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People are attacking Social Security Insurance (SSI) as though the retirees who receive checks are somehow draining the system. Not so, those of us who are RETIRED (that is retired from a JOB) have paid dearly (as did our EMPLOYERS) for the privilege of receiving monthly checks from Social Security. The people who are draining the system are the ones receiving benefits for NOT working because of “disabilities” or food stamps because they can make more money NOT working. I have seen young men on street corners with signs asking for money because they are hungry while in the same neighborhood I have seen “Now Hiring” signs. Where does the responsibility begin and end? I am not talking about those in abject poverty who are trying to make a go of it and just need a helping hand for a while. I’m talking about career freeloaders who are milking the system for all they can get, while retirees are facing no COL increases and increased deductions for Medicare coverage, which we also paid for in our working years. We worked in areas where we saw first hand the misuse and totally fraudulent use of EBT cards, government handouts, free this, and free that. It disgusted us then because WE were the ones paying for their livelihood and trying to make ends meet with what we had left over from our taxes.  Our government has added people receiving SSI checks, be it welfare, disability, or whatever to the program that we as workers paid into for all our working lives.  These people are reaping the benefits of our generosity, while draining the system of money meant for the retirement of working people.  President Johnson cause this debacle when he transferred SSI to the general welfare fund.  I’m not condemning people who genuinely need a helping hand…for a while.  I’m addressing the career freeloaders who know how to play the system.  How else could persons wearing diamonds, driving Lexus and purchasing exotic foods be using EBT cards and ADC.  Having more children in order to add more income to their household by the increased money given for dependent children is fraud too.  What is our government doing to the very citizens who have striven to take care of themselves and NOT be a burden to society.  Let’s get serious about transforming this system to something workable.

The first step the government needs to take is to audit all those on welfare to see if they REALLY qualify and then if they don’t, cut them off. If the present administration has been so successful in increasing jobs, then why are so many more on welfare than ever before? If Obamacare is so successful, why are so many people unable to cover the deductible on that wonderful health insurance and choose not to have coverage. Seems to me that those who were responsible (and probably insurance poor) are the ones getting hit harder with higher payments.

The problem we have is that excessive wasteful spending has been going on in our government for too many years. The country is living on borrowed money and time. I have not seen any attempt by those in office ANYWHERE to try to get our spending back in line. I know my husband and I have to watch every penny to be able to pay our bills on time and not overspend. That should be the norm with our government too. It’s NOT their money they are spending on ridiculous programs or wasting on fraudulent handouts, it’s OURS!

In light of the past horrible massacre of innocents in Orlando Florida, many people have decided to take one side or the other.  I’m not sure there are two sides to this ongoing story.  I would think we are all one people with different ideas about religion, politics, sexuality, family, race, and on and on.  My mantra has always been,”we are all working towards the same place or end or wherever, just taking different paths to get there.”  Right or wrong, it’s what works for me.

We have all made judgments about certain individuals which are truly not any of our business.  Why do we insist on making everyone the same?  My thoughts on the LGBTQ situation (which shouldn’t be a “situation” at all) is that we need to stay out of other people’s bedrooms.  God made everyone who they are and who are we to question God’s plan?  People are who they are.  If those of another persuasion want to enjoy themselves in a club, then they have that right.  I haven’t heard of any murders occurring in a strip joint, which definitely exudes sexual exploitation.  How smarmy is it to have naked/half-naked women slithering up and down a pole for the enjoyment of those perverted individuals who think that this is acceptable behavior for anyone?

Using the Bible to justify actions against those whom we think are “different” is no better than Muslims who have condemned Christians to Jihad.  The fact that this murderer was possibly Muslim and a member of ISIS is not the only aspect of this crime that should offend us.  Those of us who are Christians, non-Christians, Jews, Catholic, Baptist, Protestant – all denominations should uphold the rights of all to be who they are.  We all bleed the same.  Why does different sexual preference cause such an outcry among people of faith?  My thought is that their faith is not true.  The ten commandments should be the basis of faith, not the man-made declarations of religious organizations.  The two greatest commandments are:  “Love the Lord with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.”  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

I described in Part 1 how my working for the Catholic Church came about and what happened during part of the time that I worked for my diocese.  I would like to continue this message in part to exorcise my thoughts and fears, ramifications and problems and dependencies that these experiences have wrought in my life in the past 20 years.

As much as I prided myself on the fact that I was a strong woman and was able to cope with all of this; I foolishly believed that I could handle it and be none the worse for wear.  I was wrong.  My children were both in college by then.  I was given more and more responsibility in my job, to the point that I was drowning.  However, it was expected that the work get done even while we had no pastor, no leader.  In fact, we didn’t have a leader before, but we were duped and stupid to believe that it was alright to be a difficult person, a priest who made mincemeat out of usually strong individuals by his condescending attitude.

While the diocese was trying to get past this debacle…sending Father for “help”, dealing with the persistent press, continuing to squeeze money out of the parishioners, pacifying the laity, the parish staff was floundering.  We were successful in doing our jobs well, making sure everything ran like clockwork and all that entailed.  I don’t know about the rest of the staff, but I, personally, was having a very hard time dealing with the stress of the situation.  My whole life as a Catholic woman was in turmoil…and why wouldn’t it be?  I was baptized a Catholic as an infant, went to a Catholic grade school, high school, and college.  I taught in a Catholic school after graduation.  I met and married a good Catholic man from a good Catholic family.  We had raised our children as Catholics, schools, church, sacraments, the whole bit.  I bought into it as did my whole family.  We gave as much as we could to the church coffers, were faithful in attending services, followed the teachings of the priests, went to confession and Holy Communion regularly.  Now, I didn’t know what or whom to believe anymore.

The attitude of most Catholics was that the priests are only human.  The Church is the entity which brings us closer to Jesus and through our works of mercy, caring for those less fortunate and living the faith.  The Church is what we should believe in.  Their teachings and laws should be our guidelines.  We should pray for those individuals who have been led astray, pity them and have compassion.  I didn’t buy that for a minute.  My faith in the church hierarchy, the clergy, the religious life, the sacraments, my whole being was in question.  The only support I received from the diocese was constant admonitions to “keep my mouth shut”.  That did NOT help me.

I started drinking heavily every evening just to mistakenly self-medicate my stress and depressions away.  I was frightened that my children had perhaps been victims of this, to me, strange priestly phenomenon.  I began to question why I believed so strongly in my Church.  I began to question everything about it.  I read books about past popes.  I read books about the papacy’s actions or non-actions in World War II, during the holocaust.  I questioned the laws of the church above and beyond the ten commandments…why should I follow those man-made laws.  I questioned the superstitions that surrounded the liturgy, candles, holy water, all these things that had seemed to be important in our daily practice of our faith.  I didn’t come away from my search with any satisfaction.  I stopped going to confession.  Why would I want to tell my paltry offences to a priest, who was no better at sinning than I was, when I could go straight to God and beg forgiveness?  Why would saying three Hail Mary’s keep me from going to hell?  I still struggle with these things to this day.

We thought that when we were assigned two new priests, a pastor and an associate that our troubles would be dealt with.  At the beginning, this being six months after our pastor had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison for a very short time (too short a time for my way of thinking – a little slap on the wrist), we thought things were going to be great again.  We had a parish mission that was so emotionally healing that we all felt that all would be well.  The parish council made changes that all welcomed, parishioners were coming back, money was flowing into the coffers again.  People were smiling and happy again.

My workload increased more and more.  I was doing the work of two or three people and it was telling on me.  One day, when the pastor assigned me yet another task, I put my foot down.  I said, “NO, I will NOT do one more thing.  Fire me if you want to, but I am sticking to my guns.”  He backed down.  I was still drinking more than I should, still stressed.  We hired more staff, began more programs for the parishioners, worked harder than ever.

We began to notice that our pastor seemed to be extremely depressed.  He was not coming into the office much,  not keeping appointments, seemingly not caring.  He and the associate were also treading close to being sexually harassing of the female staff members, so much so that it was becoming a very uncomfortable environment.  No one wanted to say anything because everything else seemed to be running smoothly.  Then it hit the fan.

Our pastor went to a facility to help overcome his depression which left our associate pastor in charge.  It wasn’t long before more unacceptable things were taking place.  I was in charge of accounts receivable and keeping track of petty cash.  I began missing money.  I couldn’t account for the losses.  Someone was tampering with the cash box.  It could never be proven, but I had my suspicions and some amount of proof.  Of course, nothing ever came of that either.

Then I was informed by someone involved that our associate pastor was accused of being sexually active with some women in the parish and some from other parishes.  It was a case of stalking those women whom he thought were vulnerable, either because of a family situation or an emotional need, following them and pretending a coincidental meeting.  A good friend of mine finally came forward, met with me and told me of the situation in which she found herself.  She decided that he needed to be stopped and went to the bishop.  The associate was sent away for “help”.  I was totally devastated by this of events.  I had really like this person and counted him as a friend…some friend!  Again, I received daily admonitions from the diocesan hierarchy to “Keep your mouth closed.  Your job is at stake.”

At this point in our lives, my husband had just lost his job, we still had a child in college, we needed the medical insurance.  I could NOT quit this job at this time although I knew that I was not able to handle the stress at all.  I then had to begin taking anti-depressants to cope with my life at this point.  The diocese offered counseling and I accepted.  I was in counseling for two years until it was determined that I was better.  As soon as my husband got another job, I quit.  At that point I went into a deep depression, stayed in bed all day, drank every evening, simply did NOT care about anything.  I went back to counseling for another two years.  My poor husband did not know what to do with me.  Outside our home, I went about being what passed for normal.  I still attended church weekly, but was not involved in any activities other than that.  My husband is a very devout Catholic.  He and I have totally different attitudes about our faith and the role the Catholic Church should play in our lives since this happened.  I have told him that just because I don’t go to confession, believe in actions that I deem as superstition, and other similar things,   doesn’t mean that I don’t have faith.

My faith is real to me.  I love Jesus and I try to be a good person.  I go to Mass weekly, sing in the choir, help out with the children’s choir and the music ministry.  I believe in the Mass.  I get my spiritual nourishment from my faith community.  By that, I mean that I receive so much from my friends at church, and in the choir.  They and my dear friends keep me grounded.  I may not be overtly Catholic anymore, but I do believe in the goodness of God and have a very deep faith that He is there for me always.  I have experienced cancer and other difficulties that I would not have survived had I not believed in God.  I think there is a big difference in being of the Catholic faith and part of the institution itself.  I think Jesus is not happy with the way our church leaders are heading.  I think that if we are to gain heaven, each person needs to be strong in his own faith and be open spiritually to God…to love God above all and to love our fellow man and treat them as we would want to be treated.  I don’t think there is any thing more that anyone can do to gain eternal life.

By the way, my drinking is under control.  My husband and I are happily retired.  He spends quite a bit of time working for the church in one capacity or another.  I pick and choose those things which bring me joy and help me to be part of my parish community.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about people.  It’s not about church laws, bishops, priests, religious superstitions, money, fame, or recognition.  It’s about what exists between you and God.  He knows you, and will be there for you always.

 

I am feeling very conflicted today.  Sometimes life throws something at you that you just cannot overcome.  That happened to me almost 20 years ago and I have not really been able to put it past me.  Oh, I forget about it for a time and then something happens to bring it all back.

My husband and I watched the movie, Spotlight, last night.  It won the Best Picture Award this year (2016).  I can understand why.  It was superbly done and quite riveting.  I’m not sure that everyone would appreciate the theme as I did, but then again when you live in the midst of something like that, it’s hard to let it go.

This movie tells about the Boston Globe’s investigative unit, Spotlight, delving into the clergy sexual abuse scandal in 2002.  As a cradle Catholic, I found this most sickening,  not only because of the horror itself, but because the Catholic Church covered up this parade of pedophile priests.  The sheer number of abusers who had been protected by the church hierarchy was astonishing to me, let alone how many youngsters were involved.  Shame on them!

I worked for my diocese in one capacity or another for over seventeen years.  I started out at a teacher for five years.  Then when my children were older, after working at a couple of part-time jobs, I applied for the position of parish secretary in my home parish.  I had never done secretarial work before, but found that I loved the work and enjoyed the challenge of something new every day.  I also loved the parishioners…well, most of them…and thought that I was doing something for my church.  I really didn’t make much money and I worked very hard.  I was determined to do my very best.

My boss was the pastor.  He was not a very likable person when you got to know him, or even if you didn’t know him very well.  He was caustic, demeaning, demanding, narcissistic, and I could use more descriptions, but I think you get the gist.  I was scared of him.  He expected absolute obedience and was not in the least a patient man.  He was so tight that I had to use a paper clip to get the copier to work, and it’s a wonder I didn’t fry myself in the bargain.  One time, I actually burned up the computer mouse and I was afraid to tell him that I needed to purchase a new one, so the facilities manager snuck out to buy one so that I could continue my work for the day.

I went home for lunch every day and to my husband’s dismay, found myself crying frequently because I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to work.  We didn’t have health insurance except for what I had through the diocese and so I thought that I really couldn’t quit.  We had two kids high school and college age during my time there and we needed all the monetary help we could get.  After three years of working for this man, things got very tense.  All of a sudden, he stopped speaking to me…even to answer any question I might ask about work or anything.  The deacon remarked that he was probably trying to get rid of me and since he prided himself on never having fired anyone, was trying to get me to quit.  Well, I was just stubborn enough that I was not about to do that.  I determined that he would have to suck it up and fire me if he wanted to get rid of me.  This situation went on for quite a while and I must admit the stress was beginning to tell on me.  Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, something happened to take care of the situation, but not in a way that was comforting to anyone.

One afternooon I answered the parish office door to some gentlemen who insisted on seeing my boss.  Now, he never allowed me to make appointments for him, or put calls directly through to him.  He would always call someone back after I took messages.  I told these gentlemen that I was sorry, but that Father would not see anyone who just walked in without an appointment.  They insisted, I resisted.  This went on for a minute or two and then they flashed badges and literally backed me up into the office hall.  Father came out of his office to see what was going on and the officers and he went back into his office.  They met for over an hour and then went up to his residence which was on the second floor of the parish office.  My curiosity was killing me.  I thought that perhaps one of our students or a parishioner had gotten into some trouble or something.

Unbeknownst to anyone else, I had previously had a meeting with a prospective employer and was scheduled to have a second interview the next day.  I had finally decided that I could take no more of the stress that was so heavy in the office.  That same night, one of the other employees saw Father leaving his residence with his clothing.  It was as though he was sneaking away.  Not only that, but he was accompanied by another member of the clergy.  We had no idea what was going on.  The next week the bishop came to speak with the staff.  He never indicated what the problem was, only that Father would not be back.  He warned us to keep our mouths shut.  I wondered, shut about what??  Shame on them!

It hit the paper the next week.  Father had been arrested for receiving child pornography in the mail.  No one, that I know of, had been aware that the Feds and Postal Inspectors had been watching this man for months in connection with a nation-wide sting.

I decided to stay with my job then because my reason for leaving was finally gone and I thought I would be needed in my parish to help keep things going.  We waited for over six months for the diocese to appoint a new pastor.  In the meantime, our parish of over 1500 families was being kept going by me (the secretary), the deacon, the Director of Religious Education, the facilities manager, and the principal of the school.  It was a horrible time.  The press was calling every day trying to glean any information out of us they could.  The vicar general was calling as the bishop’s representative telling us to keep quiet and not talk to anyone about anything.  The parishioners were calling, trying to find out what we knew and where Father was.  We couldn’t tell them anything because we didn’t know anything.  I was a wreck.

The sad part was that even after it all came out about what his activities were, some parishioners were upset and angry with not only him for engaging in this perverted activity, but also with the press for bringing it to light.  It was as if they WANTED the church to hush this up so that their sainted institution would not be harmed.  It was truly a troubling time for the parish staff and the parish as a whole. No one knew exactly what he had done; some of us feared that he had physically molested young children from the parish.  The sad thing is, as bad as that would have been, it was no less horrific that because of his perversion, he caused children to be abused SOMEWHERE in order to create the pornographic films which he enjoyed.  If he thought that it was a victim-less crime, he was sadly mistaken.  Shame on him!

I was appalled at the number of people who thought that the newspaper was wrong in printing the story, that there was a vendetta against the Catholic Church, and that our church hierarchy was right in covering up such things.  Of course, this happened earlier than when the story appeared in the Boston Globe.  I think the activities of these priests and nuns was just coming to light.  The statistics I gleaned from the movie Spotlight indicated that, using studies by professional counselors, 50% of clergy were not celibate and 6% of priests were pedophiles.  The number of priests found to have abused children in Boston alone was 87 that they KNEW of.  Who knows how many more?  How many children were actually abused, certainly more than 87.

It was surreal, scary, bizarre, unimaginable…how can someone that people look up to, even put on a pedestal, hang on their every word as “gospel”…how can that person take the innocence of young children and scar them for life?  How can God let this happen to His church?

The repercussions of this single episode in my life have been ongoing.  In the next part, I will try to explain why I feel like two different persons and why I have the attitude about faith and the church that I do.

 

 

Odds and Ends

It’s been one of those days.  I have them more frequently now than before.  I don’t know why, I just feel discombobulated or something similar.  I did accomplish all I set out to do this week for a change.  Maybe that’s it…I finally have everything done for now.

If you read my book blog, you know that I’ve posted 6 or 7 reviews this week and that took a lot off my mind.  That doesn’t mean that I read all those books this week, though.  Sometimes I put off writing the reviews if I can’t think of anything to say about the book or the author.  I usually like the books I read, but sometimes there is a clinker.  I have had requests from authors to review their books, but have had to decline because I have such a stack to finish.  I may not live long enough to do that.

I gave the house a lick and a promise this week because we really did clean well last week.  That took a load off.  I can’t stand to have the sun shine in the windows and see the dust accumulated on the hardwood floor, nor can I stand the detritus that attacks the counters and floors and bathroom fixtures in between cleanings.  I try not to look, but then I stick to the floor and it’s all over.

I love to crochet and decided that I would try something new….a sweater!  I was so diligent…I measured, counted stitches, blocked the pieces, sewed them together with a very fine seam, or so I thought.  When I finished sewing in the sleeves and adding the trim, I found that the only person who could wear the thing would have to have the body of an orangutan.  The sleeves just weren’t the right length for the sweater.  I think I’ll try a poncho next.  If that doesn’t work, it’s back to hats, and blankets.

The dog received a bath this morning…he hates them, but I was ready for him.  I wore some old jeans, an old knit top and my old slippers ( I should have forgone the bra and undies too), and turned on the garage sink.  As soon as I dumped the little devil in the sink and soaked him down, he tried to climb up my head.  I got as wet as he did, although he got cleaner.   The clothes line in the garage is draped with my duds.  That’s why I have doggie cologne to use when he needs a bath.  I get to put if off until I am forced to take action.

This is the first entry I have written for my blog in quite a while.  I usually can think of great things to write about just as I am falling asleep in my comfortable bed and I am not about to get up to write.  I should though,  some of my somnolent thoughts are the best.  In the morning I don’t remember diddly, of course that continues all day.  I can’t remember anything…my kids’ names, did-I-take-my-pills, why-am-I-in-this-room…that sort of things.  What makes it worse is my husband can’t remember either.  We spend our days just wondering – who? what? where? when?  It’s hell to get old.

 

 

Fear and Faith

Ok, you all know from past blog entries that I am a cancer survivor…five years now.  So, today I had my annual mammogram.  I never used to worry about them because I didn’t have anything to worry about!  However, now, after going through all the medical crap that comes with experiencing and treating the big “C”, anytime you have to revisit that it is cause for concern and not a little worry.

Today, however, I went with no apprehension since it’s been five years and I’ve had nary a problem.  Today, it was different.  I had the mammogram and was waiting for my results when the technician came back and said that the radiologist wanted another mammogram done on the breast where my cancer had been.  I really did not worry because that has happened before and everything came out fine.  Today, he also wanted an ultrasound done.  There was something there that he wasn’t sure of.  So I had the second mammogram done and the ultrasound.  THEN the radiologist (same one who did my pre-op before my cancer surgery…nice man) came into the room and did ANOTHER ultrasound himself.  He sat down and looked at me and I looked at him and then he said that he thought it would be a good idea to do a biopsy, but that he couldn’t do it the usual way because he couldn’t get to the suspicious tissue…I would have to undergo a stereotactic (mammographically guided) breast biopsy.  That sounded a little scary to me, but I said “Let’s get to it!”  I also told him that if there was any chance that I had a recurrence of breast cancer that I was going to have a double mastectomy.  I’m not fooling around with this stuff again.  For heaven’s sake, I’m 68 years old and I really don’t need them anymore anyway.  I would probably look into reconstructive surgery though just so I would look better in my clothes.  Lord knows I certainly don’t and wouldn’t look better without them.  I couldn’t call Rich because he wasn’t near a phone, so I thought, ok, sister…just do what you have to do…you can deal with anything.  I prayed fervently to God that he would spare me, but I told Him that I could handle it whatever happened, so just be with me.  I was getting ready to schedule the biopsy for later this afternoon, when the doctor came back into the room and said that he’d been checking my previous years’ mammograms and had decided that the change he saw was because they’d switched to digital mammographies and that would account for the discrepancy in the tests.  He said that I did not need the biopsy and that I could go home.  I said, “Are you SURE??”  He said that he was and I just gave him the biggest hug ever.

Some days are like that.  You can be on the brink of despair one minute and catapulted to extreme happiness the next.  I hope that these days are few and far between though.  Today really took that starch out of my shorts.  I feel like I dodged a great big bullet.  The difference between fear and faith is a thin line, but when you have faith, the fear is manageable.   My hope is that we can all trust in God and have faith that no matter what happens, we can always count on His presence in our lives.

It always happens like this…when I dread going somewhere or doing something more often than not I end up having the time of my life.  I sort of felt that way about attending my 50th class reunion.  I know my husband was not too keen to go, but then our wonderful friends, Jackie and Steve (I went to school with Jackie) went with us.  Steve and Rich entertained each other (and also visited with mutual friends and acquaintances) while Jackie and I mixed and mingled.  It was SO good to see everyone who came.  Some I recognized immediately.  Luckily there were name badges with our senior yearbook pictures on them in case we didn’t remember how we looked.  The organizers did a fantastic job getting this shindig together and everyone seemed to have a really good time sharing with each other.  I know I was worried that I would be older looking, plumper (as opposed to fatter), and generally not as well-weathered as everyone else.  I fretted about what to wear, which black pants would look the best, did I trowel on enough make-up to fill in the wrinkles, did I manage to get all those chin hairs that hung down my neck, and on and on.  I fretted for nothing.  Once we met up with Jackie and Steve, I could tell that we were going to have a great time.  It also probably helped that my horoscope showed five stars that day.  I don’t really put stock in that, but it never hurts to cover all your bases.  It also shows that no matter how many years separate the times you spend with each other, it doesn’t matter.  Jackie and I just picked up where we left all those many years ago and I am so blessed to have her as a forever friend.  Rich and I are blessed to have them both in our lives.  Let’s hope it’s not too long before we see each other face to face again.

Amy Drown

Writer, Editor & Photographer

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Reflections of a PITA (Pain in the What?)

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onbruisedknees

"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." --Andrew Lam

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