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Announcing Mary Roush's Book! "The First Eighty Years Are the Hardest: Feeling, Dealing, Healing"

As many of you know, I have been working during the last eight months on getting my mother's life Mom on Couch in GV Livng Roomstory manuscript published. She finished it about two weeks before her unexpected death in August, 2012. Well, I am thrilled to report that it is now available on Amazon! You can purchase it by clicking on the link over there to your right.

In case you don't know, this is an inspiring story of a woman who lived to be 81 years old; 44 of those years were spent in AA recovery and helping hundreds of sponsees from Philadelphia, St. Louis, Denver, and finally, Green Valley, AZ. My mother's story begins with the drowning death of her father when she was only five years old. It goes on to include her difficult childhood, marrying her husband, Skip (61 years), bringing up six children and then her descent into and out of alcoholism. She went on to become a therapist in private practice while living in Denver, CO. She conducted numerous weekend recovery retreats for spouses and adult children of alcoholics.

The book includes her move to Green Valley, AZ and the difficult years caring for my sister, Karen, who eventually died in August, 2005. My mother then endured a botched hip replacement surgery, three years of chronic pain, and then bladder cancer. I am happy to assure you that her last 18 months were pain free and filled with joyous volunteer work and remaining active in the local AA community. My dad, Skip Roush (86), continues to live in Green Valley at a beautiful retirement community, La Posada. He has decided to use proceeds from the sale of my mother's book to assist women in recovery. 

I am also announcing the launch of a blog/website that I am still in the process of building in order to celebrate the life and work of Mary Roush. You can reach it by clicking here www.Feel-Deal-Heal.com It includes several of my mother's self-reflection papers written while she was working on her Master's degree. I have included a listing and link to some of her favorite books. The site will contain many more photos that she selected but could not be included in the book because of space restrictions. I will be transcribing more of Mary's writings about codependency, family therapy, and women's issues.

I hope you will consider purchasing my mom's book and I would particularly appreciate your help in spreading the word about its' availability now. Perhaps you could post it on your Facebook page or send a note to people on your email Contact list. Thanks so much for joining me in celebrating the life of this wonderful woman!

Joy Word in Stone


Recovering Catholics: A Success Story

Catholic Rosary on Bible

It was the summer of 1989 and I was conducting a weekend retreat workshop for Adult Children of Alcoholics at the Dominican Retreat Center in Albuquerque, NM. As the participants were checking in on Friday afternoon, I struck up an animated conversation with Sister Margaret Mary. Her pronounced east coast accent caught my ear as I tried to distinguish, was that Baltimore or Philadelphia? Indeed, she was a Catholic nun from Philadelphia, so we just had to compare notes about our lives there in the 1960s.

I had attended Catholic grade school from 3rd to 7th grade in Swedesburg, PA, a small suburb of Philadelphia. Sister Margaret Mary had grown up in Philadelphia and was several years older than me, so she was familiar with the Catholic school culture that I described.


I wanted to share with her all of my funny stories about the nuns, the ancient and kind parish priest, masses conducted in Latin, Polish, and English, memorizing the questions and answers in the Baltimore Catechism book, corporal punishment, May Processions, mid-morning snacks of soft pretzels and milk, $1.25 due every Monday morning to pay for the five 25 cent lunches per week, jumping rope every day at recess because we were not allowed to run on the asphalt playground, and making up sins for confession that weren't so serious as to warrant much more than the standard penance of three Our Fathers, four Hail Marys and one Glory Be thrown in for good measure.

Catholic Virgin Mary

Sister Margaret Mary laughed knowingly as she smiled with recognition at our many commonalities. It felt so good to find a kindred spirit. That is what we were to each other. Through the years, whenever I would meet someone new at a party or social event and find out that they, too, had attended Catholic grade school, there was an instant and mutual connection - particularly if we were of about the same age, and attended school before the rumored reforms of the 1980s. We would immediately sit together, knee to knee, and excitedly compare war stories. Yes, there were funny stories. And, as I was beginning to realize with Sister Margaret Mary, there was a dimension of "impromptu support group" to those kindred spirit connections.


Later that night, as I laid in bed recalling my conversation with Sister, I was barely able to recognize that there was a bitter tinge to the "funny" stories I was sharing.  I realized, to my innocent surprise, that there was an angry edge to the telling of some of my Catholic school experiences. I got quiet with myself and looked deeper inside and sure enough, I found anger there. And that anger was tangled up in hurt. There was in me a composite 10 year old little girl who was full of sadness and having a harder and harder time denying her forbidden anger.  Kris in 3rd Grade
Off and on throughout the next day, while conducting my workshop, I realized that this hurt and anger was real and that I needed to address it. I knew that I didn't want that resentment any more.

Sister Margaret Mary was busy running the conference center. I found Sister Janie. Sister Janie was a young noviciate - a nun in training, if you will. She was kind and helpful and I just knew she would understand. During a break, I explained what I was realizing and asked if she might be available to meet with me on Sunday afternoon after the workshop was over. I believed her when she said she was happy to help me in any way.


We met at the appointed time and we walked out into the hot arid desert to find a shaded bench. I told her that I wanted to inventory every single Catholic resentment that I had been carrying all these years. I didn't want this toxic anger any more. She listened. I talked. And talked. And talked.

  • the time Sister Camilla hit me over the head with the hard bound Geography book
  • the time Sister Gabriel stood me in front of the class as an example of a ratty school uniform because the tear in the front had only been patched from underneath... I was humiliated...
  • the many times the nuns said that the Roush girls would go to hell if their parents pulled them out of Catholic school and enrolled them in the public school
  • being told to never "touch yourself in an impure place;" the human body was dirty
  • being told weekly stories of children who had sinned during the day and then died in their sleep that very same night
  • being called "white trash" and my very tanned best friend, Joey being called "black monkey" by the nuns... I didn't understand what "white trash" meant until I got to high school years later
  • being made to memorize the meaningless answers to the Baltimore Catechism book questions
  • no exposure to the Bible, just my Catholic Missal
  • the incessant warnings about God's wrath and eternal punishment in a burning hell
  • the constant implied teachings that I was bad to the core and had to be diligent on a daily basis to resist my sinful nature
  • and perhaps most painful, finding out in high school, through Young Life (a Christian outreach for high schoolers) that God really did know me and love me all along and that my Catholic school had brainwashed me into self hatred and a terrified fear of a vengeful God.                              Catholic Nun

This and much more poured out of me and I will be forever grateful to Sister Janie. Through my tears, I could see her face. Her look of anguish as she slowly shook her head in sorrow, healed my pain. She didn't speak words. She spoke heartfelt compassion with her face. She believed me. She never defensively tried to explain away or excuse the nuns, the church, the doctrine, none of it. And after it had all come out, my pain, the betrayal, the lies, my resentments about it all.... when there was nothing left to say... I dared to ask.


I don't know where it came from. I was just as surprised to hear it myself. A small and tentative voice inside of me asked Sister Janie, "I don't know if I can ask this or not, but,... could you apologize to me on behalf of the Catholic Church?" I couldn't believe the selfish audacity of my request. Before I could recover from the shock of my own question, Sister Janie quickly answered, "Of course! I am so sorry all of that happened to you. It did happen; I have heard similar stories from other people. I am so sorry and  as an official representative of the Catholic Church, I do apologize to you and I ask for your forgiveness." Well, I burst into tears again as we held each other and sat on that bench together, - two women who had only met the day before.  Finally.  God was good.


I told Sister Janie of my intention to leave it all there, there in the South Valley desert. I had released all that anger and would not pick it up again. And now, I can honestly say that when I tell my Catholic school stories, that tinge of anger is gone. I smile a little smile for Sister Margaret Mary and for Sister Janie, and yes, even for Sister Camilla and Sister Gabriel and all those misdirected and wounded nuns who are indeed now, my sisters.


You know, I share this story as one example of how to recognize, address, and release toxic emotions that might have been living just beneath the surface for many years. It is important to know, though, that forgiveness is not an event; it is a process. I started a process that day. I did not snap my fingers and see that it was all gone. I declared an intention that day, which I followed up with conscious choices to not pick it up again in the form of re-living and ruminating. I disallowed myself the luxury of basking in my hurt and indignation. That is the only way to truly move on into the future, unencumbered by past baggage. One of these days, I will get back to work on the book I am writing about this very process. Until then, I hope you will share with me your experiences with letting go of old hurts and then enjoying the freedom of their release.

  Sunset

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The Serenity Prayer

 

Candles Photo Spirituality

 

This morning during my quiet time, I found myself contemplating the Serenity Prayer. In case you are not familiar with it, here it is:

"God, grant me the

serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can, and

wisdom to know the difference."


I was struck by the simplicity and brevity of such an all-encompassing prayer. It is widely attributed to Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian from Massachusetts, though its origins are still debated. It has been used as a closing prayer by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) since 1942.

I decided to study each of the words and discover their particular meaning for me. Perhaps I might glean more insight if I thoughtfully considered the words behind the words - for me. I would like to share this with you with the hastily added clarification that I am no philosopher. Here is how it broke down for me:


"God, grant me the                   "Something/Someone greater than myself, give me the

serenity                                       peacefulness, faith and knowing

to accept                                    to allow and not fight against

the things                                   the people and conditions

I cannot change,                        I am powerless over,

courage                                     the trust, resolve and strength

to change                                  to act and make different, - to transform

the things I can                         myself and the conditions I am able to make different,

and                                            and give me

wisdom                                     the transcending knowledge from experience

to know the difference."          to recognize what I can and cannot make different."

 

"God, grant me the

serenity, courage and wisdom

to

accept, change and know."

Spirituality Candles Layers of Votives

The Serenity Prayer seems to presume at least three things:

1) the need to go outside of the self to receive help,

2) the willingness to receive and act on what is asked for, and perhaps most strikingly,

3) serenity is not the result of accepting what we cannot change; serenity is the prerequisite to accepting what we cannot change.


So much is made of the need to accept what Life has given us each day, in order to experience peace in life. I can certainly see the wisdom of that, the directional flow that acceptance leads to peace. And yet, the Serenity Prayer calls us to do the opposite, to receive serenity in order to then have acceptance. This is where the need to seek help from outside of us comes in. This is what turns an affirmation into a prayer, the humble invitation to a higher power. I don't know if or how prayers get "answered" or "not answered." My personal belief is that the power is in the act of the asking.

I can appreciate that I might need divine intervention in order to have enough serenity to then experience acceptance. And, it strikes me that serenity is not the same as peace. Serenity is a state of grace that is sometimes the eye of the tornado. It includes a kind of faith from an inner Knowing. In this way, it is much more than a peaceful feeling. 

So, it begins with serenity and through acceptance, courage, action, and wisdom, it then ends in serenity and so goes the circular cycle. I am sure I have much more to learn from this prayer, and more importantly, from living from this prayer.

I would love to hear what your experience is with the Serenity Prayer and what it means to you. Please consider leaving a comment below.


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God Doesn't Like Bread Crust, Either

This might just be my earliest memory. I was about five years old. We lived in Detroit, Michigan and I was in Kindergarten. I had two older sisters and a younger sister and Child in Thought
brother. But none of that mattered on this particular day. This was between me and God.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table. I was finishing my cereal and toast for breakfast. I really didn't want to eat the crust of my toast. Such a delicate palate at that young age. I knew I had to eat everything on my plate, what with all the starving children in Biafra and all. We were raised in a pretty strict Catholic home and you did what you were told. So I had to eat my crust. What to do?

And then it came to me. I'll give my bread crust to God. He'll eat it. He loves little children. What a grand solution! So, I climbed down from my big chair and went through the door to the basement. I stepped down a few steps and stood there in the dark staircase. I lifted my hand up, arm outstretched to the heavens and said, "Here God, you can have my crust." I waited. Nothing. I waited some more. Nothing. "No, really, ... You can have it." I waited. Still nothing. I finally brought

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Where is Life? Here. When is Life? Now. Why is Life? Love

Earth From Space
Here ..... Now ..... Love

Much has been written about the wisdom of living life in the "now." I wouldn't know much about that; I'm too busy planning my day.

"and today is Thursday..."

Several years ago, I got some great advice. One Thanksgiving morning, I apparently was going on and on talking about all my plans and then all my worries about all my plans. My mother was barely able to slide in sideways a simple observation that pulled me up short. She said, "And today is Thursday." In an instant, laughing, I was back in the present day, in the present moment, tending to the present task: stirring the gravy in the pan on the kitchen stove.  I loved that sudden reminder to get back into the here and now.  And so, whenever I find myself getting too far flung in my thought world, I remind myself, "And today is Thursday,"... regardless of whatever day it is.


"...all you do is piss all over today."

Another several years ago, I was attending an open AA meeting in Vail, Colorado. In fact, it was the meeting where my mother introduced me to the former First Lady, Betty Ford. Betty was chairing the meeting that night. There was quite a mix of people at that gathering. I will never forget. The topic was about living one day at a time. An old, grizzled ranch hand with faded blue jeans and battered old boots spoke up and drawled, "You know, when you got one foot in yesterday, and the other foot in tomorrow, all you do is piss all over today." Ha-Ha! How's that for common horse sense! I remember Betty throwing her head back and howling with laughter along with the rest of us. Wisdom in any form crosses all demographics.


On Paper Towel Cardboard Tubes...

Try this exercise. The next time you run out of paper towels, save the cardboard tube.  Toilet paper tubes work, too. Now, bring the tube up to eye level and look at your world through this narrowed perspective. Notice how you are forced to focus on one thing at a time.  Go outside and walk around your yard. Be sure to look down occasionally so you don't trip over something right in front of you. Pan the whole area first, and then zoom in on the leaves, the blades of grass, and the insects. Look up at the sky and see the clouds, the sun, and the distant airplane. Follow that bird that just flew by. Now, while looking through your new self-awareness apparatus at some close up object, try to think and plan your activities for the next week. No, really. Just try. When your sensory focus is concentrated on one thing it is very difficult to make your mind wander into the past or the future.  The next time you drift into depression ruminating over the past, or work yourself up into anxiety worrying about the future, just grab your tube (the toilet paper tube is a nice purse-size) and insist on some here and now focus. While you're there, do a gratitude list.


Which brings me to love...

So my question is, what is the purpose of living "in the here and now?" What if I actually master some decent ability to live my life in the more or less present moment? If I have that, what have I got? I have the awareness that right now,here in my living room,  I am eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich and it is 2:10pm.? Is that it? That's the secret to happiness? That can't be it. I'll bet if I meditated for several years, I would see the connection and understand. Right now, I don't.

What is the use of living in the here and now if my inward gaze only reveals me? I think it's about love. That's the only thing I can think of that would make living in this moment mean anything. Having a loving attitude toward myself. Having a loving intention toward others. A willingness to love and be loved, which includes the "cousins" of love: gratitude, forgiveness, joy, kindness, and patience. In fact, this love piece is the real essence. Love that is here and now or there and then for that matter, love provides the answer to the why? of Life. To love. To be loved. Flowing love.

 

What's the Takeaway?

The next time you find yourself projecting into the future with your grand planning, orchestrated arrangements, scheduled to the minute hectic life, remember the immortal words of my mother, Mary Roush, on one Thanksgiving morning: "And today is Thursday." Then look through your cardboard tube and send love out to the universe and receive love in from the universe. And have yourself a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

 

Spirituality Business Man on Beach Meditating with Computer and Sand Toys