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.

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.”

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.

My Song is Love Unknown

What a weekend.

I’ll start from the start, with many details omitted as they are the gentle, cheerful secrets of others. I’ll give you my take on things & make it up to you with a neologism you simply must appropriate.

Saturday began after a week of daily trips to the gym after 2 years of not going. So let us preface this with the simple fact that I was very sore. Sore is quite different from fibro pain, as it has no neurological component, & is therefore mostly endurable. But it is handy to know for the rest of this narrative. Many of you will relate.

Saturday consisted of purchasing snacks for a church reception, church cleaning in preparation for Holy Week, a well-intentioned attempt to review a very long chapter of Greek, the purchase of cheekily named wine for the church reception, & then a mad dash back home to get ready to see New Order with my dear friends, who got my ticket as a birthday present (March 28 is the exact date).

But before I could go to New Order, there was Palm Sunday vigil, for which I had promised snacks, & could not skip.

  
Latin mass + LASchola = bliss. But I’d had to go back to Encino to get tarted up for the New Order show, which presented a Latin Mass appropriateness issue (rectified by a black cardigan, I hope, though the glitter eyeshadow & cat eyes were in full effect).

I had to skip the reception for which snacks & wine had been bought to make it to pre-show drinks with my benefactors, who then benefacted drinks. My friends make me laugh & sometimes also drunk, but we were at a campus bar, so there was probably ever the slightest hope & dream of gin in my glass of tonic. I was able to walk & dance & drive just fine.

The show began & was marvelous, not least of which because they performed 2 Joy Division songs, & because I was with my friends, who seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I got home some time after midnight.

These are my Fitbit stats for the day: 

Fibromyalgia step goal recommendations are no more than 6k a day BUT I HAD TO DANCE DAMMIT

 

I rose at 7 & got going for rosary & Palm Sunday. Shockingly, I had never previously been to a Palm Sunday mass in my life, despite being a devoted parishioner of Saint Thomas for three years. It always seems to come when I am in bad flare or previously committed. 

Holy Week is intense. It is a week of pondering Christ’s sacrifice & it’s not unusual to shed a tear or two. Sometime during the offertory I began to lose it. I have no idea what snapped. I wasn’t in tremendous pain, we hadn’t started singing the communion hymn yet (more on that later), & I had held it together fine during the Passion gospel. But I looked up at the statue of Christ over our altar, covered in red fabric, & I lost containment.

By the time I got to the communion rail, I was fully weeping, but trying to be sly about it, which is hard when you’re snuffling. Father must have noticed, as he blessed me immediately after giving me the host & kissed my head & then I just full out sobbed like a small child pretty much forever.

OH GOD AND THEN WE SANG THIS

On a good day, the first five notes of this make my eyes glisten. By the middle of the second verse, I couldn’t sing. Well, I already couldn’t sing because I lost my voice at New Order, but I could not sing because I legit could not go on. You know that video where Celine Dion breaks down on stage after her husband & brother died?

So here’s what might be shocking for many of you. I was never this person. Crying in public? No. Admitting I cried in public? Unfathomable. Committing this information to the public realm? WHAT STOP YOU’RE ON ALL THE DRUGS

But here we are.

Now I’m going to do what you expect: rationalize.

Keeping in mind that I was gym sore, & that I’d slept less than 5 hours, & now add that I had not eaten since lunch the day before, I have decided that I was sadmished.

Sadmished: adj. crying uncontrollably out of fatigue & hunger, like some kind of grown ass baby

Root: sad + famished

You’ve heard of hangry, yes? That, but sad.

It’s also possible that I was moved by the Passion of Christ. Whatever. Feelings. 

So anyhow I was feeling so awful that I just wanted to go home & sob, but the parishioner who sponsored coffee hour kindly picked up a gluten free snack for me, so I had to stay, & then miraculously there was Hawaiian Punch, & Ray came over & asked me about New Order, & we met a super enthusiastic Latvian, & before I knew it I was going to brunch.

And that was magnificent. We went to Bossa Nova on Sunset & had a grand old time, plus Christopher picked out my bridal march, which is this. 

Now I am going to die until tomorrow. After this load of laundry.

Constant Unending Endearing Failure

 

Did I lock the car?

 
This morning I felt a little like Sister Maria, running late to rosary in shoes a size too big, breaking my rosary beads in my hair, & otherwise failing spectacularly at basic adult behaviour. My brain has been Very Very Bad all this week, thanks to rapid changes in weather, which of course means drastic changes in barometric pressure. If you have migraines or a bad joint, you know what I mean.

I am also fairly certain I didn’t lock my car in the church parking lot. Thankfully, nobody seems to have wanted anything out of a banged up Sonata.

Oh! And that’s just reminded me that I ought to check the mail for the insurance cheque. Bloody hell. I’m in my nightgown, so I’ll go tomorrow. If I remember.

Chronic neurological issues are very strange. From your perspective, I am probably a somewhat dotty, awkward person who says inappropriate things at the worst times & seems like a wobbly, fidgety thing at others. Inside my own head, I am screaming “NO. Stop that,” in much the same way a mother leaps in seeming slow motion from across the room when she sees her toddler start to pull a wedding cake on to the floor.

My Outward Brain horrifies my Internal Brain more than it horrifies you. Believe me.

This is why sometimes I just don’t talk. 

I have fairly good control over my behaviour, which is a relief. You will not catch me being intentionally unkind, unless I am tweeting about today’s half time show. But really, it was asking for it.

You won’t catch me being unpleasant to retail persons or wait staff. You won’t see me walk past someone in need unless I am heading with haste to another person in more need. Or I don’t have any money on me.

But I also don’t work quite right, like there’s a processor out of sync, or someone spilled soda on my speech regulation. It’s been affecting my singing, too, which is depressing. I have to think so hard to speak correctly sometimes, to not choke on myself.

As the weather gets more stable, this will be less of an issue. I’ll stop having headaches, & auras, & whatever.

I used to be relatively well spoken. Somewhere along the way, that got harder, & people seem to have a harder time warming up to me now. I write better than I talk. I can stop things from happening.

Today I also thought I was having one of my personal earthquakes (those are weird), but it was just a wobbly bench. 

I also forgot (or did I ever know?) that Compline was tonight, & did not park on the street so I could leave again. We have tandem parking, because: Los Angeles. So I was trapped at home.

But I got to watch Brit deliver her first sermon, & it was perfect. I agree that Saint Peter sounds like an overzealous undergrad. I cried a little. After she spoke, I envisioned the world from my cats’ perspective when they were sick. There was nothing in her sermon about that; I was just putting myself in a small, speechless creature’s place.

I am overbooked now through April. I hope I get more normalish again. It is awful watching yourself suck at things you know you can do. You know when you’re watching Jeopardy & you’re screaming at the screen “WHO IS VIKTOR FRANKL!!! DUH!”? My own brain is screaming at itself like that clueless Jeopardy contestant.

And now I have agreed to (re)learn ancient Greek with some friends. I think it will be a lot of fun. I hope I am not a disaster. And if I am a disaster, I hope I am endearing rather than hopeless.