Blind As a Bat

From where I sit to read in the mornings I can see the maintenance man clean the glass doors to my office building. Every morning he soaps them up and meticulously wipes them clean. I watch him inspect them once and again making sure he didn’t leave any sudsy streaks behind. How clean he leaves them. How clear I can see through them. If only all my views were always that clear. But they are not. Because it is not through what I look, it is with what I look – – sudsy, smudgy eyes marked with biases, judgments and misconceptions that muck up my view of things, people and circumstances. I have eyes but fail to see. Sometimes I’m as blind as a bat.

Reminds me of that story about a woman who had moved to a new neighborhood and every time she looked out her window she commented to her husband how the neighbor’s clothes hanging on a line were not cleaned well. Each week the woman would look through her window in judgment of her neighbor’s washing skills expressing how their neighbor needed to learn how to wash her laundry better. Then one day she looked out the window and noticed clean laundry hanging from her neighbor’s line. She told her husband that her neighbor had finally learned to properly wash her laundry and she wondered who had taught her. And her husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned the window.”

Like the woman in that story, my eyes are sometimes covered with a tainted film that distorts what I look at and causes me to go into those dreaded and dangerous preconceived notions. Mostly due to years of fault-finding I supposed. But gosh how I kick myself every time I catch myself doing that. Only to do it again real soon. Geeze! I recall a scene in the 1989 movie The Abyss, where one of the main characters tells another: “We all see what we want to see….He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.” That line has always stuck with me. I realize my perception of people and the world will never be flawless, I know that, but I think that behind my looking there needs to be a perspective of faith. A belief that reminds me that everything on which my eyes rest can, in one way or another, tell me about God and His intentions. A belief that would, despite our world’s seemingly deteriorating ways, allow me to trust that there is good in it; a belief that despite what I think and feel when I look at others, would allow me to look through their eyes and exercise tolerance and compassion.

Yet my frustrations flare up at my inability to achieve that because it is so NOT easy. How do I get rid of that cataract-like film layering my eyes? Like the blind man in the story recounted in the Gospel of Mark [8:22-25] who begs Jesus to give him sight, I too desire to see. To see God clearer in things and in others. I pray He keeps my eyes from turning cloudier and helps me remove that impending crust. And instead helps me to look with better eyes than that – – with humble, fair, forgiving, and loving eyes. So maybe every so often, hopefully more often than not, I may be able to say I was blind but now I see.

I shut my eyes in order to see.
   ~ Paul Gauguin
All of us are watchers – of television, of time clocks, of traffic on the freeway –
but few are observers. Everyone is looking, not many are seeing.
   ~ Peter M. Leschak

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.
   ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox
 

Travel for the Soul: Bimini


        We love the beach and have been fortunate enough to visit some awesome beaches in our lifetime.  In keeping with my “Travel for the Soul” series, here are some pictures and information about a beach spot we recently enjoyed, in case you want to plan a little R&R trip over there.

Bimini, Bahamas:

A quiet escape to empty beaches.

Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © June, 2009 Connie Perez. All rights reserved.

Bimini, mostly known for its fishing and diving, is one of the out islands of The Bahamas, made up of two small islands located just 60 miles east of Miami, Florida.  North Bimini is a 7-mile island of about 1,600 residents, which you can travel by bicycle or golf cart.  The main road, Kings Highway, is where you’ll find the handful of shops, hotels and restaurants. Queen’s highway follows the east coast along its beaches.  South Bimini is where the airport is located, and has just recently started to see development.  The best way to get to Bimini up until 2007 was Chalk’s Airways, but the seaplanes are no longer operational.  You can fly Continental Airlines from Fort Lauderdale, or charter a plane from Miami.

We were taken aback some by the island’s deteriorating condition and the poor living conditions of some of its residents, as is the case in most of the Caribbean islands. Quite the contrast to the way us tourists experience the island, something that definitely pains the heart to see. What these simple people lacked materially, however, they certainly made up for in courtesy and friendliness.  Nothing like a little perspective. That, plus its beaches, peaceful with crystal blue waters, definitely made this travel for the soul.  

General Information: 
http://www.myoutislands.com/bahamas-resorts/bimini-map.cfm
http://www.bahamas.com/out-islands/bimini?cmpid=psy&scr_aid=psy

Transportation:
Continental Airlines
http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/default.aspx
Bimini Island Airhttp://www.flybia.com/charter.asp

Accommodations: 
Bimini Bay Resort & Marina – North Bimini
Condo units and private homes available for rental or ownership.
http://www.biminibayresort.com/
Bimini Sands Resort & Marina – South Bimini
http://www.biminisands.com/

Beachfront at Bimini Bay Resort & Marina.  So peaceful.

Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © June 2009 Connie Perez. All rights reserved.

Infinity Pool, Bimini Bay Resort & Marina

Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © June 2009 Connie Perez. All rights reserved.

The sunsets are all unique and all breathtaking.

Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © June 2009 Connie Perez. All rights reserved.

Happy travels my friends!

Worth1000Words: Fetal Hand Grasp

Shhh…you’ll wake the baby…                                                      2009052021

This incredible photograph was taken on August 19, 1999 by a man named Michael Clancy during a surgery to correct spina bifida. The “Fetal Hand Grasp” photo appeared for the first time on September 7, 1999 in U.S.A. Today.  The amazing little boy, Samuel Armas, was born on December 2, 1999.  His somewhat unusual first baby picture has become the most popular photograph in the greatest human rights movement of our age, the Pro-Life movement.

“When I see that picture, the first thing I think of is how special and lucky I am to have God use me that way,” Samuel told FOXNews.com. during a recent interview, almost ten years after that picture was taken.

Photo:  Michael Clancy
Sources:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519181,00.html
http://www.michaelclancy.com/

 

Guest Post: Walking on Eggshells

~ by Barbie Rodriguez, blog contributor.

The other day a friend and I were talking about recent layoffs in the legal field.She commented she has been feeling like she is “walking on eggshells” for quite a while now.The comment really hit home for me, as I have felt that way ever since my Mom died.Back in 1994.My father never quite came back from her loss.He became ill in late 1996 and passed away in 1997.His death took the last remnant of normalcy in my life as I had always known it.Actually, I think I started walking on eggshells when my Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in late August of 1987.Her surgery took place the day the Pope celebrated Holy Mass here in Miami.She was not expected to make it to that Christmas.We were blessed with that Christmas and six more after that. Before Mom’s diagnosis, I lived in a secure little world.An ivory tower, if you will.Full of family, friends.Safe and secure.That all came tumbling down in a heartbeat.Blink of an eye.My mom, however, remained calm.She chose to live in the moment and be thankful for what we had been given.Her faith did not waver for even a second.She did not walk on eggshells, her path was firm and strong.She was always serene, even in the middle of horrible pain.She would just get her rosary and start praying.Slowly the pain would recede, at times.Others it held on with a tenacity almost as strong as my mother’s faith.My father and I, along with my Uncle Tello, Aunt Zaida, and two close friends, scattered her ashes one bright, sunny, spring morning in March of 1994.I remembered the sun shining so, so brightly as we scattered her ashes on the bay, at Our Lady of Charity (Cuba’s patron saint) chapel.My mom loved that place.She loved the water and she loved Our Lady of Charity and had asked her ashes be scattered on the water there.Three years and four months later, I stood at the same spot with my sister.Scattering our father’s ashes.Still walking on eggshells.

A lot changed in my life after my parents’ deaths.Some good and happy.Some … not so good.There were bitter disappointments and unexpected joys.My friends became my family.Slowly I regained my (somewhat wobbly) balance.Set up housekeeping in my first little cocoon.Me and my felines.Started drawing and painting again.Life was different, but still sweet.The panic attacks came out of nowhere.Again, I found myself walking on eggshells.Once more, I slowly started to regain my balance.At times it seems like it was yesterday, others it feels like it was years and years ago when the panic attacks started.But, by the grace of God, they have receded and I have recently felt happier and more “me” than I had felt in a very long time.Hearing my friend use the “walking on eggshells” phrase brought it all back.I realized that every time I have felt safe and secure in my world, something has happened to throw it off balance.I think it’s called growing up.

We live in tumultuous times.Scandalous, even.Mediocrity is the norm.At times it seems like integrity and ethics have flown out the window, right along with family values.Sometimes it seems like humanity has lost itself.Politicians lie.Role models we admire and look up to, are found to have been leading double lives.Not practicing what they preached about for years.The public embraces them anyway, saying they are human and have a right to be happy.Never mind they lied to everyone.For years.Babies are left by the roadside.Animals are slaughtered.The environment is poisoned.Pare nts commit suicide after murdering their children.Genocide is the norm in some parts of the world and the rest of the world turns a blind eye to their brothers’ and sisters’ suffering.People are without jobs and losing their homes.It is a bleak world we wake up to each day.Yet, we are blessed to wake up in the morning.To have a job to go to.To have someone to come home to.To have friends to talk with.There is a lot of good left in the world.We just have to look for it.Sometimes really hard.But it is there.The beauty and the joy and the wonder.We must stand firm in our beliefs, even when those around us are set on seeing the bad side of things.We must stand firm.Someone I know regularly goes by my desk and grumbles “You are just too damn happy!” and stomps off.Mind you, this is someone who has an intact family unit, health, a sound financial situation.Has a great job.Yet they choose to see the sour side of life.Sometimes I feel like telling them, “Hey, listen, being happy is hard work.It’s much easier to suck on life’s lemons and walk around cursing at the world with pursed lips and squinchy eyes!”Finding something good in the every day is darn hard sometimes.

I realize, yeah, I have been, and still am, probably always will be, walking on eggshells, but it’s my faith, that strong, sure, secure, bet-your-life-on-it faith my parents and grandparents instilled in me from the cradle that has stopped those eggshells from cracking and me from falling through.I’ll keep walking.With God on my side, knowing I am His child, I can survive anything.I will get hurt and I may cry.I will be disappointed.I will have good times and bad.Valleys and mountaintops.But I know there is one thing I will always have.My faith.That, in and of itself, is unshakable.

 

Up or Down?

How often do you think about heaven and hell? Or do you ever? I do. Not too often but enough I guess. Enough to put me into self butt-kicking mode whenever I catch myself doing something or other not quite heaven-worthy. Although usually the thought is prompted by some circumstance. Like for instance, a couple of nights ago at a funeral viewing. Went to pay my respects after the passing of the aunt of a close friend of mine. I was standing there in front of the casket, saying my petitions for this woman’s soul, asking God to receive her in His glory, when the thought came to me: What’s it like up there? What about down there? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Okay, so it boggles mine. But let’s be clear, it’s purely wonderment and curiosity, not anticipation. : )

We all know that sometimes life can seem like heaven or hell here on Earth, depending on what’s going on in our lives I suppose. I think I’ve experienced a glimpse of hell a couple of times, and I believe I’ve experienced what could be a taste of heaven — if sitting on a beach watching an amazing sunset, eating dark chocolate, while surrounded by family and good friends could be considered heaven, then yeah, I’ve had a taste of it. And if watching a loved one suffer unimaginable pain day after day until almost their next to last breath can be considered hell, then yeah, been there and back, twice.

These moments of heaven or hell on Earth are found sometimes in our experiences, like mine above, or we find them sometimes in our attitude. Yes our attitude, the sweet and sour components of our intricate being. Constructive and destructive stuff that can make us or break us. However, it’s hard to imagine any such moments coming close to the real heaven and hell. For me, the horribleness of eternal life within the confines of hell with satan by my side tormenting me is…well, spine-chilling; the hairs in the back of my neck stand. In contrast, the peacefulness of eternal life in the expansiveness of heaven with the Lord by my side showering me with all the angelic-like sights, sounds and smells I could muster is…well, sublime; tears well up.

So I’m curious about the hereafter. Except that if curiosity really killed the cat, then I don’t need to know right now, I can certainly wait to find out, know what I’m saying? I’m fine with it remaining a mystery for now. But I think it’s a good thing to have the heaven and hell question floating about in some corner of our minds. It’s helped me put things in perspective at times I can tell you that. Another upside is that it can keep us in check. Obviously, this works best if you’re a person of faith. No kidding.

So the circumstance arose and I stood there in front of the casket with my heaven and hell thoughts. And sure enough the question popped up: “How am I living out this mortal stage of mine? Heaven-bound?” The jury’s still out on that one. How ’bout you? You heaven-bound? What’s your take on it?
The Secrets of Heaven and Hell

The old mon sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap, he sat. In deep mediation he sat.

Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. “Old man! Teach me about heaven and hell!”

At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there, waiting impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second. “You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?” replied the monk at last. “You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath is foul, whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?” The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high over his head. His face turned to crimson, and the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk’s head from its shoulders.

“That is hell,” said the old monk gently, just as the sword behan its descent.

In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.

“And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”

~ From A Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

 

E-ticket, please…

Of all the blessings the good Lord has showered upon me, I would have to say motherhood tops the list, hands down. What a ride!

The fears and anxieties, the illnesses, the surgeries, the pain, the worrying and sleepless nights, the anger, the attitudes, the expectations, the failures, disappointments, and frustrations…all intertwined with the joy, the excitement, the achievements, the celebrations, the humor and the fun, the touching, the sharing, the loving and the caring…I could go on….Sometimes making me want to speed up time, sometimes making me want to slow it down. Phew!!

Yes, it’s exhausting. Through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of motherhood I have experienced things and felt emotions on a level I can’t possibly explain to you. Except I can tell you that I wouldn’t trade any of it. I can’t envision, nor do I want to, life without my children. Come what may. And I know this is a life-time thing. I know this because my mother is still at it with me. I can’t thank God enough for that. For that and for this blessing He has bestowed upon me. May He always catch me with my sealtbelt on tight while on this, my E-ticket ride.

I want to wish all the moms, grandmas, aunts, and godmothers a very happy Mother’s Day. To my dearest friends, some moms, some not, thank you for always looking at my many pictures, listening to my stories, concerns and worries, and walking along with me through this motherhood journey.

God bless.

The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.
~Robert Browning

 

Travel for the Soul: Family Ties

        Family reunions — they are just like ice cream sundaes — mostly sweet with a few nuts.  Oh but how fulfilling!  We had our share recently during our Spring Break getaway.  This year once again we traveled to Peachtree City, Georgia to spend time with my brother and the rest of the gang, and our mom, who had flown over a few days earlier.  We had a great time; it was fun and also relaxing.  

       Ah yes, relaxing is an understatement when you talk about Peachtree City or “Pleasantville” as I like to call it.  It’s definitely a change of pace from Miami life that’s for sure.  But what really attracts us to Pleasantville time and again is our clan over there.  Even though we do keep in contact daily via phone and e-mail, there is nothing like live interaction and the touch of a loved one; just no substitute for that.  And we made sure we had plenty of that going on while we were there.  

        Of course, for us is a given that when in Georgia, a visit to Conyers is going to take place.  And so it did.  Our pilgrimage to the Farm,* the site of our Blessed Mother’s apparitions, provided us this time around with a different experience, but just as special as the last.  It was similar though in that again we were the only visitors there during our entire stay.  Nothing like some solitude for the spirit.  Wow!  Our detour there is always an added bonus on these trips.   

        Speaking of added bonus, both my husband and I are very close to our families.  That is a blessing for which we are thankful to the tenth power, if you know what I mean.  We’ve had some tough heart-felt losses along the way, so we’ve learned to appreciate the time we have with those still here and take advantage of every opportunity to spend time with those who love and support us.  And so on the way back home we made a scheduled stop in Gainesville to attend my other nephew’s graduation at UF, where we hooked up with all of my husband’s family.  More ice cream sundae.   ; )

        Like I said, it was a great getaway.  You know, it never ceases to amaze me how our families recharge us.  For us it doesn’t matter what’s going on in our lives, or how much we think or feel we need to get away and disconnect, and do.  Right after, we promptly look to reconnect like craving lunatics.  No matter the array of characters, because trust me, that is vast in our families.  But I think it’s our own perfect imperfections that bring balance to one another and ultimately what has taught us acceptance on many levels.  Bottom line is, at the end of the day, it is difficult for me to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul than our faith and our families.  This getaway was definitely travel for the soul.   : )

        It’s no wonder Jane Howard was so right when she said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”  

        May God always bless you and your families with time together.  +

*[For background and details about the Farm, link to my 3/31/08 post entitled Travel for the Soul: A Different Kind of Farm].

What’s in Your Basket?

The events of this weekend wrap up Holy Week. Tomorrow we remember the day Jesus was crucified – – Good Friday. Good Friday? Right, I know, some are confused by its name, but the sad commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion and death remind us that it was human sin that caused His death, that He alone is good enough to save us, and that the fact that He did so is of great cause for celebration. So yes, sad, but Good. And then on Sunday of course we celebrate Easter. Yeeepeee I can eat chocolate again! Dig into those goodies! Wait Connie, contain yourself, because first and foremost we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and that’s inside a different kind of basket.

His resurrection to me represents hope. Pure hope. Hope that the day I step through that transcendent doorway I will be able to continue in all of its fullness the kind of life that God intended for me, in His company and in the company of my loved ones, for all eternity. Wow, that’s big hope you say. No, no, that’s godzilla-size hope. But it’s precisely what enables me to march on in this life, which is no easy task as you know, given the state of our world today. A state which unfortunately causes us to be bitter about life in general and lose focus of what’s important, prompting us to behave in ways that can lead us away from salvation. But in the resurrection Easter basket I find a way back. I find this big hope that jump-starts my faith and gives me the spiritual strength I need to work towards being a better person, the kind of person worthy of the kingdom of heaven. And I want that. You do too, I’m sure. In that basket full of hope I find the drive towards readiness, something I need to work so very hard for – – you know, for that day when God comes knocking on my door.

So yeah, that long-awaited bite of chocolate will be ever so sweet, but that boost of hope, oh, well, that boost of hope is…heaven. My friends, what’s in your Easter basket?

Blessed are those to whom Easter is not a hunt… but a find; not a greeting… but a proclamation; not an outward fashion… but inward grace; not a day… but an eternity. ~ Anderson

The stone was rolled away from the door,
not to permit Christ to come out, but to
enable the disciples to go in.
~ Peter Marshall

THE DOOR
Amen, amen, I say to you, he who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  Those others who have come are thieves and robbers. I am the door. If anyone enter by me he shall find salvation, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures.
~ John 10: 1-2, 7-9

I wish all of you a hopeful Easter.   : )
God bless.

The Holiest Week of All

This Sunday, April 5th, is Palm Sunday, a prelude to Holy Week. A day commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, where crowds rejoiced and greeted Him with waving palm branches. Shortly thereafter, His journey to the cross began. Who would’ve thunk it? Certainly not those palm wavers on that day. Those followers who witnessed the events that transpired that week 2000 years ago experienced quite the roller coaster ride – – joy, anticipation, love, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, awe, wonder. And at the end of that week, some were left confused and scattered. But others were left with the knowledge and the hope His crucifixion and resurrection embodied: forgiveness and eternal life. Thankfully, that group of others bravely shared the extraordinary experiences they lived through that week, and incessantly preached its greatest fruit, and so now we too can benefit from that knowledge of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.

At this Sunday’s Mass we will receive the blessed palms representative of this day that begins this year’s holiest week of all. As faithful people, we are asked to take the palm home and display it as a reminder that Christ enters into our lives daily, and therefore, we should rejoice. I invite you to partake of this week’s events and ceremonies at your parish of choice. It can be quite an inspiring, fulfilling, and emotional encounter.

For instance, the most touching celebration of the week for me occurs on Holy Thursday, which it’s said to be the most complex and profound of the week’s observances. It’s the night on which Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, so at this Mass we celebrate Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. A procession takes place adoring the Blessed Sacrament, which remains ‘entombed’ until the communion service on Good Friday. It is a very solemn and moving observance. I personally feel a special connection with the Holy Thursday Mass because in our parish, for many years, my father sat in as one of the apostles during our live representation of Christ’s washing of the feet. After my dad’s death, my hubby proudly took his place in this short but very symbolic act, and so this Mass continues to hold a special place in my heart.

And so to those of you who share in my faith and observe this holiest of weeks, I wish you a blessed one, full of enlightenment, peace, hope and love. To those of you who don’t, I wish you a blessed one, full of enlightenment, peace, hope and love. : )

God bless.
The biblical account of Palm
Sunday can be found in
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11;
Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19.