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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Saved by the Dog

It's been a tough couple of years.

There have been some amazing things happening (the Trip to Italy springs immediately to mind, along with my profession as a member of the Order of Preachers) but there have been some real hardships (all my own fault).  The journey has not been easy.  Just this past month alone I lost a long time dearly loved friend and alienated some family members. 

It's been a tough couple of years.

When Duffy died last July my heart just broke in ways I cannot explain.  It is not just the loss of a pet.  He was more than just a fur baby.  Duffy was the kind of friend and companion only a dog can be to a childless widow.  He was, like all my dogs, something special in my life.

I knew I could not afford to get a puppy because I share a home with my mother, who is 93 and not up to having to care for a puppy while I am at work.  I figured I would be pretty lonely for a couple of years and I just buckled down and expected it.

As a few things over the past couple of weeks caused more and more grief, I finally decided to put my name in for Scottie Rescue.  I thought, well...maybe I can offer a forever home to an older dog that is being pushed away or whose family has to leave him or her behind. 

While I contacted the local Scottish Terrier Rescue in my area I received a message from  a lovely woman back east who offered me her mother's dog.  I thought it was too good to be true and it was - the original breeder rejected me.

Once more, not good enough...that is how I felt.  I called my mentor and told her how very, very sad I was and how extremely tired I was of being rejected.  I can take responsibility for my actions (despite all accusations to the contrary) but when everything I try or want or attempt comes up a big goose egg, I get tired. 

And so I gave up.

She tried to encourage me but I was not having any of it.  The previous week had revealed a dear friend to be less than honorable.  I had upset someone I loved terribly and caused another rift in the family.  My mother's best friend is ignoring her and making her feel less than desirable.    It has just been really, really sad around my house.

All I wanted, I thought, was a dog to love - a little Scottie I could name like I named my other dogs:  Shaw's Angus MacDuff (Mac),  Shaw's Roddy MacDuff (Roddy) and Shaw's William Wallace MacDuff (Duffy).  I was sorry I had hurt my family, sad I couldn't take care of my mother, and so damn tired of being not good enough while being expected to forgive, forgive and forgive some more whenever someone stepped on my heart one more time.

So I gave up.

Last Wednesday night I received a telephone call from the woman in Scottie Rescue.  There was a little stray who had been brought in to the local shelter in a city near my home.  He is a little younger than I wanted - a little over a year old, she said - and he was injured (a broken hip and paw) possibly from a run in with a car.  Would I be interested?

I hesitated because I am not a wealthy woman and was not sure I could take on the responsibility of an injured dog.  I told her my reservations...and she reassured me that the Veterinarian School of Medicine at the prestigious University near us was going to do all the work for free if I could take him on, even for foster care.

Still, I hesitated...he was young, he was a microchip, no collar, no tags....who would let a purebred Scottish Terrier run away like that?  Or worse, who would throw that kind of animal out of the car, which is what they suspected?  Would he be horribly damaged and need lots of attention?  I work so far away...could it be something I can really take on?

'He's such a love bug', the voice on the phone continued.  'Everyone here loves him.  They have even given him a name, which they never do.'.

What's his name?


Sometimes I forget how quickly God can work if I just get out of the way. 

He is beaten up and will need some tender loving care.  We can give him that and much,  much more.

Welcome home, Shaw's Rob Roy MacDuff (Robbie).  You are safe now.

And so am I.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I'll Do It MY Way!

With all due respect to Frank Sinatra, one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made has been my insistence of doing things "My Way".  I find, as a recovering alcoholic, that my first thought is usually the wrong one.  The first chosen course of action is usually the one that gets me in trouble.  More importantly, the first time I rear back and tell someone I am not willing to have them tell me what to do, when that person has rarely (if ever) steered me in the wrong direction, will be the time I have deliberately and intentionally stepped off the path of sobriety and run screaming into the meadow marked Self Will Run Riot, waving my arms above my head and declaring for all to see that I know what is best so you better just back off and stop trying to make me be something I am not!

Of course, usually, that 'something' they are trying to make me be is a woman of grace and dignity...a woman who walks without fear, and can look at people in the eye.  The people who have lead me in my recovery are always those men and women who are, essentially, kind and loving.  They do not gather in groups and "mean girl" their fellow human beings, as though they were in 7th grade sitting at the 'cool table' in the cafeteria.  They may not like someone but they treat that person with the dignity they deserve simply because they ARE a human being.  They rely upon God in every aspect of their lives, wanting only to do what is right and not what is wrong.  And when they do make a mistake - lose their temper, act in a less than kind manner, become mired in self pity - they turn to someone THEY rely upon and say, "Tell me where I have gone wrong and help me get back on track".  More importantly, they do not assume they have the answer to how to correct their behavior.  What they know is, if they were doing everything right?  The lost temper, the mean behavior, the less than stellar actions would never have happened.

Because those are the types I hang with, I do not see that as remarkable - until it does become remarkable.  In other words, I realize how amazing it is to practice the virtues of humility and obedience when I see them NOT practiced.  When I see the opportunity to become a better person  disdained it is astonishing to me.  When I see one of us offered the chance to move from being childish, self-centered and fear-ridden to being able to walk with their head held high, look others in the eye without any shame and feel the Sunlight of the Spirit on their face and they say "no" I am flabbergasted.

Look, not everyone has to do sobriety my way. I'm not saying that at all.  Lots of people think me and my type are really over-the-top when it comes to appearance and vocabulary and how we carry ourselves.  Shoot, at one meeting, I overheard me and my sisters in sobriety referred to as "Revlon Row" because we all show up dressed business casual, our make up done and our hair in place.

I also get that for a lot of people who come from real sludge piles the best they are going to be is physically sober.  I understand that, I wish them well and I love them.  They are doing the best they can with what they have; however, I also know that many of us use that phrase 'I am doing the best I can with what I have' as an excuse instead of challenging ourselves and saying, out loud, "I am doing the best I can, and I want to kick it up a notch so tell me what to do and I will do it". 

I honestly thought, when I first entered into the Sobriety World, that everyone was there to learn to be better.  I found out the hard way, and continue to be reminded, that my initial idea is just not true.  Many of us are here to just stop drinking and stop using drugs.  We are here to make sure we are well enough to have a place to live and toilet paper.  Ask us to stretch, to trust, to try harder and to do something that scares us and we get aggressive, mean and haughty.  We leap onto the back of our high horse and we dare the rest of you tell us where to ride.

I am eternally grateful that, for whatever reason, I have done what I was told.  I didn't always like it.  In fact I often found the directions insulting.  How dare they tell me how to dress or where to go or how to express myself?  Today, what I know, is this: if I had insisted on doing things my way I would be one ugly drunk today - sober or not.

And I do not want to be that woman - the one with tons of years and an ugly, shriveled heart.

I do not want to do it My Way today. 


I think I will do it His Way and see what happens.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Adulthood

Today is my 23 birthday.

I know, I have seen the pictures and the one thing you are pretty sure about is that the woman smiling for the camera has seen the age 23 come, go and fade far in the distance.

Well, you are right.  I am more than twice that age in terms of time spent on the earth but for all intents and purposes, today I celebrate the 23rd year of being born all over again.  I have no doubt that I would not have made it this far if it had not been for the Sacrament of Baptism, conferred upon me in 1956, at the ripe old age of six weeks.

Let me see if I can explain.

Like too many people I did not have the best of household situations when I was a child.  I had one sane parent, however, which is a lot more than many of you had but still my life was battered about by violence and upset and constant worry as a child.  What would set him off this time?  Was I going to be good enough?  Is it my fault he left?  This, of course, was worsened by the fact that I was an pretty easy target for bullies growing up.  I am a pretty woman, and I was a pretty child.  I was also very smart and very talented.  That combination might be appreciated by adults but oftentimes the kids on the playground see that kid as a real threat to their own place on the perches of society and man they can be tough.  I am exceedingly grateful we did not have the internet and facebook when I was a kid - I may not have survived.

I struggled through until the age of 17 when I found the magic - it came in a bottle and the particular bottle I was handed had a label that said "Southern Comfort".  That label would change - from Southern Comfort to Cutty Sark to Glenlevit to Winners Circle Vodka (1.92 for a gallon - what a deal!) but the magic remained the same.  I would add to it - cocaine, marijuana, sex, music, psychedelics, whatever you have on you, but the magic remained the same.  I killed my own children so I could live 'free' to pursue this magic.  When I tried to save myself it was through a loving man and an expected child and when they both died I just gave up.  Why wasn't going to work anyway.

In the 1990's I tried again.  The struggle was long and hard and frightening.  I had lost my good looks.  My talent was non-existent.  The love of my life was gone and the possibility of being a mother was fleeing fast.  I was dying, but by GOD that magic was tough to give up, even if the spell it was now casting over me was flat out evil. 

May 4, 1992 I through off the shackles of that magic.  I had no idea it was going to be my first sober day in a long, long time.  The other times hadn't worked longer than ten or fifteen days.  However, for a reason known only to God that was the first day of my new life.  I have remained sober one day at a time since May 4, 1992 so

Today is my 23rd birthday.

I wish I could tell my readers that I have been little Miss Perfect ever since I put down the bottle but if I did that would be a lie.  I am far from perfect, which is why I am so grateful that I found my way home to the Catholic Church.  The Church does not expect me to be perfect; rather, She wants me to try to be perfect.  There is a huge difference between the two.  She does not pat my little butt, talk down to me and tell me everything I want, feel and desire is perfectly ok with God and with Her.  Instead, She puts her loving arms around me, lifts me up again and again, and then kicks my butt when I need it.  Holy Mother Church is the ultimate sponsor - She tells me Truth and then lets me decide if I want to accept it or not.

I am grateful today.  My life is not as I would have it but it is as God would have it.  I love my family and friends and I love the world in which I live.  I am glad I have a way to be of service and I am grateful that I have been able to do this deal for this long.

Today is my 23rd birthday.

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What is a Hypocrite?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a hypocrite is described thus:

a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

The Modern Catholic Dictionary, put together by Servant of God Father John Harden, offers this as a definition:

HYPOCRISY. A form of lying in which a person pretends to have virtues or moral qualities that are not possessed. Its motive is pride and its malice depends on the gravity of the pride and on the evil consequences that follow when people take one to be morally good and, perhaps, entrust one with confidences or responsibilities that are not deserved. It is not hypocrisy, however, to be on one's best behavior with those whom one justly wishes to impress favorably. Nor is it hypocrisy when a person, because of human weakness, fails to live up to his or her own principles or profession of faith. (Etym. Latin hypocrita, hypocrite; from Greek hypokrit─ôs, actor, hypocrite.)

As usual, Catholicism takes into consideration the entire person - a holistic approach, so to speak - allowing for problems, mistakes and sins that everyone of us are subject to every day of our lives.  Rather than simply dismissing someone who has fallen, The Church reminds us that we all fall short of the goal at every day.  We may do really well for awhile.  We may resolve, when we fall, to never EVER do whatever it was we did again.  However, unless one is determined to never interact with another human being or animal, the chances that we will fall flat on our faces again are pretty high.

Because of this, I hesitate to call people who go to Church every Sunday but who fail to be perfect Monday through Friday hypocrites.  I certainly reject that label for myself and anyone I love.  I know how many of us face every day determined to do better than we did yesterday.  I know how many of us make the same mistakes over and over again - myself included - and when I apologize one more time it is not because I am a hypocrite; rather, it is because I am a human being.

Of course this does not excuse any bad behavior.  When I am wrong, I am wrong.  I accept that, accept the responsibility and make my apology with sincerity.  I accept whatever punishment God or the law of the land prescribes and I try not to whine about it.  After all, I brought it on myself.  If I have a penance to endure, I must endure it. 

More importantly, however, is this: I must be willing to try and live up to what Jesus taught us.  How often must I forgive?  Seven times seventy, and that does not mean I whip out a calculator and start keeping score.  It means I must continue to forgive as often as my Father in Heaven forgives me, and last I looked He does not keep score.

Damn hard, too.  I am a score keeper by nature.  Being Italian and Irish, I am genetically predisposed to keep score of all the hurts and bruises and scrapes and twists and turns caused to poor little me over the years.  Shoot, when you come from people who a) have a saying of 'Vengence is a dish best eaten cold and b) are still mad about a battle that they lost 800 years ago trust me you would keep score too.

That being said, I made a decision over 20 years ago to try and be a better Leslie one day at a time. No matter how many times I fall down, no matter how many times I am hurt and no matter how many times I cause hurt, I am determined to make it to Heaven some day.  I am not going to give up.

Today, because it is Good Shepherd Sunday, I keep thinking about what St Thomas Aquinas taught about Jesus' saying, "I know my sheep and my sheep know me".  He wrote (and I am paraphrasing) that the word 'know' implies not just a surface knowledge of our existence; rather, it means that He really knows me.  He knows how I think, how if feel, my defects and my strengths.  He knows me, and he LOVES me, He accepts me for who I am while still expecting me to do the best I can to fight my own fallen nature.

Jesus loves me for the willingness to fight myself....and He forgives me, seven times seventy.....which is what I need to do in order to NOT be a hypocrite.

SO....if you are afraid that falling down again and again but still wanting to be a member of His Church means you are less than perfect, don't worry.

You are less than perfect.

Sit next to me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vacation Joy

2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.


How much fun can one person have in such short a time as three days?

Well, leave it to me - I can have a blast!

I have had a rough few weeks - caused by my own self-pity, of course - so three days of loud, Italian Family interaction was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Starting on Sunday of this week, I have done some minor traveling, some great sight-seeing and eaten in a fabulous restaurant or two. All of this was done with people I love, admire and have such ease and comfort with that it really gave me a chance (once more) to say, "Thank you, God, for my family"!

The week has gotten me thinking about what The Church teaches in terms of the role of the family and I realized that my inability to feel at ease in the world is directly related to the uneasiness of my family life growing up.  Because of the rockiness of emotions brought into every situation (a volatile parent can do that) I am rarely at ease out in the world.  The family is the original cell of social life.  If that original cell seems to flap and shudder in the wind of violence - verbal or physical - the members of that cell are going to take that anxiety-producing experience into the world with them.

While my hard work the last 22 years has made it better for me it has not cured me of this social anxiety.  Because I have chosen to walk this path without availing myself of medications, the path has been a bit rocky.  While I am still behind my choice, I have to take responsibility for it.  If I had, perhaps, decided to take the more convenient route or if I had been more open with people around me as to why I get nervous and scared and anxious and wounded, I might have had an easier time of it - and they may have been a bit more forgiving of me.

It is an interesting dilemma, though, because being that open means trusting people with personal information.  If they have that information, they have an advantage over you, right?  Can't have that - people cannot be the alcoholic is left with a real problem.  If I trust these people they may hurt me.  If I don't let them get to know me, I may hurt them.  If I get hurt I may never recover.  If they get hurt, they may never forgive.

ACK!  What an order!

The Church guides us, therefore, to put our trust in only One Being - the Supreme Being.  That trust, the kind of 'here I am in all my pain and glory, without reservation' trust, is the kind of step we are asked to make in order to recover.  Thus, the objective of both The Catholic Church and an honest run at the 12 Steps are the same - Trust God, clean house, help others - not so you can be crowned Queen of the May but because it is through this simple formula you will find the peace you need to be able to expand your social life.  

The original social cell of my life has changed over the years.  People are dead, they have gone on their own way or they are far away.  I get to look closely around and rejoice in the social fabric of my life today and recognize that while I am far from perfect, I am not a malicious or evil woman.  I have made an honest effort to grow, to Trust God, to clean house and to help others.

Thank you for the wonderful week, Lord.  Back to work on Monday!