Prayer to the Blessed Virgin

Blessed mother, wrap your mantle around me and protect me from harm. Strengthen me when I am weak, console me when I am grieving, correct me with love when I am in error, warn me when I am in danger, laugh with me when I am happy, hold my hand when I am scared, and rejoice with me when I have accomplished something worthy with your Son’s grace. Teach me to love, guide me through darkness, and watch over me as I find my way. Show me how to be joyful in the midst of suffering and bring me closer to your Son. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Amen.


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Little Kid Logic

Little kid A: “How do they make pretzels?”

Little kid B: “There’s a big machine that mixes the dough and squirts out the dough into strings and another machine folds the dough into pretzel shapes and they go on a conveyor belt and they get salt sprinkled on them and they go into an oven that bakes them.”

Little kid A: “Wow, that’s cool. How do you know that? Did you visit a pretzel factory?”

Little kid B: “No. How else would they do it?”

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How To Save A Life

One summer in college, I became friends with a fellow student who was a talented graphic artist.  At 21 he had already produced works for commission for local businesses.  But he was a troubled soul; he had attempted suicide and he sometimes cut himself as punishment.  Alcohol was his drug of choice to ease the pain.

We were friends but I couldn’t help him.  I needed help almost as much as he did.  I never actively contemplated suicide but I felt like I was at the bottom and couldn’t get out.  Life seemed pointless and I wanted it to be over though without my involvement in ending it.  When fleeting thoughts of suicide came into my head, the realization that my life was not my own to take kept the thoughts from becoming plans.  I knew in my heart that God gives life and God takes it away according to his plan.  My faith was weak at the time but that truth written on my heart kept me alive.

This friend was not the only troubled person that I knew.  When I was 15 years old, a cousin passed out on the railroad tracks after a night of heavy drinking.  Twelve years later, a cousin on the other side of the family committed suicide.   Just before Christmas 2011, a cousin buried his 26 year old daughter who died from an overdose. I have other family members and friends who currently struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.  You know them too.

I have come a long way since that fateful summer more than two decades ago.   I deal with the issues as they arrive and I do what I need to do to stay emotionally healthy.  Did my friend ever learn to do the same?  Is he still alive?  I pray that he is.

If you’re struggling, find someone who will listen.  Don’t give up.

Requiscant in pace, my cousins.

The Fray
How to Save a Life

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Guardian Angel

I wake up to see bright lights above me.  I can’t move.  Not due to paralysis but to the straps across my body and blocks of foam on either side of my head.  I’m confused.

“I don’t feel good,” I tell the nurse as she comes by the check on me.

“What did you have for dinner,” she asks.

“Nothing,” I say.  A few minutes later I regurgitate the fish that I had eaten for dinner before leaving the house.

A sweet co-worker, Jenny, invited me to a house party.  Normally I would jump at the chance to go to a party but this one was different.  Jenny was heavily involved in a Protestant home-church movement.  I liked Jenny but the home-church thing made me uneasy.  I had always come up with excuses to not go to her events but I couldn’t find an excuse this time.  I agreed to go to the party but I was going to bring a friend along for support.  I was not strong in my faith but I somehow knew that I shouldn’t be dabbling with this group.

The plan was to meet my friend Patty J. at her apartment then proceed to the house together.  I was running late so I decided to ride my bike rather than walk the three blocks to her house.  I took my little “bar purse” and threw it over my shoulder but the cord pulled out of the leather.  So I wrapped the strap around my wrist and let it dangle from the handlebar.

Since it was still rush hour and the Saturday evening party-goers were out in force, I put on the helmet that my parents bought for me.  I rarely wore it because it was so dorky looking.  I rode to the end of my street and waited to turn left onto Lane Avenue.  And that’s all I remember.  My purse got caught between my bike’s fork and front wheel, catapulting me over the handlebars.

I stopped traffic in both directions.  In one of the cars not far from me was an ex-boyfriend, Andy, that I wasn’t on speaking terms with and his best friend, Lou, who was a fourth-year medical student at the time.  In another car was a neighbor who lived across the street from me.  He recognized me and alerted my housemates.

I was briefly unconscious but came to at the scene.  Lou thought I had dislocated my shoulder.  I wanted to get up but he tried to keep me still until the ambulance arrived.

The next day in my hospital I room I remember that I am scheduled to work.  Somehow in my grogginess I manage to dial the phone and I call in sick.  Patty J., Andy and Lou (and many other people) visit me in the hospital.  Andy seems ready to drop his bitterness and treat me civilly.

Many people are praying for me.  My mom played organ for the 8 am mass at her church near Cleveland then she and my dad came straight to Columbus and the hospital.  The pastor announced that there would be no music for the later masses because of my accident and asked for prayers.

I take several days off work since I can’t concentrate and I tire easily.  I skip my Monday lecture but I can’t easily skip my chem lab on Tuesday.  The right side of my face is still puffy, and is covered with road rash, I have a gash under my eye and my eye is half red due to a popped capillary.  I explain to my TA and my fellow students what happened.   I’m still in a bit of a fog but I manage to complete the assignment.  The next day and for the rest of the quarter the TA comes into the lab with a helmet under his arm.

When I go back to work and see Jenny she tells me she was sad when I didn’t show up for the party but she felt bad when she found out the reason I missed it.  She never invited me to another event.

Was God trying to protect me from this Protestant group when I was weak in my faith?  Perhaps.  I won’t know until I am finished with my time on earth.  I do know my guardian angel was looking out for me, trying to protect my from harm, both spiritual and physical.


Angel of God,

My guardian dear,

To whom His love

Commits  me here;

Ever this day

Be at my side

To light and guard,

To rule and guide.


Guardian Angel

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The Bike Ride

One day Larry invited me to join him on ride to the park.  I hadn’t been on my bike yet that day so I jumped at the chance to ride a little.  He would ride by my house and we would leave from there.  When he showed up his roommate Andy (my ex-boyfriend) and two other friends were with him.  Larry knew Andy and I weren’t talking to each other.  He was the last person I wanted to see.

It was perfect weather for bicycling.   Not too hot or breezy.  I couldn’t refuse to go without making a scene so I tried to make the most of it.  I managed to keep my distance from him as we all rode to the park.  Larry explained  as we pedaled up the bike path that Andy and the others showed up at the house just as he was getting ready to leave so he invited them to join him.  Someone decided we should take a different route back to Andy and Larry’s house.  When they were riding down High Street, Andy pulled up beside me and challenged me to race him back to his house.  I knew I could never beat him but I couldn’t resist the dare.

Andy introduced me to serious bicycling and taught me to ride in traffic.  It was a baptism by fire.  Our first ride together took us up High Street in busy traffic.  I was petrified at first but after that first trip I was thrilled by the challenge.

I gave everything I had to racing against Andy.  I knew I couldn’t win but I had to try.  I had been riding 150-200 miles a week that summer and I was in good condition.  Andy was working full time and working in a lab on campus that summer so he didn’t have time to train.  But he was a foot taller than me and much stronger.  Each crank of the pedal took him further down the road.

The short race, maybe a mile and a half, was a blast  We were racing on public streets in traffic.  I couldn’t believe I was keeping up with him.  Was he letting me keep up just to be nice?  No, that wasn’t Andy.  Was he just waiting to sprint away as we approached his house?  We arrived at his house almost tied.  He had a wheel’s length on me.

Several minutes later the rest of their party arrived at the house.  Larry was laughing at us while the others were chiding us for running red lights.

Then Andy almost passed out.  That’s when I noticed the “I gave blood today” sticker on his shirt.

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I hate/love math!

My high school geometry teacher must have thought I was gifted at math (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!) since she nominated me to take part in a math test/contest when I was in the 10th grade.   It was humiliating.  Very humiliating.   I admit that I was good at geometry — it was intuitive to me.  I’m not sure that I should admit this on a public forum that I never did the homework for the class yet I almost always aced the exams and quizzes.  And I don’t think I should mention the one hall pass that I used throughout the year to skip geometry class and play with the jazz band instead.  Algebra and trigonometry were much harder for me.  I pulled an A in trig only because I studied, studied, studied and memorized, memorized, memorized!  The one 3″ x 5″ card with formulas that my teacher allowed each of us to use during exams helped a lot too.


Calculus was an enormous challenge for me.  I probably would have received a BS rather than a BA if not for the math hurdle.  I dreaded the thought of two quarters of differential equations though I was strangely fascinated by the concept especially when my geeky math/science/engineer friends spoke so lovingly about them.


I find mathematical concepts quite fascinating.  Case in point: a number of years ago I was talking to a coworker about digital recordings of music and how the sound would become more like the “real” analog music as the sample size got smaller but it could never equal the original.  A another coworker who listening in on the conversation interjected with “you’re talking calculus!”  He was right.  I don’t feel the same affection for math calculations.  I have painful memories of the dreaded Chain Rule.  Argh!

My favorite part of my Calculus courses was when we did some miscellaneous advanced math like vectors, matrices, and polar coordinates.  I liked series too but I often got mixed up while working with them.

There are some people who think that there is a learning disability, Dyscalulia, specific to math, something akin to dyslexia. I wouldn’t doubt it.  I had no troubles in math until the third grade.  That’s when the students at my school were divided into groups according to ability.  I was initially put into the top math group but I could never finish my assignments in the time given.  The fact that I was too busy talking to the other kids and not doing my work probably had something to do with it.  But even removing that consideration, I had trouble finishing the work fast enough to please the teacher.  So I was taken from the top math group and put into the bottom one with a few boys who I thought were dumb.  All we did was (attempt to) memorize multiplication tables.  I hated it.  I was bored.  I refused to do it. To this day I still don’t have all the tables memorized.  What 11 x 12?  Let’s see.  That would be the same as (10 x 12) + (1 x 12) which is 120 + 12 which is 132.  That’s how my brain works.  Perhaps for some people it would be easier to memorize that 11 time 12 is 132.   Not me.

My mom saved most of my elementary school report cards and scores from standardized tests. (Thanks, Mom!) I consistently scored high on math concepts and terrible for math computations.

And just in case you ever need to know, the integral of the natural logarithm of x is  x ln x – x + C (where C is the constant of integration).  Don’t ask me to derive or prove it.  I can’t.



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First Visit

The following is a sketch I started several years ago and then abandoned.  The only resemblance to the original is the subject matter. It is a fragment; perhaps some day I’ll figure out how to finish it and possibly expand it.  I wrote it in the present tense though I was trying to capture my thoughts on one Sunday morning more than ten years ago.

I pull open the huge wooden doors of the church not knowing what to expect.  Last week I found a website for a local Catholic Young Adults group and wrote to the webmaster.  He told me that the group on the website is actually defunct and recommended this parish which has an active YA group.  I’m supposed to meet him and some other group members after mass.

The church building is old, probably more than a hundred years old.  I like the architecture; it’s stately. The interior reminds me a lot of the little church I grew up in with the original carved wooden altars, the high altar and two side altars, intact.  It brings back pleasant memories.

I smell sweet incense and hear the Sanctus bells at the consecration and the church bell in the tower rung by hand before mass. The choir sings a Latin motet.  I’m not familiar with it but it is lovely.  The congregation sings the Sanctus in Latin too and I find myself singing along though I haven’t sung it in more than a decade. The altar rail is intact and it’s in use.   Many people are receiving communion on the tongue.  Do I see the altar boys holding patens?  I haven’t seen those in decades. There are only boys serving at the altar.  I wonder if it’s always that way or if no girls were scheduled for this mass.   Where are the Eucharistic ministers? Are all those people lined up to go to confession before mass?

Where am I? What year is it?  Did I some how get transported to another time?  An alternate universe?

I’m just looking for a new parish similar to the one I left behind when I moved from Tennessee, one with an active young adults group and where there is some degree of quiet before mass. It is definitely quiet especially considering the large number of children present.  But this isn’t what I’m looking for.  I want a mainstream church with a Young Adults group.  Not too liberal but not too traditional either.

A few weeks ago I visited the parish I belonged to before I moved to Tennessee.  Before mass I couldn’t help but overhear conversations about the previous day’s football game and the latest gossip.  Only the most disciplined saintly person could manage to pray among that din.  My parish in Tennessee was no bastion of traditionalism but at least I could pray a little before mass.

I again wonder about the possibility of time travel.  No, the clothing and hairstyles are contemporary though more people are in their “Sunday best” than is typical for our postmodern times.  I even see a few women with their heads covered with chapel veils.  No, I haven’t gone back in time.  This is not the Latin mass of my parents’ generation.
I am enthralled by the preaching.  This priest is an excellent preacher, just what I need.  I’ve been growing in my faith the past few years and I want to continue to grow.

The parish by my apartment has one priest who is an excellent homilist and another who is, well, less than excellent.  I went to mass there for the last time a couple months ago.  The first reading that Sunday was the call of Samuel.   The gist of the homily was to “answer the call” to do nice things for other people such as returning your shopping carts to the store and not leaving them in the lot where they might hit someone’s car.  I kid you not.  (The grocery store across the street from the church doesn’t have those “cart corrals.”)   I almost walked out but I stayed through the end of mass.  I started this quest to find a new parish after that.  I’m a bit sad because I like having a Catholic church within walking distance.

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