So what’s with the “25 Random Things”

Not to belabor the Facebook point, but this week there has been an exercise making its way through various friend networks. It’s called “25 Random Things,” and the point is to write down 25 things about yourself that might surprise or interest your friends and acquaintances. I received two “tags,” which is how the thing gets passed from one person to another, and just said, No way! Then I started reading lists that were being posted, and I gotta tell ya, I was impressed and inspired and just generally uplifted by what I read. Most lists are combinations of serious insights and funny asides. All of them were so worth reading. Mine cannot come close to many of the others I’ve read so far, but in case you’re not in my Facebook network, here is my list of 25 Random Things:

1. I am fully aware that there are very few people who would want to read 25 random things about me.

2. I read magazines from the back. Don’t know why. But every time I get a magazine, I flip it over, open the back cover and begin.

3. I lived in Austin, Texas, two different times, in the 80s and again in the 90s. Very different experiences, but both were great. Sometimes I just miss being in Austin.

4. But, when I lived in Austin, I just missed being in New York. I think that no matter where I lived I would miss New York.

5. One of the reasons I missed NY is because I absolutely, positively love the fall. I love the smell of the air when it turns crispy. I love apple picking. I love the changing leaves, especially now with mountains all around us. I love wearing a big sweater. I even love the end of fall when the trees are almost bare. There is something so powerful and peaceful about the landscape.

6. In keeping with my love of fall, one of my only “vices,” if we can call it that, is a penchant for nice coats, particularly leather coats. I have a kick-butt distressed leather coat and an awesome hand-stitched suede coat that I adore. I even have the black leather fringed jacket I bought in college. I will hand it down like a family Bible.

7. I am contradictory. Case in point, I love suede and leather coats, and, yet, I am a vegetarian. I eschew meat mainly for health reasons, although I can see my 8-year-old daughter’s point about not hurting animals. (She’s a vegetarian too.) Can’t give up the coats. At least not yet.

8. I have a love-hate relationship with camping. Part of me desperately wants to be a real camper, and the other part of me has flashbacks to that Girl Scout camping trip where our tent was raided and I had to cook French toast on a coffee can. Perhaps PTSD counseling would help.

9. I love, love, love the fact that I get to do my job from home with my kids around, even though they often make it very difficult for me to do my job. Still, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I get up, get my coffee, putter down to my basement office and hit the keys. I hope to never, ever, ever work in an office again.

10. I can talk, and I mean, TALK. Most of you probably know that though. Sometimes I wish I didn’t talk so much, but it’s who I am. Can’t help it. I’ve been talking a blue streak for 46 years, and I don’t think I’m going to stop any time soon. Just don’t ask me about a book or a movie if you have any intention of reading or seeing it.

11. I gave birth to all three of my children naturally and without any anesthesia, not even so much as an Advil. I am very proud of that, and I loved it. Some people question the sanity of those of us who choose this, but feeling the pain is a mighty and powerful thing.

12. And I nursed all three of those babies, even when it was difficult and I thought I might give up. I’m so glad I didn’t.

13. My mother died of colon cancer when she was only 47 and I was 25. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. She was a great woman and my best friend.

14. Because my mother died of colon cancer, I am a huge proponent of getting regular colonscopies beginning as early as you can. For obvious reasons, I believe that fifty is too late even for those with no family history.

15. If I was fearless, I would drive a motorcycle — Harley only.

16. And I would hang glide.

17. But I am not fearless, although I try to face my fears head on. I have an Eleanor Roosevelt quote hanging near my desk that says, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

18. I am on a spiritual quest. I have always had a deep need for God in my life. Now, however, as I get older, that need is getting stronger. I feel as though I am on an incredible journey, and I am being pulled along to a deeper place, despite my fears and doubts and confusion. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

19. Despite the fact that I love to talk, I find that more and more I crave silence. I went on my first silent retreat this fall and fell in love with quiet. I’m trying to build some silent times into my not-so-silent life.

20. I was the manager of a yoga center in Austin for a while and was halfway through training to become a yoga instructor when I up and moved back to NY.

21. I am curious and want to keep trying new things even as I get older — like when I took belly dancing last year. Very fun. I want to learn to speak Italian and to ride a horse.

22. I desperately want to go to Italy for many reasons, the first being that my grandfather DeTurris was born in Massalubrense and I am very proud of that fact. But I also want to go because I work for the Catholic Church and feel like it’s crazy I haven’t been there yet, and because I feel drawn to Assisi.

23. I have worked for the Catholic Church for 25 years, something I consider a vocation more than a job.

24. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the movie Groundhog’s Day. Every morning, without fail, I stand at the front door and yell to my children as they attempt to leave the house without lunch boxes, without hats, without instruments, without backpacks, sometimes even without shoes. I may talk a lot, but, clearly, no one is listening.

25. I am sarcastic, and I enjoy other people who are sarcastic because I can bust their chops and they don’t take me seriously.

Facebook nation

About three weeks ago I finally caved and joined Facebook after much prodding and pressure from Dennis. It’s not that I had anything against Facebook. I just figured it would be a huge time drain, which it is, and I didn’t know if I could handle that on top of all my other time drains. But I joined. Now, 112 friends later, I am a super fan of Facebook. Not only have I reconnected with colleagues from the Catholic press, but I’ve reconnected with distant cousins in Brooklyn and friends in Texas and even some folks just across town. I’m talking to them more now than I have in years. It’s been a huge surprise for me, this whole Facebook phenomenon. But Dennis recognized it early on. In fact, he just wrote a great story on how Facebook is even changing the way Catholics spread the Good News. It’s true. Even Pope Benedict XVI is touting the benefits of social networking and recently set up a Vatican YouTube site. Who’d a thunk?

So go check out Dennis’ cover story in this week’s issue of Our Sunday Visitor by clicking HERE. While you’re clicking around, be sure to click on my Facebook icon to the left and friend me if you haven’t already. See you on Facebook.

A prayer even I can fit into my schedule

Last night, when I was standing at the counter chopping vegetables for pasta primavera and listening to Chiara torture her big sister, I went back to my thoughts about how difficult it is to fit prayer, especially Evening Prayer, into a busy family life. Before I knew it, Chiara was hanging from my leg, crying that Olivia wouldn’t play with her, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurd notion that I might stop all the madness and sit down in silence to listen to God. The only thing I could hear at that moment was crying and whining from what seemed like every corner of the house. And then I remembered what a friend, Father Mike, said in a recent email. He reminded me that my prayer IS the chopping of vegetables, the drying of tears, the kneeling down to hug a 3-year-old who is working through her drama queen stage and requires a little extra attention these days.

And I tried, maybe for the very first time, to see my dinner time rush that way, as an opportunity for prayer. No, it was not a beautiful and peaceful moment shrouded in spiritual silence, but that’s because I don’t live in a monastery. I live in a house filled with children and noises and plastic toys strewn from one end of the room to the other. And God is here, in the midst of that, just as surely as He is in the quiet isolation of a cloister.

St. Francis de Sales, in his Introduction to the Devout Life, talks about the fact that while we are all called to devotion, we are not all called to the same methods or ways of devotion. He may have lived and preached in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but the sentiments surely hold true for us today. In the particular section I’m going to quote, he asks whether it would be fitting for a bishop to want to live a solitary life like a Carthusian monk or for a family man to seek a life of poverty like a Capuchin or for an artisan to spend his life in church like a religious. When we find a way to incorporate devotion into our own vocations (not someone else’s definition of vocation), that devotion begins to color every aspect of our lives.

“Throw precious stones into honey, and each will grow more brilliant according to its several colors — and in like manner everybody fulfills his special calling better when subject to the influence of devotion: family duties are lighter, married love truer, service to our king more faithful, every kind of occupation more acceptable and better performed where that is the guide,” St. Francis wrote.

So rather than regret that I cannot find quiet time away from my true vocation, I have to find a way to incorporate devotion into my everyday responsibilities. When I finally do that, my vocation will actually become a pathway to the kind of inner quiet that I’m longing for, the kind of calm that remains steady even when the children are howling and the deadlines are pounding at my door. Well, that won’t be easy, will it? Maybe that’s why I keep reaching for quiet contemplation; it’s easier to complain that I can’t have prayer time than it is to make my every action a living prayer. Still, that is what we are called to do.

You’ve probably had enough of my endless spiritual chatter today. If you, like me, find it hard to work regular prayer into the day, here are a couple websites that offer brief but inspiring quotes.

The first is a site devoted to daily reflections from St. Francis de Sales (Thanks to Karen Edmiston for the heads up on this one.) Click HERE for a daily dose of de Sales.

The second choice offers super brief Scripture reflections — one line — with a short quote from a saint or other spiritual great. It’s waiting in my email inbox every morning when I sit down to work. A quick and easy way to start the day with a spiritual boost. Click HERE for Word of God Every Day.

Look, I’m in two places at once!

As of today, I will be a guest blogger over at Our Sunday Visitor‘s blog, OSV Daily Take, which you can visit by clicking HERE. In this amazing feat of bilocation, I will be blogging both there and here almost daily. You may remember that I blogged for OSV during the papal visit last April, and, of course, I was a contributing editor and senior correspondent for OSV newspaper for years and years.

I know you can read only so many blogs, but I’m hoping that sometimes you’ll pop over to OSV after stopping in at Not Strictly Spiritual. I will put the OSV Daily Take link in my list of blog favorites on the left-hand side of this page in case you need the prompt. And be sure to visit some of the other sites on that list.

Happy one-year anniversary to me!

Today is the first anniversary of my blog. I launched it one year ago on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers, not really knowing what would happen. I was more than a little intimidated by the notion of trying to come up with something interesting and spiritual and sometimes humorous on a daily basis. But what has happened in the past year on this blog has been nothing short of inspiring. Thank you to all of you who read this blog regularly, and thank you, too, to those of you who stop by on occasion or even by accident. I am grateful to all of you. Here is the Life Lines column I wrote about my blogging experience and how all of you have impacted me. Enjoy. And happy Feast of St. Francis de Sales. If you don’t know much about him, learn more. He’s one of my favorites.

Blogging My Way Down a Spiritual Path

It was just about one year ago that I decided to jump head first into the wonderful world of blogging, something that both excited and scared me since it meant being willing to delve into a much more deeply personal style of writing – and doing so on an almost-daily basis. Still, I was intrigued by the idea of “talking” about spiritual issues that I might otherwise keep to myself.

I launched my blog, “Not Strictly Spiritual,” on Jan. 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, not only because St. Francis is the patron saint of writers but because the 17th-century bishop’s writings on spirituality and its inherent struggles remain remarkably relevant to those us stumbling along the spiritual path today. What has happened in the 12 months since has been inspiring, gratifying and immensely uplifting. In truth, the blog has been an unexpected blessing.

I have been so touched by my readers’ willingness to share their own faith stories and to talk openly about their struggles, their accomplishments and their moments of crisis. My community of blog regulars might be small, but they are mighty and devoted little band of followers. They constantly remind me that being willing and able to share the secrets of my soul is not only a great opportunity for evangelization but a great boon to my own spiritual transformation.

The posts on my blog that garner the most responses are those that focus on the toughest parts of living a Gospel-centered life. When I talk about my own difficulties, whether it’s trying to fit prayer into an overcrowded schedule or trying to live simply in the midst of plenty, my comment board and email inbox lights up with comments and confessions.

We’re all in the same proverbial boat it seems, trying to keep up with our family and professional responsibilities while working to incorporate the truths of our faith into our daily lives. It isn’t always easy; in fact, most of the time it’s near impossible, and yet we keep on keeping on. Before I began blogging, I often felt alone in that struggle, but now I feel surrounded by friends, seen and unseen, who are battling the same demons.

In a world where we are often far from family and cut off from daily interactions with friends, this virtual community can serve as touchstone, buoying us up when we are starting to list. Every once in a while when I start to wonder if I am just spewing my spiritual insecurities to no one in particular, a virtual version of talking to myself, I inevitably receive a comment or email telling me how something on the blog struck a chord or gave someone a feeling of peace. I can assure you that when I started this last year, I never imagined that I would be granted such access to other people’s spiritual thoughts and lives.

Some say that the negative side of the blogosphere is so damaging it outweighs the benefits. People don’t censor themselves. They can be brutality honest, sometimes cruelly so, with a veil of anonymity to protect them. And yet the very same thing that can make the blog world so harmful and mean is what can make it so wonderful and vibrant. It is precisely because of brutal honesty – the spiritual kind — and complete anonymity that a community of believers is able to come together so powerfully out in the ether of the Internet. There, in a faceless crowd, a spiritual kinship is born, and we realize and revel in the fact that we are most certainly not alone.

Copyright 2009, Mary DeTurris Poust

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