Write In Between

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Confession

OK, as a mom, I've never been a big fan of Halloween.

I'm not a crafty mom, so a home-made costume better be simple and inexpensive. But I am a mom who proudly snaps photographs and displays any dress-up moments, not just on Oct 31st, but throughout the year --whether it be a new school uniform, a scout uniform, a team uniform, a dance recital costume or a dress or tux for a prom.

I'm not a maker of candied apples or home-made chocolates, but I am a chocoholic who delights in making sure our goodie pantry is well-stocked with the family favorites when special occasions come around.

I'm not a mom who feels comfortable letting my child knock on a stranger's door for "trick or treat." In fact, I have never done so--"only the neighbors we know." But I am a mom whose door is open to others, and countless years I have met children of neighbors whom I've never met.

I'm not a happy mom as I witness our culture's descent into glorifying the gory, the base, the crude, the rude, the criminal, the occultic or the somewhat pornographic costumes and images that are "given a pass" during the Halloween celebration, all in the name of "fun" and "getting into the spirit" of it. But I am a mom who welcomes the Catholic notions of All Saints and All Souls Days, and I do believe that the Holy Spirit longs for us to have fun and recreate with one another, enjoying the sweetness of the harvest season.

So, that's about it. A few grips about Halloween, it true. But in our house, we keep it simple, and decorate with a few pumpkins, and increase the candy supply.

Honestly, we pump up the volume on holiday celebrations when it comes to Christmas and Easter. Those are the highlights of the year for us, as well as family birthdays and milestone moments like sacraments or graduations. Those have enduring value to us, and those get our full attention down to the smallest detail. And the kids notice where, and on what, we put emphasis on.

Halloween is just another blip on the radar screen. Here today, gone tomorrow.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Giving up "my plans"

Today is one of those days that I didn't plan on, and I'm submitting "my plan" to the plan that is unfolding. "My day" was to start with exercise, breakfast, and and my weekly adoration hour. Then off to study for my soon-coming midterm exam. Oh yeah, meanwhile, the plumbing crew would be at the house to install the new oil burner. So, no heat, no hot water.

Instead, I have a child home sick that needed a pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy, and a stay-home day. That being said, the front part of my day is gone, and now, with the heat off, I am building a fire in the fireplace to keep us warm. I have even put a sweater on our Boston Terrier who is quite cold and going nervously-crazy with the clanging of pipes and banging of the ongoing installation.

I often have to remind myself that this is the life I've chosen: to be flexible, to be caring, to be "at-home" for my family. But, honestly, how often do I "forget" that "my list" of things to do, is often a "suggestion" of how the day "should" go. In a small way, it is a "dying to self", and I realize how, even after so many years, I still am selfish enough to resist wanting to yield my own plans to the needs of my loved ones.

So, I'm kindling the fire, guiding my daughter in making bread for a school project, consoling the neurotic pooch, and will, eventually, sit down to pray and journal (maybe next to the fire?) and get the studying done... All in good time.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dedicated to my favorite Woman and favorite women

My tribute to Mary and the Rosary is featured in the "Today" column at Catholic Exchange.

Read it here: http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=2&art_id=30469&sec_id=#section58658

Love to all you moms from MMOP who've prayed with me and for me over the years!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Allergic Reaction

Anticipating my anniversary celebration, I eagerly sat in my hair stylist's chair, ready to let her work her magic with my gray hairs. Her suggestion of trying a lower-cost semi-permanent color instead of my "usual" color met with my economic approval. So, I went home happy, both with my new, improved short-over-the-ear hair and my savings.

Little did I know that a day later, when I washed my hair after trying my new "color processing, " that I'd have itchy ears. Not that noticeable, but still itchy on and off. Oh well, towel off and get dressed for my anniversary date with hubby.

Later that evening, as the itchiness continued, I couldn't wait to take off the earrings I had on after our lovely night on the town. I looked into the mirror over the sink and understood why. My ear lobes were red and swollen, and there was a slight swelling over my eye lids as well! Now, I had just spent several hours staring across the table from my husband as we enjoyed our meal at a Boston restaurant... He didn't notice a thing! I called him over to have a look at my ears--until I pointed it out, he hadn't noticed my red, mishapen lobes. It's moments like this that a woman doesn't know if her husband is so enchanted with her that subtle details like an emerging allergic reaction escape his gaze, or just the opposite--that he doesn't really notice me at all! (Which would be cause for an allergic reaction of a different kind.) Since it was our anniversary, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and he assured me that I looked fine to be out in public. It was also fortunate that my seasoned-business-traveling man keeps Benadryl in his shave kit.

Three days later, running low on Benadryl, I decided my slow recovery from the hair product debacle did not compliment my short, ears-showing haircut. I stopped into my local doctor's walk-in clinic and got checked out.

To my surprise this is a common occurrence in women. I was prescribed a stronger medication and advised to avoid the allergen in the future. You can be sure I will.

But the question remains, what am I to do with my "allergy" to gray hair?

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Happy Anniversary!

At 22, I said "I Do" and I'd do it all again.
Pat and Bob-- 23 years and still counting.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

There is always a reason to be on your knees

This week I have spoken with different relatives and friends, all with deep, troubling, prayer needs.

One had a heavy heart because someone they love is sick. Another is awaiting medical test results. Still another, is supporting an anguished, grieving friend. Then there are people who sense an employment layoff is about to happen, and still others, for whom they have yet to recover from a job loss of more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, as we reel from the horrors of hurricanes and earthquakes in the news, there is serious local flooding here in Massachusetts, and more threatened still with the predicted heavy rains forecasted for the next week.

Throw in a mother whose heartburn is stress-induced, and who is, hormonally, slightly out of kilter, minus a husband "missing in action" due to business travel, add in occasional bouts of teenager angst, (not to mention a young dog who is currently in a "steal and shred" phase,) and you have all the makings for a bad movie in my house. My mother told me there would be days like these -- but weeks? It makes one weak!

It all comes down to this: every day, there is always a reason to be on your knees. I truly believe that intercession, praying intentionally for others and ourselves, is a holy work.

And just when I think my bad-news-o-meter is reaching overload, when my overwhelming desire is to just be underwhelmed, something comes to my rescue. Some intangible form of encouragement surprises me with its restorative value. It's usually something I least expected, like the sun's appearance after a week of rain, or a cup of tea with a good friend, or a successful project that I complete that let's me say, "Good job, now, take a break!" In a word, somehow I feel the love of God break through... from nature, from others, even from within myself. Like its own answer to my heart's needs.

Just yesterday, I read Psalm 124:

Our help is in the name of the Lord.

We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers' snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.

Our help is in the name of the Lord
who made heaven and earth.

Thanks for the rescue, Lord! For when I am touched by your loving reminders of our relationship, I can persevere in prayer, and be freed for the work you give to me. Amen.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Victory Lap -- brought to you as a community service

A victory lap—that’s the only way I could describe it. When the victor, the winner of the race takes an extra lap around the track to celebrate with the fans the success of the moment. A moment in time: sometimes captured on film. Often documented in print. Always carved in the heart and memory of the champion.

On October 4, 1997, exactly 17 months since my discovery of a cancerous lump in my breast, I took my victory lap around a 5.7 mile course that looped the picturesque Charles River in Boston. I joined thousands of others in the “Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk.”

I intended to participate for lofty reasons: raising money for the American Cancer Society—for research so desperately needed, and to educate the public about breast cancer. As the event drew closer, I realize that my involvement was on a deeper level.

This was an important event in my cancer history. I was walking to celebrate my first year cancer-free since my surgery. Friends and family sent me donations to sponsor my walk. A few even sent notes expressing their gratitude for my good health. My pledges totaled $400.

I made plans to walk with J. She has the unfortunate place in my life as being the next person I knew after me to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She had her surgery just six weeks after mine. We were both in our mid-thirties, both had children in grade school, and both had mastectomies. Mine on the right, hers on the left. When we first went through this we joked that if we stood next to each other, we would have a matched pair! There’s an old war expression about the friendships that are formed in foxholes. J is one of those friends. We laugh and call ourselves bosom buddies.

Like me, J was pumped up to walk in Boston as she neared her first anniversary cancer-free. We wore hand-made “survivor” t-shirts with our names and cancer anniversaries emblazoned on them. “Survivor” is cancer-speak for living beyond our treatment of cancer. At the time we had not passed the five-year milestone that the medical journals use to be considered technically “cured.” For me, I was alive and I was walking. That was good enough for me. Every day that I woke up and lived it to the full was another day that I had victory over cancer. Any day that I felt sorry for myself, or was troubled by cancer news accounts, or worried about upcoming doctor’s appointments, the cancer would win. Fortunately, I had more “alive” days and less “cancer” days as I went along.

That is why the Walk was a victory lap.

That first year, I came to Boston to celebrate with a few friends besides J: my husband Bob and my dear friend Anne. Both have been on the front lines cheering me on through my cancer battles. Of course J walked and had her supporters too. These folks were a source of encouragement and camaraderie for every mile.

The registration area at the start of the Walk was like an outdoor festival—tents, balloons, live music and food. There was also rain. It never dampened anyone’s spirits given that thousands of people showed up. We checked in and gave our donations. We placed names on pink ribbons and hung them on a tree in memorial to those we personally knew who had died of this disease. It was a misty moment that had nothing to do with the rainfall.

The emotion of it all stuck in my throat. We started the Walk under an archway of white balloons. I held Bob’s always-warm hand and linked my arm through Anne’s. In a few minutes, it was easier to breath more freely and drink in the victorious nature of my walk. The rain ended after the first mile. The humidity kept my clothes damp, but not my spirit. We walked along the river’s edge. I could glance up and down the river, a mile in each direction, and see thousands of energetic people in a steady, pulsing march as far as my eye could see. What a wonderful view: some many people dedicated to cancer research. What a sobering reality: everyone walking probably did so because they knew someone with the disease or was fighting it themselves. I could not help noticing many groups of walkers in matching t-shirts bearing names, faces and dates of women who had died…walkers who walked “in memory of…”

We came down to the final minutes of the Walk. I was proud of our dedicated troupe. No complaining on their parts. A rambunctious, noisy, crowd of people were cheering and clapping for the walkers crossing the finish line, reminiscent in my mind of the end marker of the Boston Marathon. Walkers completed their walk under a canopy of pink balloons. Pink rainbow in sight, I grabbed J’s arm in a spontaneous move, and together we sprinted the final yards to the end. She knew. It was our moment, individually and collectively. Big hugs and teary smiles. No paparazzi took pictures, no fans rushed the course, no post-race interviews. Just a few close friends and a husband who knew that each woman came to do this on her own… to claim the success of the moment… to have suffered great losses and still have the courage to run the race…

I never considered myself a champion before. But now, that is what is carved in my heart and mind.


It’s been eight years since I penned those words to recall my first walk for the American Cancer Society. I have done so every year since 1997, including joining 40,000 walkers this past Sunday in Boston. I have personally raised thousands of dollars with the help of very generous supporters. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. You can still make a donation to help save lives through research and early detection. Make a donation today by clicking on
http://www.cancer.org/. Do it today, and ask all the women that you love in your life to do breast self-exams and get an annual mammogram after age 40.

© 2005 Patricia W. Gohn

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

A-blogging we will go...

I want to bid a warm welcome to those of you who have found this blog via an email notice or another source, and you actually took the time to find my corner of cyberspace. This is a new adventure and I'm glad you can be part of it. Feel free to read through and send your comments along. Kind, thoughtful criticism will be welcome by this neophyte blogger.

I am hoping to post with some regularity. Really, this is just another avenue for me to keep flexing the writing muscle. It's also a good way to catalog some of my recent work... look for the Hearticles link in the sidebar.

You might even find a blog like this to be "conversational," and I would welcome that too. Especially as we might exchange thoughts and ideas pertaining to living out our Catholic faith and identity in everyday life. That's kind of the hallmark of what I like most to write about.

A few people I know (including my husband) have never even visited a blog before! (He and I are the tail-end of the boomer generation, so we are used to catching the backs of the waves, or missing the wave altogether.) But, maybe we can all learn something new, and before you know it, you could be out there with your own blog! So far, I've only barely conquered Blogging 101, but I'm ready for more! There are fancier blogs out there to be sure, but this one is free to use and as this is my first foray a-blogging, I'm way too cheap to pay for the bells and whistles. (Maybe if I get a book deal someday...)

So, look around, click on the links, send me your feedback, and then check back once in a while.

Step inside, and be my guest.

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This article serves are a good introduction to this blog. It appeared earlier this year in CatholicMom.com.

Ever get a case of the “betweens?” You might recognize the symptoms: restlessness with what is, impatience with your life’s timetable, questioning your last move, and wondering what’s next. It’s a discontent that usually has us looking way past our current circumstances, vainly wishing for different ones, and missing out on the blessing of the now. Akin to the “if-onlys,” a short-lived malady of pre-teens and teenagers alike, the “betweens” are usually found among the adult population, lasting anywhere from weeks to years.

This very moment, I am between jobs, between starting and finishing a Masters degree, between child-bearing and menopause, between parenting adolescents and young adults, between medical check-ups, between a root canal and a permanent crown, between pain and exercise, between birthdays, between hair-color appointments, and hopefully, between knowing-loving-serving Christ on this earth and living with him in heaven.

While I am living much of my life in-between right now, the only time I suffer the effects of the betweens is when I lose my faith perspective, also known as The Big Picture. The betweens sneak up on me and catch me with my immunity down. I listen more to cultural myths around me, rather than to the Word of God in my life.

Honestly, I don’t always like being in-between. I selfishly want to be more, be moved, be great, be busy, be successful, be “somebody,” be attractive, be happy, be all I can be, be entertained, be cool, be you-fill-in-blank. These thoughts diminish my self-worth and value. That’s when I get a case of the betweens.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of my struggles with the betweens. My friend quit her “dream job”—one that she was well suited for and well compensated for—without having another job lined up. At the time it was clear that she left for well-thought-out and noble reasons. Now in the weeks after her resignation, she is clearly in-between, and valiantly trying to resist coming down with the betweens. Sometimes God moves us to the in-between for his purposes that are not readily clear.

My experience is similar. I was strictly a stay-at-home mom for 12 beautiful-wonderful-busy years. Then I worked part-time at my own “dream job” for 4 beautiful-wonderful-busier years. Then, after a time of prayerful discernment, I left my position and came “back home.” I confidently considered the first year “back at home” a sabbatical. The second year, I began to feel the need to justify my decision to others when asked about it. I was developing a clear case of the betweens. I had taken my eyes off The Big Picture.

Two insights have helped me find a cure to my betweens-thinking. They haven’t moved me out of the between circumstances that I am in, but they have allowed me to embrace the time and value the place that I call in-between.

The first was a simple metaphor using grammar: between is a preposition, and an adverb. It’s a word that expresses a relationship with another word. Similarly, as a spiritual metaphor, a between time in my life can be a time of expressing a relationship with another Word—Jesus—and allowing him to express that relationship with me. In short, in-betweens times can be full of great blessing and renewal.

Here’s another angle: the first two letters of “between” are the word “be.” It’s a verb, an “action” word located within an adverb. Looking at this spiritually, if I examine my life, I can see that the in-between can be actively passive. There is something comforting, yet dynamic about God’s call to “be.” God be can quite active during this less-active period. Psalm 46:10 reminds me to “Be still and know that I am God.” God has a purpose for every time or season even when I slow down, take a break, or stop. This brings new meaning to my between-ness. If God has called me to this between time, then I am to be at peace until his timing proves otherwise. Spiritually speaking, for me, the struggle boils down to the need “to be” outweighing the need “to do.”

The second insight is this: Jesus is profoundly present in between-ness. Scripture shows the covenant between God and us is Jesus. His incarnation whereby “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”(John 1: 14) brought communion between God and us, and between heaven and earth. His cross was the price between our sinfulness and our redemption. The path between this life to the next is Jesus.

Finding Jesus within my in-betweens means I don’t have to justify my existence. He does that for me. Every morning when I open my eyes, take my next breath, and put my feet on the floor, he justifies my existence. He permits it. He ordains it. Psalm 139: 16 says “All the days ordained for me are written in your book before one of them came to be.” This great loving God, whose sovereignty, friendship and holiness I value above all, ordained these days for me. He justified my being here – between all the circumstances of my life.

God knew there would be days when I was not “productive” in the eyes of the world, and yet I am still precious to him. The dignity of being means that my life is precious right now, just as it is. Just to be is holy. This dignity elevates all human life, in all of its dimensions.

And so I must choose to live in the freedom of that understanding, not waiting for the next step, the next job, the next phase, the next year, the next you-name-it. Its hard to practice, but submitting my mind and will to it allows me to make peace with the yet unknown, and not to overly anticipate it… to live in the abiding knowledge that Jesus is in between now and then.

©2005 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Here we go into the bloggersphere...now what?

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