Since I am reduced to silence for what would appear to be a few weeks, I would like to invite followers to guest post. Just send me a post (firstname.lastname@example.org), introducing yourself, your blog if you have one (and a link if you would like), and post about something you would to share. You can re-post something from your blog or talk about something new -- whatever tickles your fancy. Let others get to know you. I think it will be fun for readers to discover who is behind the pictures under the follower list.
Just as I took vacation time to work on my next book, my computer died. This is called Leaver luck; it has happened to us on so many occasions that I was not surprised. You see, Murphy's home is on a cloud right about our house, and whenever we start to feel comfortable with life as it is, he drops some raindrops, hail, blizzard flakes, and the like. The computer repair shop said that the computer was too dead for emergency CPR, so they have to send it to a hospital far away to see if it can be resurrected (perhaps not). That is going to take "weeks," they assured us. How many, they cannot say. Happily, the computer is under extended warranty. I am glad I had the foresight to purchase that. So, if it cannot be resurrected, I will be sent a brand new baby.
In the meanwhile, Donnie has loaned me his very old, but functional Macintosh laptop. I used to know how to use Mac; I am re-learning. The problem is that the computer is so old, it cannot handle even my Word files, and every single document I want to use, Donnie has to convert on his machine. Internet is difficult. I seem to be able to get onto blogger and publish comments, so please feel free to explore and comment on old posts. What is difficult to do is write new ones because I have no access to my graphics, no way to upload graphics, no way to handle large files, etc.
So, it looks like I am out of commission for some weeks. I can get online to read your blogs, and I will continue to do that. Posting on my own blogs, though, is, unfortunately, on hold until my electronic life returns to normal.
I am indeed still working on my next book. Donnie was able to convert the book file, but all my notes are not available. :( Well, I thought of those ideas, they will come back, or God will plant some new thoughts. I actually ended up drastically revising the table of contents while waiting for Donnie to convert the old document on his desktop computer, put it on disk, and pass it along to me in a format that the laptop will recognize. I also changed the title of the book: A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God. I seemed to be getting more inspiration coming my way now that nearly all I can do computer-wise is work on that book. (I am also getting more family and friend time, which is not all that bad, either.)
As for posting anything on my blogs, I am afraid I will have to wait until I am past the computer crisis and my electronic life is back to normal, which looks like nearly the end of January -- right after the book is due. Interesting, how dates and tasks work out that way!
As this goes up (automatically), I should be on a plane for Hawaii, where I have some end-of-year business to conclude. After that, on Saturday, I will fly back home, just in time for the Christmas season to descend in full tempo. This year, though, Christmas cards will have to wait until February (January if I can manage a trip to Korea and card writing). We have no tree -- our cat Intrepid eats all plants, including artificial ones, and nearly died from the latter a few years ago so we have given up on a tree -- therefore I will not be distracted with tree decorating. Some holiday activities will, of course, take place as they should and as we want them to. However, I will be stepping back a bit from my normal kinds of blogging posts and the normal tempo of my blogs.
I have taken some days off from work to do a second edition/sequel of my book, Blest Atheist. Unfortunately, over the past two years, the title has been snagged for a variety of odd things, none of them having to do with the remarkable kindness of God, which is what the book is about at its core. Even a furniture store has taken it, along with an atheist reading group! In fact, although it is a spiritual book, essentially Christian, most bookstores carry it in the atheism section. (I guess no one reads books before categorizing them!) That has caused some angry, even rude, reviews from atheists who got a conversion story, rather than a confirmation of their atheism -- which must have been quite a surprise for them. (Christian readers and believers belonging to other religions generally review the book well.) So, the book needs a new title, which I am working on, and since time has passed and my spiritual experiences have continued on a path of deepening conversion, I plan to revise the book dramatically, as well as include those new conversion experiences.
For publication and marketing purposes, I need to turn in the manuscript no later than December 30, so I will reserve most of my writing effort for the book. Monday Morning Meditations will continue, and I will post excerpts from the book as I go along on Mahlou Musings. So, for the next 15 days, my posts may be sparse in spite of having prepared a few backups in case of situations like this.
I will indeed take time to enjoy the Christmas season. San Ignatio, as you can see from the pictures above and below, goes all out for Christmas. (Note: the placard under each lighted wreath/halo is the story of a saint important to this town: St Francis for it was founded by the Franciscans, St. John the Baptist after whom it was named, the real name of this town being San Juan Bautista -- I used San Ignatio as a pseudonym in my book and so I have continued to use it in this blog.) If this town has a year-round sacred feel to it, at Christmas that feel intensifies, beginning with the lighting of the streets, intensified by the daily performances of La Virgen de Teyepac (Our Lady of Guadalupe) by our local El Teatro Campesino, and concluding with our midnight Mass, which usually really is at or near midnight, depending on how you count the caroling.
So, please forgive my moments away. I will catch you when the book muse takes a recess and will be back on full-time blog duty in January.
For years now, after our children grew up and became adults, rather than spending money on gifts that are neither needed nor particularly wanted, we have taken a family collection of the money we would have spent on each other and have instead spent it on things that others both need and want. For example, last year we gave visa cards to all the staff (cooks, janitors, librarians, handymen, monks, etc.) at the St. Francis Retreat Center, who do much to make sure that retreatants are able to devote their time exclusively to spiritual matters.
Each year we select a charity that has some special meaning to us. The retreat center is a place where both Donnie, my husband, and I have spent time that has contributed to our spiritual growth. Years ago, floods in India destroyed the homes of relatives of Appu, the college roommate of my daughter, Lizzie. When we were living in Jordan, we gave the money to the only animal shelter there, one which took in more than two dozen cats that I rescued from the streets of Amman. And so on and so forth. Family members nominate various options, and we all vote on which we would like to support in a particular year.
This year we have four "charities" from which we are choosing. Before we take a family vote, I thought it might be interesting to hear what readers thing. Here are the options we are considering:
(1) Afghans for Afghanis (see the link in the right sidebar under Ways to Help). Having spent time earlier this year in Afghanistan, I have developed a soft spot for this very impoverished nation. While factions in the leadership may have been working toward mutual extinction for decades, if not centuries, the everyday man is the one doing the greatest suffering. From the little I could see, by Western standards they have very little, even considering that their desires, values, and concepts of what a "normal" life looks like is quite different from those same concepts in the USA.
(2) Adopt a Box. Our parish has collected Christmas gifts for troops in Afghanistan. Ah, there's that Afghanistan soft spot again! The amount of gifts collected has far exceeded what the parish member who headed the drive anticipated. She was prepared to pay for the mailing of the gifts, assuming that if the collection can were entirely filled, it would cost her about $100 in postage. Well, our parish donated not a can-full but a truckload of gifts, and the postage will be about $1200. So, our pastor has asked that individuals offer to adopt a box of gifts for mailing. As a family, we could adopt a number of boxes. (There is an additional option, as well. I have told the parish member that I would use God's credit card for any orphan boxes.)
(3) Bennie's Homeless. Our friend, Bennie, works with the homeless in a nearby city, providing them with blankets, clothes, food, and personal articles, thanks to the generosity of his friends and neighbors. In return, the homeless work to clean up the local river along which they live. Thanks to their efforts, the salmon, which had nearly disappeared, are now returning "home" to spawn.
(4) Hope. Doah works for Hope, which gives work to the handicapped, who do janitorial and other kinds of simple tasks that they are capable of handling. Doah mentioned that Hope is short of money this year, so it seems that this is a charity that truly "touches" home.
We will take a family vote very soon. In the interim, I would love to hear readers' opinions: which would you choose if you were a member of our family? (I will let you know the result from all the blogs and from our family's vote.)
The world seemed pretty heartless earlier this week to the family of Aidan Sullivan, a 9-year-old born with a disorder that left one side of his face underdeveloped, deforming his jaw and skull and leaving him without a right ear.
A thief crashed a fundraiser meant to pay for surgery to construct an ear for the boy out of the cartilage from his rib, making off with about $8,000 raised for the brave son of a New York City firefighter.
But today, a foundation in a nearby community was on its way to the family's home with a check to replace the stolen money, and others who read about the third-grader's plight have also offered to help.
"One person did a bad thing, but a lot of people are stepping up to help," Tim Sullivan, a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department, told the local Journal News for a story today. "It proves to us that there are good people out there. We're very grateful."
Added his wife, Colleen: "A bad thing turned into a good thing."
Aidan, of Brewster, N.Y., was born with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital disorder where the right side of his face is underdeveloped. The boy has undergone about 10 surgeries already, and even though he doesn't like hospitals and worries about being away from his 4-year-old sister, Kaylee, he was looking forward to this particular operation.
"Finally, an ear," he told the New York Post. "I want to look normal."
The theft happened Nov. 20, at a fundraiser sponsored by a group of firefighters. According to Colleen Sullivan, about $7,000 cash collected that night was put in an envelope and then placed in a box with about $1,000 in checks that were collected at an earlier fundraiser.
But the box was stolen at the end of the night when a family friend put it down for a moment.
"Everybody that was in the place that night knew that we were there to raise money to put an ear on a little kid," Tim Sullivan told the local ABC News affiliate in an interview after the theft. "How could you be such a bad person to a kid, a 9-year-old kid that needs an ear?"
The family had already planned to go ahead with the surgery scheduled for March, but were unsure how they'd pay for the expensive procedure, which is not covered by the family's medical coverage because the doctors do not take insurance.
Then on Friday, the day after a Thanksgiving Day story detailed their loss, they received a telephone call from Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn, a volunteer with the Vincent Crotty Memorial Foundation, informing them that he, along with Vincent Crotty's father, Peter, would deliver a check to cover the loss.
The foundation, based in nearby Rockland, was formed in April after a car crash that killed high school baseball players Vincent Crotty and Christopher Konkowski.
"If we could take some of that pain away, then that's what we want to do," Crotty told the Journal News. "I saw no reason why we couldn't reach across the river and lend a hand."
There are many ways to help Syrians as the war shows little evidence of subsiding. Here are some of the organizations helping. Check their websites for information about how you can help them help others.
Save the Children is on the ground, helping to keep children safe, providing the basics they need, like food and blankets and offering programs to help them cope with tragedy. However, the numbers of children escaping the violence are rising every day, and the refugee crisis is set to get worse. They can use help in helping. Read children's first-hand stories at their website.
For more ways to help, an ongoing update, and new opportunities to assist as they arise, check the Syrian American website on a regular basis.
16 million Pakistanis are desperate for help, and one young college student, Wajeeha, and her classmates have taken a journey to help them. Read about their plans (now fulfilled) here: Come Along on a Journey to Help Pakistan One Family at a Time. Thank you to the readers of 100th Lamb who contributed to this effort. More help is needed in Pakistan. In addition to Wajeeha's project, two helping organizations through whom you can contribute are Catholic Relief (for people needs) and World Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (for creature needs).
The "H2H Challenge" asks those who care to go beyond throwing money at the hungry and homeless and instead of giving a handout only, get to know them, give them dignity, and provide them with respect, to follow the example set by St. Francis in eating together with the outcasts of society (in his case, mostly lepers) and through getting to know them in this manner, treating them as the same children of God that we all are, no less worthy of love and kindness than ourselves. Specifically:
Invite someone who is homeless and hungry to dinner once a month. (More often, if you can afford it, is, of course, wonderfully fine!) Get to know that person one-on-one.
You can report on your experiences, if you would like to do so here, by leaving a comment on any related post.Or, if you would like to write a post about it, contact me (Elizabeth.Mahlou@gmail.com).
You might want to donate money, goods, or time to one of the organizations that help the homeless and hungry. There are some in every community. Your location church or chamber of commerce can tell you where they are. I am listing below those that come to my attention as being unusual in what they offer and those that are really in need of financial support (many have fallen into this category during this Great Recession).
I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism,
I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).
100th Lamb This is my main blog. It originated from my book by the same title but has morphed into a blog that explores the spiritual questions I encounter as I careen through a life with many children and in many states and countries, meeting many very interesting and wonderfully diverse people.
The Clan of Mahlou. This blog provides background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family; it is a work in progress since the lives of Mahlou clan members continue to march forward. This blog also contains my conversion story.
Mahlou Musings. This site contains excerpts from my various publications. The tiger is a representation of my spirit and life.
Modern Mysticism This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is addressed to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.