, but there was only silence. Maybe they left again already? But then he heard it: something he didn’t think in a million years he’d ever hear inside a monastery. In between a slight rustling of clothes in the hallway, Cody heard the unmistakable sound of a soft, gentle kiss.
Stay tuned! More updates to come throughout the month!
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
One of the reasons my hair hasn't turned gray or white yet is that I haven't experienced any horrific incidents in my life. Most of us, thankfully, do not. We have plenty of near-misses, scary accidents, and lose loved ones to all kinds of diseases and other manners of death, but the truly scary incidents avoid most of us.
Today's a hard one for me to write, because two truly horrifying incidents happened here on Long Island this past week, and sadly, both of them crossed paths with people I know. No one close to me was directly involved (thank God!), but the incidents definitely struck these people close to home.
In one incident, a disturbed young man beheaded his mother before jumping in front of a nearby train. I know! :( A friend of mine drove by soon after, and had to pass by the body of the mother. My friend thought at first it was some kind of Halloween prank, but unfortunately for everyone, it wasn't. In the other incident, a man confronted his ex-girlfriend coming out of a restaurant. He shot and killed his ex's new boyfriend, and then turned the gun on himself soon after. The girl is a relative of one of my co-workers, so the ripples hit very close to home. :(
Both of these murder-suicides were horrible events here on Long Island, and though neither one happened to me, I can't help but really hurt for the pain and anguish these various families are now going through. For me, God is everything, and I immediately think of what it must have been like when these souls saw each other soon afterward in Heaven. Did the disturbed young man rush to his mom with a tremendous, sorrowful embrace of apology? Did the angry ex-boyfriend have an opportunity to apologize to the man he shot and killed?
I don't know. I have no idea what possibilities for forgiveness and remorse present themselves once we die, but everything I've read of near-death experiences, and heard from spiritual mediums, leads me to believe these scenarios may have actually happened like that in the afterlife.
The ripples of pain we feel could be ripples of immediate healing in heaven. I hope so at least.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Today is Election Day in the United States, and I can't help but think about some of the many memorable Election Day moments I've had in my life. There was the time I convinced by mom to vote for Ralph Nader, the time a volunteer read my private paper ballot before reluctantly putting it in the machine for me, and most memorably, the time I foolishly announced I'd voted for Bill Clinton ...while living in a conservative Roman Catholic monastery. Yeah, didn't go so well for me!
Most of my memories of Election Days past involve time I've waited on line. It's usually only a short line, maybe 10 people, and the wait is always the same. You watch what others are doing up ahead, so you can go as quickly as possible once it's time. The machines were much easier than the paper ballots we use here now, but neither system has been perfect, so I ought to be sympathetic to those who struggle. I ought to.
I'm fairly quick on the uptake, but without fail, there's always someone who acts like they've never had to do this before in their life. "So I close the curtain before I vote?" These are the ones who feel trapped in the booth later on, not understanding the same big lever that closed the curtains will also open them up when they turn it the other way...you know, because they've never had to operate a light switch before. I'm a little more sympathetic to the ones who don't understand the paper ballot system, because I've had some minor questions at times too, but once you're told the machine will take your ballot no matter which way it's facing, it's hard to understand how people still mess that up.
Honestly though, for all the judgments I pass, I just pray my friends and family have at least gone to their local polling place to vote. Whether or not we agree on the candidates up for election, there's an incredible responsibility in being the ones who decide who gets elected. Forget all the hoopla about the Electoral College and the Popular Vote. Focus only on the fact that your vote does matter very, very much! Just as when you serve on a jury, when your 1/12 vote might not feel too important, it is absolutely everything. So whether you read this on Election Day in the United States, or on any other day in any other country (North Koreans disregard), please do your civic service, and vote for the candidate you think will do the best job she can for the country or county you live in!
Monday, November 3, 2014
|I hate memes with errors, but I liked this one enough to use anyway.|
"I take on too much." "I make my life more difficult than it needs to be." "I don't pretend to have the busiest life of all, or even the most stressful life of all my closest friends and family, but I do very often find myself surrounded by more stress than needed."
If any of this sounds familiar, you might be an idiot, like me.
God knows life is stressful enough without making things any more difficult for ourselves, and yet so many of us take on much more than we should. Whether it's babysitting for your grandkids, running to the supermarket for a friend, or just agreeing to host something at your house, we all do this all the time. We see what's doable and comfortable, and then we purposely stretch the parameters of our comfort level.
Why?! Why the hell do we do this to ourselves?!
I think there's a part of us that says, "Challenges are just life's way of proving how great I am." We take on a new challenge like a fireman takes on a new fire alarm. We jump to the aid of others, even though we've got our own fires to put out back home. And very often, these challenges are completely avoidable, too. We offer our help or services, even when the person asking could easily get someone else to do it.
For me, I'm often asked to help out with writing or proofreading work for free. I enjoy helping people, but there are times when I simply cannot do it. I've already got too much going on, and even if I could squeeze out an hour or more to help someone, I don't feel like it. I want to finish my 8-hour workday and just relax, not work on a second or third project for someone else.
Do I want to help people? Of course! But sometimes, I just can't handle it, and I truly hope people will understand that. I put an awful lot of guilt on my own shoulders, so I don't need anyone else offering me any more.
In my personal writing work, I'm doing these blog entries every morning, and then throughout November, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (off to a great start, by the way). That's 2,000 words a day though right there (1600-something words a day for NaNoWriMo + 400-something on average in these blog entries). You try it! I enjoy these kinds of challenges, but that doesn't make them easy.
And again, especially to all those mothers and strugglers of all kinds out there, I do not mean to compete with you for who's stressed out more. I simply vent and write this here to sympathize with your plight, and hope you'll do the same for me. I take on too much, and many of you take on too much too. So let's all just try not to do that so much in the future! Let's try to just understand that our friends and family members often have a lot on their plates too, and won't be able to do everything we need them to do.
If you think someone needs this reminder, give them a gentle hint
by sharing this on your social media!
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Over the past almost 40 years, I've heard plenty of excuses. We're not going to be there because of this strange issue. I can't make the party because of that thing or another. We won't be there because this strange thing happened, and it's just messing everything up now.
On some occasions, you just know a person is telling the truth, but on others, you find yourself in doubt.
I don't know when this part of me clicked on, but at some point, I just became the kind of person who uses "I don't feel like it" as an excuse, and truth be told, I wish others would use this too. There's a bold honesty there, I think, and it's not easy just coming right out and saying so. Sometimes in life, you just feel completely blah, and you don't want to go to a party or event. And that's...okay.
This morning, I knew I was going to be feeling blah. I mean, I just totally knew it. Last night at my Halloween party, I was starting to feel blah. I'd had a very long, hard day. I was cleaning and sneezing a lot (my dust allergies getting the better of me), and by the time evening came, I was already feeling quite done. It was truly a "stick a fork in me and pull me out of the oven now" kind of done. I enjoyed myself at the party, but I was already dreading getting up this morning.
And today is the annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk, an event I really enjoy doing. It lifts my spirits, and brings me closer to nature and Heaven in a beautiful way every year. But my blah just wasn't going to have it.
Now I've titled this piece "In defense of blah" because I truly believe when blah hits, you're allowed to honor it with the truth of itself. Sometimes, you're going to feel blah, and there's no shaking it off without a fight. I'd say sometimes you should shake it off with a fight, but this morning wasn't one of those moments. This morning, I needed to let my blah take over, and let me just sleep in.
So for the part of me that still feels guilty about missing this special event, I feel blah. For the part of me that wishes I shook it off and went anyway, despite all my excuses (the rain last night would make for a muddy walk, the wind this morning could make for treacherous conditions, the fundraising work is more important than the actual walking part, and so on), I feel blah. And I also just feel blah because I just feel blah!
I defend the blah because I don't feel like fighting it right now. In fact, right now all I want to do is go back to bed and sleep all day long, not shower and get dressed for my plans this afternoon, but I'm not going to let the blah completely conquer me. I let the blah win the battle of this morning, but I don't intend to let him run away with my whole day.
To my friends who walked this morning, I sincerely apologize for missing the event. I let my blah win, and that's all I can say in my defense. To my blah, I'll say this much: I'll let you win some rounds, and I'll even defend you in some ways as I have here, but I won't let you beat me down completely. I plan to beat you in the next few hours in fact, so be prepared! In the mean time though...blah!
Saturday, November 1, 2014
It begins today, and lasts throughout the month of November. I won't be updating you on my progress much, but rest assured, it'll be on my mind for the next 30 days. I have to complete 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November, and though no one's forcing me into this, I am happy to take it on!
So for the next 30 days, work on my third book will probably cease completely as I work on this completely new project. I have a general idea what it'll be about, as the idea's been with me for quite a while, but what exactly will happen? I have no clue. Yay!
If YOU aren't interested in taking up this challenge, but have always been interested in writing more, why not take this opportunity to pen a short story during November, or maybe a few new poems? Take advantage of the fact that a whole lot of writing is going on right now, to tap into the muses already flying this way and that. Pick your dream topic, and start typing today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after that. But aim for today! Aim for right now! Start with a sentence, then build into a paragraph before finishing a page. It's that simple. And don't forget the golden rule: write now, edit later.
Your voice is your own, and your story deserves to be told. Tell it. Find it, write it, share it. Because until you do, it'll still just be sitting there trapped in the dungeons of your brain.
Free your creativity once and for all, and start writing, with me, today!