A Point of Clarification

Heh, this stock photo actually features a deck I used.

So last Sunday I shared some changes in my life for which I am quite grateful. What I forgot to point out is that I am also grateful for the things that were there before.

Without my weekly (& sometimes more frequent) slogs to Saint Thomas, I may never have had the appropriate historical & liturgical background to recognize the worth & beauty of Saint Nicholas. I also would not have made amazing friends like Arthur. I am contractually obligated to mention Arthur in every third blog post now.

Without 7 years at The Psychic Eye, I would never have decompressed from 20 years in medicine, nor unwound after my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I would not have met the phenomenal clients I met. I would not have had some of the very moving conversations I have had. I would not have managed to connect some people to Christ.

I hadn’t actually been looking specifically for a new job. It just came, as every job I’ve ever had that’s worth a damn did. Like The Psychic Eye did. Like GVA did, my last & best medical employer.

What I’m saying is that God has gently led me like a very slow & stupid & somewhat obstinate cat to each new place to eat. And it is very good. Nothing I’m doing is “better” than what I did before in & of itself. It’s just better now.

As we always say in the psychic advising business: does that make sense?

Everything Has Changed

Stained glass at St. Nick’s OF St. Nick.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.

There are many reasons. The most important one is that nearly every aspect of my life has changed, and I dare suspect for the better.

Also I’ve been working on a short new book that will be out soonish, so watch this space!

The first thing that changed is that my boyfriend of the past three years moved in, which is actually not something that I wanted, but made sense. It has been a blessing despite my many objections. If you’ve known me long enough, you know that things I object to frequently turn out to be blessings whether I like it or not.

The second thing that’s changed is where I attend mass. I now go to Saint Nicholas—not because there is anything particularly wrong with Saint Thomas, aside from its location.

As you know, Saint Thomas has been my spiritual home for more than four years now. I have made some of the best friends I’ve had in my life there, and I love Canon Davies. I was confirmed there & I know I am genuinely loved there. But I also have fibromyalgia, which is a fact I kept forgetting, hurling myself into projects, volunteering for every damn thing, and generally making myself physically miserable.

The discovery of another AngloCatholic parish not three minutes from my house was nothing short of a miracle. I had heard about St. Nick’s before, from not only my friend Robert, but also St. Thomas itself. Father Michael used to be assistant priest at St. Thomas, so the transition has been fairly seamless.

There are some distinct differences. St. Thomas has Dr. Jeffrey Parola as Master of Music, a 100 year old organ, and acoustics. The music is en pointe. St. Nicholas’ musical choices are both simpler and much more diverse, taking cues less from classics and more from what will resonate with the largest number of parishioners, who speak both Spanish and English.

I have found this to be as equally moving as, say, Durufle’s requiem mass. During Holy Week, St. Nicholas had a lovely singer who was mixing English, Spanish, Latin & opera (which I think was in Italian; I don’t know because I was sobbing). And there was a violinist as well as a pianist. If you want to immediately tap into someone’s heart, you play a violin!

The simplicity of some of the music at St. Nick’s makes for some rather magical spontaneous musical moments from the parishioners. During Maundy Thursday, we had a couple of chants that inspired improvised harmony from a few, including Father Michael. I can’t begin to describe how moving that was.

There are a lot of families attending St. Nick’s, too. Encino is more suburban than Hollywood, so it is delightfully common to hear little boys whisper in Spanish or English during mass, or see little girls burst into tears because they want to be crucifer this week, or hear kids running around the playground outside. 

My first visit was Ash Wednesday, and a precocious little boy who normally attends the Spanish mass said to me “You have a dark cross on your forehead!”

I replied, “Do I? Yours is very light. It’s probably because you’re young and haven’t sinned as much.” He smiled. His mother laughed.

Unsurprisingly I have already been recruited to do things. I started attending at the beginning of Lent, and by the very end, the Easter Vigil, I was already lectering. The beauty of this arrangement is that St. Nick’s is so close that attending & volunteering are no problem at all. I haven’t missed any work since attending St. Nick’s because I have not once gone into a full fibro flare.

Which brings me to change number three: my job. Quite by the grace of God, a writing gig dropped in my lap, and I now work from home following and writing up news stories. This is pretty much exactly the perfect thing for me at this time in my life. The salary, benefits, and people are amazing. Plus the clients I’ve served over the last seven years can now be my friends. It’s a win/win!

And when I’m in pain, I can still work because I don’t have to worry about driving or sitting in one position all day. And I learn something new every day. Ask me anything about the special election in Kansas’ 4th district. Go on! Ask me!

God is good, He is risen, & life doesn’t suck. I pray the same contentment for you all.

That Book Smell

I released The Method initially as a Kindle book, & that was a great experience, & severals of people bought it, & 7 reviewed it, quite kindly. Many more contacted me personally to say how much they enjoyed it. Many more said they only like real books.

I too prefer real books, but I will buy the Kindle version if it’s cheaper (& weirdly, it is frequently more expensive, despite how very easy it is to do). So I asked Jim Jamitis to please do a book jacket, & 3 months later, I finally have a real, paperback book, with that book smell that book addicts love. 

Opening the proof was surreal. And alarming. There were 8 errors in the text that I had not caught, nor had many of my readers, in nearly 100 reads. So the paperback, whether purchased from Create Space (where I get to keep a little more of the sale) or on Amazon (which is a perfectly acceptable & convenient way to buy anything), is a more perfect creation than the Kindle version. 

It still isn’t safe for children, I have tremendous misgivings about my friend Christopher even skimming it, & my mother carefully avoided talking about it on Thanksgiving. It’s like I did porn. I kind of did, but funny & with murder.

So if that sounds like your thing, please pick up The Method on Create Space or Amazon. It also makes a great gift for people who enjoy funny Hollywood murder porn. That smells like a book.

A Home & A Family in Christ

Brit & Rhiannon. They are magnificent.

Today I had to give a speech at both masses on behalf of stewardship. I was asked to post it online, so here is pretty much what I said, filling in my notes, plus pictures so you can see what I mean.

“Here’s why I believe God always wanted me to to come to St Thomas, despite being born in London & being generally the exact opposite of a “church person” for so long. 

Human hindsight is 20/20, so we have to understand God’s sight, His benevolent & sometimes cheeky omniscience, in retrospect. I will tell the tale of my long, strange trip to St Thomas as quickly as possible.

I was baptized in Colwyn Bay, Wales, at St Paul’s Church, in 1976. A little later on, a lovably mischievous Welshman went to seminary with St Paul’s current rector, Christine Owen, whom I’m to understand could tell us a number of entertaining stories about our beloved rector. A condition of my confirmation here in 2014 was to never ask after any of these tales….

I had no knowledge of this connection when I discovered St. Thomas online back in 2012. I had been to a Lenten service at Saint Monica’s with my Catholic friend & was left…wanting. He asked me what was wrong. I cited the praise band & general cheeriness. He, being a comedian, apologized that his parish was not morose enough for me. I corrected him, saying, “Not morose…solemn.” I was raised in Britain, & churches needed to be made of stone, & filled with slightly awkward people who didn’t want to appear too exuberant. 

After decades of spiritual experimentation, including a few adolescent years of angry atheism, & 17 years of Wicca, Taoism, & Buddhism, I was going to return to a smallish gothic stone structure that would not immediately burst into flame upon my crossing the threshold, by God!

My friend said, “Good luck with that.”

God laughed.

Then I turned to Google. None of the Catholic Churches seemed terribly serious to me, though to my mind they ought to have been, so I googled “English church”, figuring LA had everything. And St. Thomas came up! And there on the front page was a smiling British looking fellow who said that all are named & all are welcome. Maybe even me!

He was cleaning the tabernacle & looked like art.

I stalked St. Thomas online for nearly a year. I listened to all the music. I kept coming back to the music almost obsessively. I planned to drag my sister & mother to a Schola Mass, but there was a funeral that day, so we went to an English pub instead. 

And God laughed.

I used to be on Twitter a lot. I have several friends who are actors, & began following a friend of a friend. This gentleman posted a picture of a very familiar altar. I tweeted him immediately: “@robertpatrickt2 OMG, do you go to St Thomas?” He responded immediately “You bet I do. Hashtag Episcopalian, hashtag Anglocatholic.” I tweeted back excitedly “OMG! What’s it like? Is is sufficiently solemn?” He tweeted back “It’s high Anglican, baby! Get your butt down here!” I checked online, then texted my sister, Caroline, “OMG. St Thomas is having an Easter vigil tomorrow. We have to go! Robert Patrick said!” She texted back “What even is your life?” And also “Yes!”

That night I had nightmares that nobody would let me in the church…that grannies with submachine guns stopped me at the doors & shoved me into a white van & told me I wasn’t good enough to come back to Jesus. I came anyway.

It was magical. I was in love immediately. It had been so long since I had really been to church that I thought I had to introduce myself to everybody during the peace. I barely talked to anyone after, but couldn’t wait to come back. I arrived the next morning for Easter Sunday & cried my face off because I felt stupid for waiting so long. I felt at home, more at home than in my own home. I felt Christ’s presence from the altar & all around me & even in the woman next to me whom I haven’t seen since. I had the singular thought “This is my life now.” And it is!

God just roared & roared.

My sister & I enrolled in catechism & got confirmed. I came here whenever my health permitted. Sal & I came up with the Let’s Talk About series. I’ve gone into discernment to become a spiritual director. I have made the absolute most dearest, wonderful friends here whom I would actually die without & who push me to be happier, healthier, smarter, more loving & more peaceful. No, just kidding; all we do is MOAR STUFF. There are several of us here who would move in & just hold some kind of service 24/7 if we did not also have to eat & work & go to school.

People I love, some of whom legit would move into the church, one of whom symbolically did by going to seminary.

So that brings me to stewardship. So many people here do so many loving things for this community, sometimes just for the fun of it, but the end result is this holy, super weird family. 

Me & Art looking like a young Republican couple from the OC.

Volunteering as a stewardship representative & this year, God help you all, as a captain, means I get to speak to people I’ve never met, hear ideas I’ve had myself or never considered. This stewardship campaign alone has inspired inquiry into developing a regular evensong, & encouraging children & families to attend with education or children’s activities or all of the above! I keep saying I have no time and yet I want to make all of this happen!
 God just laughs & laughs.

Every year that I publish a book, I increase my stewardship pledge by 50%. I admit that this is partly to bribe God into increasing my sales, but it is also because when I hope I’ll get a little more, I want to give a little more. I will get even more involved here & one day be married here & baptize a child here (God willing), & when the UNR medical school is done poking at my remains for a semester, my ashes will come here. I want to be with everyone in these walls until the San Andreas fault sends this vivacious, sneering, desperate, gorgeous town northward to Alaska. I want to laugh with God at every timid witch who wonders if Jesus really wants her back, forever & ever, amen. I want to laugh when she finds she’s up to her eyeballs in food prep for receptions & trying to find a mic for the guest speaker & praying her bad knee will let her rise again after the Angelus. I want to be housed in this place until the world ends, so I’d best sell more books so I can give more with each passing year. I love St Thomas. You are St Thomas, so I love you. Thank you.”

My First #Novel, In Case You Were Sick of My Ramblings

cover by Jim Jamitis, who rocks

So I wrote a novel that you can buy by clicking on literally any of these hyperlinks. It is $2.99, which is the minimum price Amazon will allow me to charge for it, & it is not suitable for the following people:

  • Those under 18
  • My mother
  • Christopher from church 
  • Anybody who’s triggered by detailed accounts of the inside thoughts of a homicidal, oversexed narcissist
  • People who hate laughter

If you are none of the people above, you may purchase & read my first novel at will.

I am already halfway done with my second novel, which will be slightly more palatable for decent folk, particularly Christopher, as there are brief allusions to Common Brithonic (& an even briefer shout out to penguins). I’ll let you know when you can buy that one.

Until then, if you are not banned by the bullet points above, buy The Method.

Buttery Goodness

I have just had the honour of reading something so good, it was like having a plate of cookies all to myself, with a pot of tea, & The Sound of Music on the telly.

Not a lot of what we read these days is in any way comforting or nourishing. Much fiction (my own included) suffers from deep wounds, bleeding & festering with infected psychological fissures each chapter is meant to debride, but seldom does. Hell, this paragraph alone is a perfect example of that. 

And the stuff we see daily on social media is in some ways worse. Much of it has about as much flavour & substance as a rice cake, & worse, some of those rice cakes have fallen in the cat box. But we dust em off & eat em anyhow. We consume news, or what passes for it, although we are not really starved for it. We mindlessly eat whatever is served to us; social media is the stale bread basket in the chain restaurant of reading.

These delicious little morsels of writing I was sent were rich, sweet, & filling. The writer is an 85 year old friend, & it is my sincere hope that she keeps feeding me these warm, buttery morsels, because I’m pretty sure I need them now. It is my sincere hope that she is writing them down with the aim of sharing them with the world. We could all use some tender loving humour & whimsy.

Meanwhile I’ve written one book about a homicidal narcissistic sociopath, & I’m working on another, which although miles more delightful, also features as a villain a narcissistic sociopath. The second novel is far less bloody, however, & has kind & decent main characters on the whole.

My writing is not so much nourishing as it is bracing, maybe.

I hope that at 85, my wounds have been healed, & I am also able to provide melt-in-your-mouth dearness to my readers. Failing that, I hope my friend publishes so you can behold these wonders.

I am genuinely happy right now.

Sabu, Lord of Encino

I came home from work yesterday & found this on my doorstep. 

Not actually a 3rd world nation, just a weird angle.

One does not typically encounter what looked to be a pure bred Himalayan wandering the streets of Los Angeles, even in the valley. I emailed a cat rescue. They recommended I take him to a vet to be scanned, then they could call the owner of the microchip.
I took a bowl of water down to the beast, as it was 100 F, then made dinner & figured the owner would probably come home soon to find their beloved pet had escaped.

My roommate came home weirdly early for her & told me the cat had now moved up the steps toward the door. “It’s still out there?” “Yes.” I grabbed my keys & went to sit on the steps with the cat while my roommate emailed the HOA, asking if anyone was missing a very expensive cat.

As I sat on the steps, the beast hissed at me, but I gently held my hand toward him anyhow. He immediately rubbed his face on my hand & started purring. He was not mangy or very tangled, & I perceived a collar which meant he did indeed belong to someone. 

Just then, a neighbour I haven’t met pulled up & asked about the cat. “Is he yours?” I asked back. “No, but he is beautiful.” She got the number for her vet & called to see if they would scan the cat’s chip for free. They would. I asked her to watch the kitty while I got my cat carrier. It was now my mission to find this cat’s home.

Soon after I came outside, with my roommate following, I got the cat in the carrier with no fuss at all (bizarre). It was then that the door opened again & a guy popped his head out & said “Yep, that’s the cat.” I asked if this was his cat & he said his wife inherited him from her grandfather who had just died, & “Do you want it? It’s a $500 cat but if you want it you can have it.”

I said, “I’m sorry, did you just say you don’t want your cat?”

“We don’t really know what to do with it.” Then a car showed up & a woman & a small boy got out. I recognized the small boy as our neighbour down the hall.

The woman told me the cat’s name is Sabu, explained the story to me & said they were afraid the cat would scratch their baby (they have a toddler). I explained this was highly unlikely with a pure bred Himalayan, which she confirmed he is. She also fretted that he likes to sit on the couch, which is a sure sign they don’t know cats. “We have papers and everything, & the litter box & food. I can give you all that stuff. He has a lot of brushes, too. My grandfather brushed him every day.”

It didn’t look like he’d been brushed in a little while.

The man then asked the wife “Do you want to keep him now or no?” She said “Let the kid say goodbye” & I asked “You really don’t want the cat?” & my roommate, God bless her, said “We’ll take the cat. Do you have all his paperwork & health record?” And they said they did.

As you know, I’ve not been able to even think about getting a new cat since Persephone (19) & Neil (13, who had a stroke soon after she passed) died last year. But as my roommate pointed out “He found you.” So that was that.

The woman went to her apartment & we carried all Sabu’s stuff down to ours & she promised to get the paperwork to us when she found it. I let her know I was going to acclimate him in our bathroom so he could gradually get used to the house. She admitted they didn’t know a lot about cats. I explained that Himalayans are even stranger because they are not bred to be like “normal” cats. They are gentle, patient, good natured, cuddly, & cannot under any circumstances go outside. 

If abandoning a regular cat is like abandoning an 8 year old child, abandoning a Himalayan is like abandoning a 10 month old. They just want to be cuddled & cannot hunt. Their bodies aren’t even correctly built for hunting, jumping, or escaping. They are built to melt into laps.

Anyhow, she had left & I set up the litter box, food, & water in my bathroom. By now he had wet himself, & I could get a good look at how unkempt he was after a day outside.

Watchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

He was entirely uninterested in food & water, but oddly for a cat traumatized by two moves in as many weeks,
he wanted to be pet. So I pet him. Then I brushed him, & he wanted to be brushed. Then I gave him a couple treats, which he prefers to eat out of hand.

After a little brush & eye cleaning.

The bathroom does not get air at night, & he seemed to want to explore, so I let him wander into my bedroom after my roommate said goodnight to him & gave him belly rubs. He protested loudly about everything while looking at it, like “I wouldn’t put this here. What’s this for?” And he did go under the bed, but he traversed to the other side & emerged in less than 30 seconds. This was the most chill cat rehoming ever.

He did cry much of the night, though he did jump up on the bed, at one point even hugging my leg, but then would wander around & cry again. I pet him at 2:30, 3:15, 4 something, & then I lost count. I heard him use the litter box. I thanked God.

When I got up to shower, he seemed nearly nonplussed, & when I left the room to make breakfast, he wanted to come with. I didn’t want to do that when I was just leaving for work. He did not seem to want to be left alone.

I tried to leave work early, but that did not quite work out as planned. It didn’t matter; when I got in, he was sleeping peacefully under the bed. I left the door open, made & ate dinner, then came back to his spot under the bed with the bag of treats.

He eagerly followed me out to the living room, but I scooped him up so I could brush him & clean his eyes (Himalayans need a lot of maintenance). I sat him on the ottoman, brushed him down, cleaned his eyes, gave him treats, & let him explore. He wanted to be pet, so I did that first, & then he jumped down.

He was vaguely impressed with the living room, taking a leisurely stroll around the perimeter & returning to the bedroom. I decided to upload some photos, then sweep & mop the bathroom. He was using the litter box! I scooped it & swept, noting that he was finally grooming himself. I mopped & then dumped a basket of clean laundry on the bed to fold & put away.

Sabu immediately emerged from under the bed & inserted himself amongst my small piles to be folded. He rolled around & showed his belly like he’d been mine for years. I finished putting away the laundry & got on the bed with him, rubbing his belly & scratching the fluff around his ears. He purred & I got a toy to play with him, which in typical Himmy fashion bored him in about two minutes. 

So this is what he looks like now…

His paperwork says that his dame is Catzboutique Paper Doll & that his full name is Catzboutique Sabu. He is 9 years old & is basically a naked love Ewok.