Hello, dear friends!

wavingkitty+J.M.J.+

You may not remember me, but I do still exist, I promise! This is just a general and brief announcement. I’ve launched my own website, where I will be regularly posting three to four times a week on writing and the spiritual life. I invite you all to come and join me on this new adventure as I tackle spiritual writing in a non-spiritual world at alycatauthor.com. I will also be discontinuing my posts on ceciliaborntwice.

I hope to see you over at AlyCatAuthor! God bless you all!

-Aly

Temptations – Light and Peace, Quadrupani

Finer Femininity

This is a beautiful passage from Light and Peace. We are all besieged by temptations of one sort or another. Sometimes we get confused…..did I sin? Sometimes we get discouraged….why such a battle? The following words may help you sort it all out. A little longer read for your Sunday, but well worth it, so snatch a few moments…. 🙂

Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts

BlochJesusTempted

 My brethren, count it all joy when ye shall fall into divers temptations. (Epist. S. Jas., Cat., c. i, v. 2.) Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin, which dwelleth in me. (St. P., Rom., c. vii, v. 20.) 1.

“If we are tempted,” says the Holy Spirit, “it is a sign that God loves us.” Those whom God best loves have been most exposed to temptations.

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A Good Old Custom of the Servants of God

I must remember this!

Finer Femininity

from My Prayer Book by Father Lasance

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It is an old custom with the servants of God always to have some little prayers ready and to be darting them up to heaven frequently during the day, lifting their minds to God out of the filth of this world. He who adopts this plan will get great fruit with little pains. – Saint Philip Neri

The Habit of Prayer

The habit of prayer is no burden to anyone, for we can pray worthily at any time, in any place, and in any posture. Even the motion of the lips is not necessary; the mind and heart can be engaged in it while we read or converse or go about our daily work.

Moreover, prayer produces a delicious feeling of hope and rest in God; and this feeling is worth more than all the happiness that wealth can purchase or the world…

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

+J.M.J.+

This post may be a little bit different than what I normally post…I don’t talk much about my writing, but I felt it only appropriate to show what God has done, since I’m only about 9,000 words away from the end of my first draft of my novel. To say the least, I’m in a bit of a giddy shock right now. Last night I typed the first 1,000 words of the climax of my novel. For those who may not be up on writerly terminology, the climax is basically the high point of the novel, where the main character and villain meet and clash for the final time; the climax decides the outcome of the novel. It is also the penultimate scene or scenes—the only thing left to write after the climax is the resolution, which only takes up a scene or two at the end of the novel. Just since August, I’ve written 6/8 of my novel. That’s 60,000 words. 60,000!!!!!!!!! I’ve been drafting since the end of April, but April was right before my graduation from college and getting all of that together. I spent some time at home with my mom and sister after graduation, and drafted some, but had to go back and rework all of my plot points. I was also trying to get on my feet at the beginning of June—I got my driver’s license, a car, and a job the first two weeks of June, and made my first road trip. So that was stressful. Then, as I got settled in at work and got used to being here, my drafting picked up speed. By August, I was confident in my plot points. I stopped every once in a while, studying writer Katie Weiland’s Character Arc series on her writing blog, “Helping Writers Become Authors.” She has some great books on writing, by the way, and I’m in the process of reading her novel “Dreamlander”—just what I needed to refuel my creative tank!

I’m using the 3-act method for character arc and story structure, using techniques and pointers from Katie’s books and her posts to guide me along the way. The first act takes up the first quarter of the book, and at the end the character will step through the door and set foot on the road to his goal, his change, and the final meeting with the antagonist. The second act is all about learning new skills, embracing the truth, at least partly, and making steady progress towards the goal. The beginning of the third act is a low moment for the character, as they lose their chance of getting what they want by choosing the thing they need. Then they rise up from the ashes of their low point and make their plans to defeat the bad guy. The Climax is that final battle, where the character will be given the ultimate test—will he stick to his guns and use the truth to defeat the baddie, or will he succumb to the lie he’s just shed? Of course, in the type of arc I’m writing, a very popular arc known as the positive change arc, the character will use the truth to wipe the floor with the bad guy. The exciting part is giving the reader just enough doubt to sit on the edge of their chair, biting their nails, thinking Will the main character do it? Will he survive this encounter?

This structure has changed my whole writing process. Before, I would launch in excitedly after typing up a few thousand words of an outline, the story idea fresh in my mind. But usually, when I would get between 40-60 pages in, plot problems began to arise that I would have to go back and solve before moving on. This frustrated me and created endless tangles of problems—sometimes the problems would require excavating entire chapters, reworking characters and backstories, and generally changing the entire story as a whole. As a ‘judging’ type of personality (if you know Myers-Briggs type personality tests, you’ll know what I’m talking about), I want to come to a plan of action and execute it. That’s what I do best. But when it comes to brainstorming a story and outlining it, it is essential to think of all the what-if’s. That means being more of a ‘perceiver’—thinking of all the possibilities. But this process, I think, frustrates me because it delays me from getting started. Still, I’ve realized the hard way (after 8 years of writing and re-writing and re-writing again) that that’s what I need to do. Frustrating? Yes. Worth it? Yes. It’s better because if I let out all the possibilities from the start, I can then execute my natural ‘judging’ function and choose the best ones, and arrange them to see if they’ll all fit together. Much less frustration in the long run this way.

In Katie’s book “Outlining Your Novel,” she walks you through an intensive outlining process that she uses, which is very effective. The great thing is that she gives a disclaimer that you don’t necessarily have to use all of the steps she lists, or stop where she does. I gave her method a shot, and found some things really worked, but others did not. I condensed her steps to a few that work well for me. Whereas she suggests outlining each scene in a bit of detail, and going through the whole novel with this process before you begin drafting, I’ve discovered that if I pin down my major plot points for the whole novel first, then dive into the first act’s requirements, using the plot points in the first act as my frame, I can jot down a few hundred words on ideas for what will need to happen in that first act, then arrange those few hundred words into a workable outline and begin drafting. Once I’m done with the first act, I work through the second act in the same way, then draft it. For some reason, this keeps me more sane than outlining the whole novel in detail from the get-go. I think I get intimidated by an entire novel’s outline, and that if I stray from it I will be shamed for 50 days or something crazy. In other words, I feel guilty if I expend all that energy on an outline that I know I will stray from later. So I take it in smaller chunks. Then, when I’m finished with the first act and I can see how it’s panned out, I can tweak anything that may no longer fit with the plot points in the second act and construct a more accurate outline for the second act, building on what’s happened in the first act. It’s a process that keeps me sane, because it saves me the trouble of having to rework an entire outline if I realize something in the second act no longer fits with the first, or the third with the second, etc. But I still have a decent roadmap for the entire novel before I ever begin drafting, because I have the major plot points (the inciting event, the midpoint, the third plot point, the climax) pinned down.

Hey, you can’t argue with results, right? I fell in love with Katie’s method; I took extensive notes, studied it for hours, and honestly filled an entire notebook trying to accomplish it. But I ended up doing the same thing with the outline that I used to do with my drafts—I wadded it up and threw it away and had to start all over. So in my creative writing classes at college, I spoke with my professor (who happens to be the same four-letter personality type as me) and asked her about her process. She confirmed my intuition about working from plot points rather than an entire, lengthy outline—her process is similar to mine. Plot points, character backstories and goals, and a good knowledge of your setting are all you need to get started. And using this, combined with a bit of extensive brainstorming when I’m pinning down the plot points, and God’s grace, I’ve almost got my first, finished, rough draft of a novel.

To be honest, I didn’t know if I was ever going to finish a project. I kept writing because writing is just what I do, and kept hoping that maybe something would happen and I would discover the way to finish a draft. Discovering this process has helped me so much, and I know I’ll keep refining the process—I know it may not be exactly the same for each project I work on. I’m so grateful to God for His grace and for giving me this gift of writing, and showing me how to put it to work more efficiently and effectively.

I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about what my book is actually about. The main theme is of uniting faith and reason, and the two main characters in the novel are representatives of faith and reason, so to speak. It is fiction in the spirit of Tolkien and Lewis; somewhat allegorical, but also exploring the personal changes and cruxes that the characters have to accomplish and overcome in order to reach the ultimate fulfillment of the theme, and of their journey as human beings. It has a more modern style to it, more like Ted Dekker than Tolkien, but it is sort of a high fantasy as well—all about the quest! And yes…it will probably end up being a trilogy.

So yes. I apologize sincerely if any of this has bored you, dear reader, but I haven’t journaled about my writing for a while, and I felt the need to share all the exciting discoveries and progress God has helped me to make. Thank you for reading and sharing this exciting time in my life with me!

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias! To God be the glory!+

Sunday, November 9, 2014

+J.M.J.+

Last weekend I didn’t post, and I apologize for the lapse. But I got to experience something last weekend that I wanted to share with you all. As you already know, last Saturday was the Feast of All Saints. We go to Mass about two hours away, and so one of the families from our parish graciously took my boyfriend and I in for Saturday night so we could go to Mass again the following morning. This family has six children, the oldest of which is 15, the youngest of which is 21 months. You see, my boyfriend and I grew up in either a Protestant home or a somewhat indifferent home when it comes to religion. We’d never seen or experienced a traditionally Catholic home. So coming into this home truly opened our eyes and showed us a few things about what it means to be Catholic in this day and age.

Besides our initial awe at the beauty of their home, one of the first things we noticed was the absence of a television. There was no television in the large and welcoming great room, nor in the living room, nor in any other room that we could see. Instead, the walls were covered with bookshelves sporting literature of all varieties (good varieties, of course). And the eldest girl, when she was finished with her supper, asked very politely if she could be excused from the table so she could continue reading her book. I tried not to gawk at her and thought to myself, Wow! So polite, and seeking such good recreation! Rarely do we meet children with both of these qualities!

Next we noticed their lovely classroom, probably a converted den. A big whiteboard covered the wall, and four clean little desks sat ready for their pupils in the center of the room. More shelves with lots of instructional books lined the walls; my boyfriend, being the teacher-in-training he is, was most interested in this room and the curriculum they taught.

When I was shown upstairs to the room where I’d be sleeping, and where all the bedrooms were, I peeked inside the open doors of all the children’s rooms. The oldest and youngest children were both boys, but all the children in between were girls. Amidst all the pink and flowers that decorated their rooms, I could see sacred images on their walls; of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and various images of Our Lady.

Probably the most touching part, and the part of their house I hope I will have the space to create, was their prayer chapel, which they’d converted from a side room. Inside was a little family altar and a kneeler, with many lovely figures and statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and prayer sheets made up personally for each of the children with their names on them.

After our ‘tour’ of the home, my boyfriend and I spent a few moments in the great room with three of the girls. The eldest chatted politely, holding her book, and the two middle girls sat close to one another on the other end of the sofa, making conversation with another friend of ours who’d been invited to stay for Mass on Sunday. It was a bit overwhelming to be in the company of so many Catholics, and such well-behaved Catholic children. Keep in mind here that the eldest girl was middle-school age.

Then, of course, the 21-month-old boy ran through the house, babbling and shrieking as infants do, and the girls kept a patient and watchful eye on him, not calling him names, not sighing or complaining, just simply watching him, getting out toys for him to play with, talking to him. The mother, this whole time, was upstairs helping her husband pack for a business trip. She didn’t have to worry about her youngest, or the younger girls. They all knew their duties to be her helpers, and it was a wonderful thing to watch.

I also noticed that even their at-home attire was modest—though the girls were all in their nightgowns, they were long-sleeved nightgowns with an appropriate neckline, and most of them wore leggings beneath.

This was my first experience in an established Catholic home, and it was a strikingly different atmosphere than most homes that I’ve ever walked into. My boyfriend and I discussed everything we’d seen and learned, as we are taking our cues from the Catholic families who have gone before us. Hopefully God will give us more opportunities to discover what being a truly Catholic family looks like, and how we can implement these lessons no matter what our own circumstances may be (because it’s not looking like we’re going to have much to work with financially!). We do know a family closer to our age who have just had their second child, and we’ve visited their home before, so we know it’s possible even on a low income to make a home that is warm and welcoming and full of faith and prayer. I am thankful that God has given us this opportunity—we will need all the lessons we can get!

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

Sunday, October 26, 2014 (Feast of Christ the King)

+J.M.J.+

I was thinking earlier that I hadn’t had anything exciting or traumatic happening this week, and so I might struggle with a topic to write about. And then I saw a post from one of my friends on Facebook talking about obsessions. The post was something along these lines: “Whatever we are obsessed with will consume us and blind us, leading us away from truth.” I got to thinking about that, wondering why that particular post felt like a knife thrust into my stomach, or someone ripping the blankets off me on a Saturday morning, exposing me to the cool air, to the truth, the truth that stabs at our conscience, demanding to be recognized. I thought about the past week, about how much writing I’ve been doing, about how much music I’ve been listening to, and about my recent Facebook confession of being ‘slightly’ obsessed with Josh Groban’s music. And then today, to top it all off, I heard a sermon of St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s on conquering our predominant passion. At this point, I realized—I’d been letting a bad passion creep up on me, slowly letting it take hold of my actions and thoughts, my desires and my words, and it was only going to get worse unless I did something about it.

So, I suppose, this post will be my ‘doing something about it.’ If I can get it out into the air, think about it, evaluate it, maybe I can take steps to stop it. The thing about passions is that they make their object look so darn inviting. I’ve realized, in looking back on my thoughts, my dispositions, throughout the past week or so, that writing and music were getting the best of me. I would wake up in the morning, wanting to do nothing but write, or at least to scrounge up as much time as I could throughout the day to write. I even posted a Facebook status about this desire. And with this desire, I would do my best to fulfill it, snatching moments of my lunch break at work, moments at naptime, moments in the morning, if possible, and moments after dinner and before the Rosary in the evening.

Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with making the most of my spare time, and writing is indeed a gift I believe God has given me to be used and cultivated, for His glory. But I noticed, at work, during nap, if one of the children happened to wake and needed to be tended to, I was loathe to put down the pen and go to them—and in all truth, their welfare is my first priority and duty while I’m at work! At home, if I was eagerly typing away in my Scrivener program, and my grandmother called to me to help her with something, or even if she poked in her head to check on me and ask what I was doing, I would reply with short, curt language: “I’m writing.” She would, of course, in her gentleness, hear the impatience in my voice and quickly withdraw herself. She respects my duty to write, and this is a wonderful thing.

Except, my duty to write does not EVER trump my duty to obedience and charity toward my neighbor.

Moving onto the next point. Never mind that I’d used every moment of spare time to make progress. Never mind that that progress is astounding (15,000 words in 10 days!). The next passion quickly crept up on me as the last began to ebb. (Writers often go through creative spurts where putting the pen down is very hard, and then a few days later crash and produce next to nothing.) I had begun to write while listening to my ‘Writing’ playlist, which includes various things, such as soundtrack music from various favorite movies, choral pieces that I’d sung in my college choir, Gregorian chant, and…a few bits of Josh Groban’s music. As I write (I hope what I’m explaining will make sense to you), I emotionally connect the scene that I’m writing with the piece of music that I’m listening to. And if the piece of music happens to match the mood of the scene I’m writing, all the better. I noticed that many of these songs that I’d been connecting (whether to various characters, situations, relationships, or events) were…you guessed it…Josh Groban songs.

Well, that’s where it started. I began to search for other Josh Groban songs and threw entire albums onto the playlist, putting it on shuffle in the hopes that I could find out which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. Then I noticed I was skipping through the other songs on the playlist to get to the Josh Groban songs. I started looking up the lyrics to the songs and their translation (many are in Spanish/Italian) to see if the words meant anything to the scenes I was writing. Nothing wrong with any of this, I don’t suppose, in moderation. I would go to bed with his songs playing in my head and wake up with the same. (Sound familiar yet?) I would sing them even when I wasn’t listening to music. And when I began to realize that my enjoyment of his music was taking over, I tried to hold it back by abstaining from music on one day each week. My wake-up call came when I couldn’t even make it one day without listening to it, and I posted a Facebook status ‘confession’ about my new obsession. My co-workers (who are often the unfortunate victims of my music playing) liked my status as a sort of inside joke. Deep within, I knew something wasn’t quite right. Fortunately, the next week, I was able to make it my one day without music, and felt much better about everything.

In listening to the sermon today, I heard a couple of pieces of advice to help remedy these bad passions. One, the first and most important, is to kill them while they’re small. It is much easier to root out a sapling than it is a full grown oak tree with deep roots. The second interesting bit of advice is to turn the object of the passion into something virtuous. So, for instance, instead of being greedy about my time for writing, I could be ‘greedy’ about time for prayer, making time for it, putting it first, and going to it with readiness and joy. Instead of listening for hours on end to secular music, I could listen to more Gregorian chant, sermons, and other music that lifts the heart to God. And most of all, I think a good dose of resignation to the will of God will help with both. If God gives me the time to write, I should by all means use it, provided my spiritual duties have been accomplished, and provided I keep a meek and obedient disposition, to part from my work whenever the Will of God may call me elsewhere. Also, inserting more spiritual music into my playlist may help me turn my eyes to God more often during my writing. And…here’s another biggie…to write when I have the time to, even if I don’t feel like it. If God gives me the time to write, I should not waste it by procrastinating on the internet. Research is one thing, but procrastination looks and feels totally different from research. Research is for the purpose of fact-checking, mainly. Procrastination has no purpose, and therefore it is idleness, a vice so easily fallen into and, once fallen into, hard to escape.

I think the bottom line I truly need to learn and embrace is this: Our obsession should be with making it to heaven; our treasure should be found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In nothing else can we find our true happiness, a happiness not quite experienced but hoped for in this life. This is why, I think, I often feel empty inside, hollow, even when I am doing something I’ve been looking forward to—something like, sitting down at my desk to write with a fresh cup of coffee and a crumpet and turning my playlist up to drown out the world. There is no joy in it, unless it is leading me closer to God, to my treasure, to my true home. If I am not writing to please Him, if I am not writing on His time, according to His will, it is meaningless, joyless, empty. The only contentment we can find in this life is in doing the Will of God. Period. And what is His will? Sanctity. That in all we do, say, think and desire, we reach higher, reach for Him and Him alone, and find our happiness nowhere else.

I have also learned this: It is a very difficult thing to deny your own will. It stings and scrapes at our pride like nothing else can. That is why it makes us saints. Because we suffer in so doing. Because we must fight. But in this fight, we will always be victorious so long as we do not give up, so long as we do not let go of the hand of God which sustains us in all things. And our bitterness will turn swiftly to sweetness when we look up to meet the eyes of God in our suffering and see Him gazing back in love and joy at us, see Him watching our efforts to please Him with infinite delight. We cannot hope to win the fight against our will if we do not love God.

All this to say, dear reader: Fix your ‘obsession’ on your heavenly home and Heavenly Father, for only this ‘obsession’ can bring us to everlasting felicity. All others will blind us and drag us away from God, our only Good.

And, a special ‘thank you’ to the friend who posted such a thought-provoking and soul-searching status.

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

Sunday, October 19, 2014

+J.M.J.+

Well, I encountered a very difficult situation this Friday. Everything had been going wonderfully. Our classrooms were combined into one room, and I had worked with the teacher of the other classroom all morning. We get along well, and it is, of course, much easier to work with someone who knows the schedule of the classroom and who knows the children. We had eight children between our two rooms, and they’d been behaving well (for a crawler, this means they hadn’t fallen off of things, smacked or clawed at other children, or otherwise gotten themselves into trouble). My coworker left at 2:30 each day, and so someone had to come in and take her place, because the ratio of teachers to crawlers is 1 to 5, and we still had 8.

A lady came in that I’d spoken to very briefly. She was from an outside temporary agency that hired out nannies and childcare workers. She’d done my breaks a couple of times before, and so I knew her name and face. Other coworkers had expressed a distaste for working with this lady, but I did my best to put their judgments aside and form my own.

We got along well for a time, because naptime was still going on—the children were to remain in their cribs until 3:30, when we would get them up, change their diapers and give them their afternoon snack. The children had been a bit crazy during nap, partly because there were so many of them in the room, and partly because one of them had to have a breathing treatment at 2:00 that had been rather noisy. 6 out of 8 were awake, but for the most part they were fairly content. All that to say, when this lady came in, we did well for a while because all we had to do was sit there and wait for 3:30 to come, occasionally checking diapers to make sure none of the children got diaper rash while they were waiting to come out of their cribs. We made a bit of small talk, and I thought to myself, “This isn’t bad at all. I think perhaps we will get along great and everything will go smoothly.”

Fast forward to 3:20. A couple of the children had been screaming since 2:45, and one had just started fussing and was being particularly loud. This lady asked if we could get them up early. I told her no, that we had to keep them on the schedule so that they can get used to it. We began to set out the high chairs, and I went behind the counter to heat up their sippy cups, only to discover the little crockpot we normally heat them in had been unplugged. I announced we’d have to heat the cups in the microwave. The lady expressed sympathy with my agitation.

At this point, things were still relatively okay. I’d remembered one of my coworkers telling me that this lady was known for questioning the schedule and asking multiple times if she could stray from it. But that was only once.

Then the diaper changes began. At around 3:25 this lady decided she wanted to pick up one of the children and carry them around. I had a specific order I needed to change diapers in, based on what time I knew they would probably leave. I wanted to make sure that the ones that left first got their snack first so they’d be done by the time their parents arrived. She brought me the child she’d been carrying, and I asked her if she could please bring me a different child.

“Oh, I didn’t know you had a specific order,” she said, and went to place the child on the floor.

“Oh, don’t put her down on the floor, put her back in her crib,” I was quick to say.

“Why?” she asked, giving me a confused look.

“Because,” I tried to explain gently, “she can walk and she may try to climb on the high chairs. It’s a safety hazard.”

“Oh.” She picked the child back up, and turned and flipped on the light switch.

“Oh, we can’t turn the light on right now,” I said. “There are children still sleeping, so we have to keep the light off ‘til they wake up.”

Her eyes bugged out at me in exasperation.

“Oh, for goodness’ sakes.” She carried the child back to her crib and set her down while I turned the light back off and carried on with my diaper changes, too stunned for words.

Several tense diaper changes later, the children were eating their snack. As I cleaned off one of the children, the lady reached over and turned down the music I’d had on for nap. Now, in a room full of screaming children, music calms me, because I can focus on the beauty of the music rather than their screaming. To have someone else come in and mess with that only added to my irritation. Struggling to control my rage, I reached up and ripped the auxiliary cord out of the stereo, shutting off the music completely.

“Oh, good,” the lady said, breathing a sigh of relief.

I know, I know. Music is such a small thing to get upset about. And I would have been much more obliging had she asked me to turn it down. And I know, her turning down the music is a very slight thing. I’m the type of person, though, that is loathe to touch things or mess with things in another person’s classroom, and if I have the overwhelming urge to do so, I ask first. So I guess it’s one of those things that specially irritates me, when people mess with my belongings or my settings and don’t even bother to ask. A pet peeve, I suppose. A fault to be overcome. But needless to say, it didn’t make the situation any better.

Continuing on.

I did fairly well dealing with the anger. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling it, but I did my best not to show it. We made conversation, some about the childcare facility and our personal beliefs about it. That was a bit more calming. We have similar views.

As we were cleaning up from snack, I did my best to get ahold of someone at the front desk so I could go use the bathroom—and calm myself a bit. The rage built up within me needed an outlet, and I’m a cryer when I’m angry. She made remarks here and there about different things. Most weren’t irritating, but some really got under my skin and blew on my rage like a strong wind building up a fire. I don’t remember what they were and I’m not going to take pains to remember. But at one point I knew—if I didn’t leave the room soon, I might snap with the next remark that grated at me. I found one of my directors out in the cafeteria and called to her. As she approached the door I slipped outside and shut the door briefly.

“Is there any way you can get her out of here?” I pleaded. “I’m losing my mind.”

She told me I’d have to wait til we were at ratio because there was no one else available to take her place, and so I went to the bathroom and cried a bit to release the anger. It only added to my desperation that as I was crying and trying to splash water on my face, kids were banging on the door to the bathroom.

Still, eyes a bit puffy, I marched back to the classroom and geared up for a battle with myself. As I stepped inside, I noticed there were children crawling around on the carpet while the high chairs were still out and cookie crumbs all over the tile. Ignoring this, I went behind the counter for the broom.

“I talked to the director. She said they usually get the kids up at 3, not 3:30. I told her you wouldn’t let me.” At this point, her remark was just another log in the fire already roaring within me.

“Well, I’ve always been told they wake up at 3:30. That’s what we’ve done since I’ve been here,” I said, as calmly as I could manage.

“No,” she said. “The director said 3.”

I didn’t answer. There was no point. Instead I cleaned off the high chairs, stacked them against the wall, and began to sweep, tossing the dustpan onto the tile.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m watching the kids on the carpet.” I continued to sweep, turning when I heard little palms slapping the tile. One of the children was already on the tile and headed straight for the dustpan.

“Will you get him off the tile?” I demanded.

“Yes, yes, I’ve got him.” She went and picked him up and chuckled. “That’s the second time he’s gone for that dustpan.” I snorted internally.

“Yes, well, that’s why we usually keep them in their cribs until the cleaning’s done,” I said testily.

“I know, I know,” she said, and stood there watching them while I finished up, shaking with rage.

Thankfully, the director remembered my request, and as soon as we were down to five children she called into the room and sent the lady somewhere else. I think the lady sensed the tension between us.

“Gladly I’ll go,” she said with a small laugh, and went to fetch her shoes. I bade her have a good weekend and breathed a sigh of relief when she’d gone.

This was my experience with my human emery board. It is probably the second or third most trying thing I’ve experienced since my conversion. It is amazing how some people are designed to rub you exactly the wrong way and push all of your buttons with stunning accuracy. But without these people, we wouldn’t be able to progress in the spiritual life. In order to practice patience, we have to have someone to be patient with. In order to practice meekness and peaceableness, someone we have to make sacrifices for in order to get along with. I only hope, that knowing what this experience was, I will be better prepared to face it in the future, as well as others like it.

I realize maybe I have strange buttons, strange pet peeves…some of you might read this and think, “Well, I don’t see how she did anything wrong.” And perhaps you’re right. It is difficult coming into a new place and having to mold yourself to their schedule and procedures, especially if you have trouble seeing the motives or reasons behind that schedule and those procedures. It is also hard being the person used to said schedule and procedures and having someone come in and willfully go against them. I’m used to the workers from the temp agency simply being obedient and going along with everything. I’m used to being the one to have to direct, to point out which child is which, where their diapers are, where their cribs are, where they are supposed to be at what time, and to lead the effort to keep everything running smoothly. And usually the staff that come in to help me simply obey. That is what I would do, were I the one in a new childcare facility, were I the one unfamiliar with procedure.

Then again, I thrive on routine and procedure.

And maybe this lady doesn’t.

My theory is that, deep down, she doesn’t agree with the schedule or procedures. And I can understand that, and even respect it. It’s fine if this isn’t the way you’d want your household run. I might not run mine the same way. And my theory is also that she wanted to do things the way she thought they should be done, as much as I would allow her to, or as much as she could get away with. Hence the children on the floor, hence getting them up early to stop their crying, hence turning the light on or turning the music down, as she saw fit.

I can respect all of that. But in an institutional setting, with eight children to care for and only two teachers between them, the procedures and routines are there for a reason, and a simple reason at that: to keep both children and teachers sane. Hence keeping the children in their cribs while we clean up from mealtimes, hence keeping them in their cribs until naptime is officially over, so they learn to content themselves while other children are sleeping (because that’s what will happen in the toddler room), hence specific times and places for meals and specific tasks that must be done at each meal.

A routine for children so small may seem ridiculous or even cruel, but in all honestly, human beings thrive on routine, and especially children. Coming in from the infant room, where their schedules are much more flexible, sure, the routine may be hard at first, but after a week or two they get used to it. They sit in their cribs and play with the toy or the mirror without fussing. They fall asleep on their own and sleep at assigned nap times. They are hungry when it’s time to eat, and in between eating and sleeping, they are happy and content. And for us teachers, who may have to deal with a group of 8 or even 9 between 2 teachers, or 5 for one teacher, this routine is what makes taking care of so many children possible in the first place. And just because there is a routine doesn’t mean there isn’t any love. No, it’s certainly not how I would do things with my own household and my own children. But it makes sense in the context of having to care for so many children at the same time.

All that to say, I have another lesson under my belt and a long way to go still. God humbled me and gave me many graces that day—He kept me from boiling over and having an all-out crying and yelling fit, like I was tempted to, and He helped me to see her for what she is—a fellow soul, bought at the price of Our Lord’s most Precious Blood, and an invaluable help to my own soul by virtue of our conflicting personalities. We need our ‘enemies’ sometimes more than we need our friends, and affliction has much more to teach us than prosperity.

And the ironic twist to this story: Just that morning, I’d read in “Introduction to the Devout Life” a chapter entitled, “Gentleness towards others and Remedies against Anger.” Does God have a sense of humor? Did He give me a pop quiz? I think so. Most certainly.

May God grant me the grace to serve Him more faithfully in any other trials I might come across, and to be humble enough to see every trial and every soul for what they are.

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+