Saturday, December 26, 2009

I've been in your house!

There's a house at the bottom of the hill, one of the big old ones in our town, that we pass every day on our way to and from our house. One day when we went buy we saw a sign that there was an estate sale going on there. We could not contain our curiosity and walked down to check it out.
The house was full- filled to the brim with stuff. It looked like the person who'd lived there had not done any work cleaning or organizing or even cooking in a long time. It was similar to the houses on the new shows about hoarders that are on all the cable channels now. Each room was more amazing than the first- the kitchen cabinets were full but with no product newer than the last decade. The bathroom tubs were full of clothing and toiletries, and each bedroom was full of clothes and other stuff. The attic had a long pole from one end of the main room up there to the other, and hanging from it were hundreds of formal gowns from a department stores- some dresses were there in two or three different sizes or colors of the same style, and most of them had the tags on them. It made us wonder about the woman who had lived there. The sale workers were understandably tight-lipped about her story but we somehow found out that she had not died, but had just... left. We didn't envy the jobs of those staffers, and knew that whatever hadn't been sold would literally have to be shoveled out, into a dumpster or two or four.
In the front room of the blisteringly hot attic, I found a pile of boxes and file cabinets full of pictures and letters and memories from the family that had lived there. They were insanely personal, from times they'd been apart, sweet letters of love and promise and hope for the future. I felt at the same time wicked and privileged to read it all and I soaked it up. I love that stuff. But it broke my heart to think it would be shoveled out with the rest of the junk.
Just tonight we drove by the house, which has been completely cleaned out and is being lived in, by someone. Some repairs have been done but it could stand some paint and the little garage out back is still broken and ramshackle. I don't know anything more about the house now than I did then, but as I drove past tonight and tried to catch a peek in the windows, I whispered to the new tenants there "I've been in your house!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Welcome to the CAPE

I think in parishes at Christmas time (and Ash Wednesday, and Palm Sunday, and Easter) there can be some mixed emotions at the crowds that appear. The CAPE Catholics all descend and clog the parking lot and the pews, and while it looks wonderful, feels wonderful, and is just the way we think it ought to be all year long, we can feel frustrated too- why isn't it this way all year long? Are these people here to be posers, fake part-time Catholics, doing it because it's tradition, or are they really here to worship God? Why don't they want to worship God with us all year long?
Last night at our most crowded Mass (at four, which the harumphers will harumph "oh they want to get it over with so they can go on with their Christmas plans!") I stood with my pastor in the balcony overlooking the crowd. He said "just watch, half of these people will leave as soon as Communion is over." And we did watch, and he was right, a lot of people did leave after Communion. I said to him, "but... look at how many stayed!" He rolled his eyes at me a bit, but smiled. I'm always telling the staff to think the best of people, be optimistic. They give me the same reaction, but I think they see some whiff of wisdom in it. Anyway, I told the pastor that it was probably best for people to start leaving early, so as to lessen the clog in the parking lot.
I know there are reasonable reasons to harumph at this sudden Christianity that strikes around these holidays. But I think it's better to be hopeful. If they came, they came because God called them to, whether or not they know that. They didn't have to come. Maybe they think it's tradition, or guilt, that calls them to their knees once (or four times) a year, but I think it's the Holy Spirit. And maybe while they're with us, they'll feel a deeper call. Maybe they'll hear something inspiring in the sermon or the songs, or maybe this year someone will smile at them warmly and they'll realize they miss the community that they could be finding at church.
I couldn't help but have a full heart looking down at the crowds of half-familiar faces and wobbly toddlers and perfumed up old ladies. I was glad to see it looking like it ought to look, and feeling like it ought to feel, and I smiled warmly at everyone I could meet eyes with. I hope they come back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Week Joys and Woes

Today we start our home-stretch toward Christmas day, and our heads are reeling with the financial pressures and deadlines, and the weird schedule at work that is a combination of lots of events to get to, but not a lot of work to do.
Today and tomorrow we gather with our Pastor, whose sister Nancy died last Friday. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November, and died so soon after. It happened so fast, and so sickeningly suddenly. We're mourning for her whole family but mostly for our Pastor and friend, who has now lost two beloved siblings within a year, too young. She didn't know she had cancer, at all- until she went into renal failure and was hospitalized. How long had it been at work in her, silently wreaking havoc, without her even knowing? How horrible to be betrayed by your own body like that, keeping secrets and making promises while slowly getting ready to kick your legs out from under you.
I remember hearing a doctor on an NPR interview who had been paralyzed many years before. The interviewer asked him whether he resented his body, and he said no, that instead he thanked it for sticking with him through all he'd put it through. I love that attitude. But I wonder if people with cancer like Nancy's can ever get to that point.
The pastor is a faith-filled and joyful man, and it's crushing to see him sad- and it's so awful that it's happening around Christmas. He told Scott that of course none of them had done any shopping. It makes me want to help him, but of course there's not much I can do.
I'm slowly starting to understand how God works in these situations... I think... I think He, too, would like to make everything better, to let people live forever, to never experience sadness- but He knows, He must know, that this is all part of a much bigger picture. I have to believe that even though we fear death, and leaving the ones we love, or the ones we love leaving us, God knows about a bigger and better truth, a bigger and better goodness. But it must be hard for him to watch us suffer- like a parent whose heart breaks at their child's tears, but knows that the tears are part of the growing and learning that the child needs. Remember parents used to say "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you..."? Maybe that's true for our Father, too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't wash your face with snow, that's silly.

It's snowing like the dickens up here on the hill. This morning I got up at 6:22 to dig out and head in for the 9:00 Mass, but there was no way that was going to happen. The snow is dumping down in flakes so tiny that you can hardly believe they'd amount to anything. But you know what they say:
little snow = big snow and big snow = little snow.
At 6:22 we probably had about 4 inches but the weather people said that I should stay off the roads because the winds were wicked. So I did, and went back to bed. Up again at 8:22, there were 4 more inches. Now at 10:30, there's probably 2 more inches and still it comes. I've missed the 9AM baptism and the Breakfast with Santa, which they very silly-ly decided to go on with.
Next target for takeoff, to get there for 1:00 baptisms. We shall see.
Here's how it looks from here:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas preparations on the Hill

If tomorrow wasn't supposed to be such a busy day, I'd be pretty excited about the massive amounts of snow forecasted for tonight and tomorrow. We are supposed to have four baptisms at 3 different times tomorrow, along with Breakfast with Santa after the 9 and the 11. Not to mention the "Red Sox" Swap (because it doesn't seem right to do a Yanke swap here in Soxland) and my musical comeback in Lessons and Carols. Ah well. Maybe we can limp in there at some point and make half the day happen.
But here at the homefront, my shopping is done, and wrapped. The tree is lit and surrounded with pretty packages, and soon Scott will be home from the mall with his bounty. I spent the afternoon making treats for my co-workers.Here's what I cheffed up:

These are nifty little treats my sister told me about: pretzels with rollos melted on top and then squished down with an M&M, and I added a drizzle of white chocolate. Oh yeah, they're yummy.


















This is bark made with graham crackers, emphasis on the word CRACK, they are so freakin' good. I broke up M&Ms on top to make them even more festive.














I packed them up together in nify plastic chinese-food-takeout box things. Festive!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Love love love

When I was a teenager, all I wanted in the world was to fall in love and for someone to fall in love with me. I remember that every time I had some kind of relationship with a boy, I looked for symptoms of being in love, very much like I do now when I'm afraid that I'm coming down with the flu. Is my throat sore? Does my stomach feel funny? Why am I so tired, IS THIS THE FLU???
As a teenager, I knew all about love, what it looked like in the movies and on tv (Joanie Loves Chachi!) and what it was supposed to feel like. I think all teenagers are similar- especially girls, if they're like me- LOVE was the language of my teen years. I talk a lot about love when I describe having a relationship with God to teenagers now. I tell them that when I found out God loved me already, it felt to me like i was falling in love with Him. I suddenly wanted to know more about Him, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Him, I thought about Him all the time. Love songs on the radio became hymns. I wanted my friends to know Him.
When I teach about evangelization, and about living in the Kingdom, I tell people we should be like people in love- wanting to tell the world about our new special One, glowing from the happiness of knowing Him. I say, "when you're at a restaurant or at a hotel, you can pick out the honeymooners, can't you? You can see it written all over them!" I say, maybe this is what kingdom-living looks like- maybe we should glow from the feeling of loving and being so loved.
What's funny is we spend very little time at church talking about God's overwhelming love for us. Oh it's mentioned, but sort of in the context of theology. Those of us from MY generation are mocked because we were catechized just post-Vatican II. Religious educators scorn "oh for you it was all crafts and 'Jesus looooves youuu'" as if that is the worst message one could teach or be taught about Jesus.
I wonder how different things would be in our Church if more people know about what it feels like to be in love with God? I wonder how many people would be surprised and changed- converted, if you will- to find out how much God loves them.
PS, God loves you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Brain Hurts!

I'm using my brain in new (okay,old) exciting ways this week. It's finals week in grad school, and I just passed in my take-home final for my Psych of Religious Development class, and should right now be studying for my New Testament final, which is Thursday in class. Blue books! I am not sure I've taken a blue book exam, ever. I have a study guide, and once I study that (maybe I'll use note cards!) I should be fine.
But the real brain-cell tickler is that I've been singing in the choir- a temporary gig, for Lessons and Carols. I was asked to join as an Alto, which I am not. I was a second-soprano, way back when. I'm totally new at reading the alto line in SATB music.
It's HARD! Altos never get their starting note, and they don't get to follow any melodical instinct. The alto line goes up and down when one least expects it. They're all over the place! But the sound altos make really does flesh out the sound of the choir, and it's cool to be the ones to sing the tricky notes. It turns out that I haven't lost all my music-reading abilities, and my voice is still pretty trustworthy.
It's old and new territory this week for me.
Okay, okay, I'm gonna go study.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I couldn't do it, really.

Have you seen "Men of a Certain Age" yet? It's on TNT, starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Brauer. It's funny, but it's really dark, too. I wasn't expecting that. It is the kind of show you kinda wish you could stop watching, even while you can't stop watching.
Ray's character is in the midst of a divorce, and watching him interact with his ex-wife is tough. During scenes like this I picture them on their wedding day, so happy. I imagine how sure they must have felt about each other that day.
But the thing that really gets me is this: how do you separate from someone who knows you so well, who you know so well? Even after only 8 years of marriage, I know Scott so well. I know he can't keep a secret, I know how cranky he gets when he's hungry. I know what makes him laugh, I know how emotional he is. I know how he'll react to things. I know he wakes up happy... well, you see what I mean, I KNOW him. Intimately. And he knows me, like no one else does.
How do you live with distance between you and someone you know so well?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mary's "yes"

So yesterday was our parish's feast day, the Immaculate Conception. Are you the last Catholic to hear that this immaculate conception is the conception of MARY, not of Jesus? Well it's true! Rumor has it Mary was conceived (in her mother's womb- this is always specified. I guess it's to distract people from asking where she was conceived, which is too personal a question.) without sin. How about that?
Every year on this day I hear a sermon about Mary and how fortunate we are that this young woman said "yes" to God, and agreed to be the God-bearer, the first tabernacle, if you will. I ponder this. If it's true that she was chosen even before she was born, then what choice did she really have? Would it even be possible that she could have said no? How would that work? Did God have a couple of other girls conceived without sin, just as plan B,C,D? Or would her "no" have pushed back the date of the coming of our Messiah until God could work up another immaculate conception of some other girl and grow her up to child-bearing age?
But I guess she, being human like us, had a choice. Sure, she was specially gifted and prepared for this pivotal role in history, in the Kingdom. But ultimately, it came down to her accepting God's plan for her and agreeing to participate in it, using the gift God gave her. Did Mary know how special she was, how gifted she was for doing God's work? Maybe she had an inkling. How different would the world have been if she refused to move in the ways God asked her to move? Or, if she was too afraid to try?
I think the same is true for all of us. Maybe we have very little awareness of the gifts God has given us. Maybe we are afraid to put ourselves out there, afraid to trust that we have what we need within ourselves, put there by God. How different would the world be if we agree to move in the way that God is asking us to move?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Memorial Service

Today we went to the memorial service for Scott's youth minister at the Congregational Church in our town. The church was full to overflowing, and the service was lovely and moving. Howie was a Young Life staffer, and had been in ministry for decades. At one point, his wife asked people to stand in accordance with how they knew Howie: as a family member? As a Young Life leader? As a teacher? As a ministry colleague? It was remarkable thing to see.
As I sat there listening to this man's life being told, I had a lot to think about. I wondered if I lived enough great stories for people to tell about me after I die. I wondered if it was a mistake to never have had children. I wondered if I was doing enough in my ministry that people would be able to say "she taught me about God."
The structure of the service was interesting- it was over two hours long but despite the fact that I was SO hungry throughout, since I had neglected to have lunch, it was thoroughly lovely and inspiring. I had only met Howie a few times, but I know the influence he's had on Scott. During the prayer part of the service, we were invited to turn to God with our thanks for bringing Howie into our lives, and I thanked God for Howie because without his encouragement of Scott to go into ministry, I guessed I never would have met him. How about that? Howie, I'm sure, never thought "hey I made that marriage possible!" He never knew the influence he had on me, a person he'd barely met.
In all, the service made me want to be a better person, a better minister, a better Christian. I want to be the kind of person who has a memorial service that inspires people to be better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The thing is...

One of my classes this semester is called "Psychology of Religious Development." We've looked at the major developmental theories and theorists, and are just now getting to the Big Names in faith development, Fowler and Parks. Time and time again, we come to the conclusion that in order for adults to grow in faith, they need faith experiences (as opposed to dogmatic instruction) and relationship (as opposed to reading, for instance, or... dogmatic instruction).
Then of course, the question becomes: how does a church do this? How does an institutional church manage to help all its adult members have conversion experiences, have religious experiences, form deeper relationships with God? We agree that it's a hard thing to do, agree that most parishes seem to be fine with their adults lingering forever in a low-to-middlin' level of faith, and that it's easiest for parishes to provide quantitative programs like dogmatic instruction, and hard to guage progress in such a qualitative goal such as these.
So today, a class member said "well right now, parishes in Boston are participating in this wonderful program, RENEW."
I rolled my eyes.
This year everyone who's participating in the Renew/Arise program has been raving about it, and... I believe them. I'm sure it's a great program, a great opportunity for people to share faith, meet new people, grow in faith. But I also believe that all the other panaceas (Alpha, Small Faith Communities, Life-Nights, Disciples in Mission, etc.) have just as much value. None is significantly different from the others (and all of them are basically copies of good ol'fashioned YOUTH GROUP models tweaked for adults) and all of them come to an end.
The thing is, all of these are great programs. But they're temporary, and don't address the Big Issue. These programs are great for the joiners in the parish, but don't address the seekers who won't go to a program. They teach people to share faith, but once they're over, they're over. Parishes who will gladly rave about their successful Renew programs won't, in any other way, address the idea that adults faith formation should be their focus, won't stop pouring their resources into elementary-level CCD programs. The paradigm needs to be addressed in order to make efforts like Renew (and all the others) have sticking power. In my opinion.
It's like the alcoholic who takes up yoga. Sure, she feels stretchier and lither, but the systemic issue is still there, keeping her back from true health.
I almost wrote "but hey, it's better than nothing!" but it's not. These band-aid programs keep the church busy and keep them from addressing the systemic issue, because they look like they're doing something.
Beware the brand-name program... work to change the paradigm.

from all the birds at our house to yours

Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Happy Thanksgiving!
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox greeting

Monday, November 23, 2009

What if I'm a jerk?

Sometimes, usually after a big event or social thing, I start to wonder... what if I was a jerk? I look back over my conversations and interactions with people and worry: was my response snippy? Did what I say make someone feel bad? What if I missed a grimace in response to something I said? Oh shoot. Should I call them and ask if I was a jerk when we were together? If I wasn't, they'll say "why would you think that?" and I will have to give them an example of when I thought I might have been acting jerky. Then, maybe, they'll realize what a jerk I was, even though they hadn't noticed it before. Maybe it's best not to bring anything up.
After my wedding, I worried that maybe I'd missed someone, or turned away from someone before they were done speaking to me, or didn't pay enough attention to someone. I worry that my bridesmaids might have been miserable, or my parents might have felt neglected. I dunno.
Well, I hope I'm not a jerk. If anyone out there has noticed me being jerky, break it to me gently, will ya?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Amen Sister!

I'm just home from a trip to the homeland, an annual trip with my sisters for earl Christmas shopping and crafting. We eat great food, follow each other on errands, we gossip and laugh a lot. We tell lots of stories. We check our impressions of how things are with each other, and reckon our memories against each other's.
Last week at HoFo, someone with only one sibling asked me what it was like to grow up in a large family. She said "did you never get lonely, did you always have someone to talk to?" I remember that there was always at least someone at home, and if there wasn't always someone to talk to, there were always tales to listen to. I told my HoFo group how much I loved to get hand-me-downs from my sister, because they had cool clothes that I would never be able to buy for myself. Getting a pile (or garbage bag) of clothes from them meant I was getting older, coming closer to who they were, closer to a time when I could wear colors and styles beyond what seemed like constant brown nylon.
Now that we're all older, I can see more and more how alike we are, the way our DNA is distributed among us, and how being children of our parents has formed us into the people we are today. We're different from each other, too- but you can't miss that we're related. Together with honorary sister, we have a lot of fun and share a lot of memories. I look forward to this trip every year.
Now I'm home again (jiggety-jig) and waiting for Scott to gt home from his junior-senior retreat and tomorrow morning we launch into another crazy week. Suddenly now it's almost Thanksgiving and almost time for snow and almost time for Advent and Christmas. The leaves are all off the trees lining the highway and now I can see all the orange bittersweet that has been hidden underneath. I love Bittersweet, and love the idea of it growing in amongst the green leaves all Summer, and then showing itself in big orange clouds in the trees and brush when this time of year rolls around. It's a bittersweet time of year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

buncha half entries

Maybe it's just a busy time (it is) but I find myself writing half-blog-entries in my head constantly but nothing complete. So I figure I'll regale you with half-entries.
For about two weeks now I've had this spot on my left foot that would suddenly feel like it was heating up. A strange hot spot, just erupting there every several minutes, and then subsiding. Sometimes it felt so hot that I wanted to take off my shoes. But it didn't feel hot to the touch.
As I am always hoping for signs of menopause I kinda hoped I was having a weird hot flash, but then I heard an interview with a woman from Canada who suffered from MS. She said her first symptom was "hot knees." So I've been pretty sure over the last week or so that I have a brand new case of MS, and thought even more seriously than usual about considering taking some kind of exercise. You know, while I could.
Good news! The heat is gone. Now I don't have to work out!
~
I think the most profound thing my mother ever told me was "don't wish away time." It's profound to me, because I think my Mom does that very thing... and also I do it. I'm always looking ahead to some future date, some future thing (like menopause!). All through my first few years of ministry I couldn't wait to have enough years of experience under my belt that I'd feel credible- and always looked forward to looking closer to my age, for crying out loud... I always have looked young, at least since I've been old enough to look one way or another. It's the same thing, a wish to look credible- there's something about a young adult youth minister that seems to scream "I don't know what I'm doing, really!" I also really hate being new at things, in places. So I'm always anxious to get some time behind me, so that I'll know I've made it.
When I was a kid, it would take me forever to walk home from school. I'd stop here and there, visit the neighborhood dogs, linger on the path. But if there was bad news (a bad grade, something I was in trouble with, I would race home, even despite my best efforts to stall. I just wanted to get things over with. I guess I still operate that way.
~
Well, there's two half-things anyway. Does that count for one full blog post? I'll try to do better, people.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Oh, hey! Are you still here?

Ah, public, sorry about the lack of posts lately! It's nothing personal, I've just been busy writing (and reading) for school. But here I am!!! Thanks for waiting!
School lately has had my head spinning. In a good way! Even in HoFo today I heard myself say something pretty profound. But also, every Tuesday night at the parish, I've been leading a really enjoyable (at least to me!) Lectio Divina group based on the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading. We call it Sunday Lex, which is why people seem confused about when to show up...
Anyway, tonight we looked ahead to this Sunday's Gospel reading from Mark, the story of the scribes' hypocrisy vs. the widow who gave her all (two small coins). We talked about whether or not Jesus' lesson in these stories is about complete surrender. We all confessed to being non all-givers, non complete-surrender-ers. We talked about how we decide how to give money to a cause, for instance (from our surplus, like the scribes? To God, like the widow?).
I told the group about a man who stood up at a parish adult faith formation class and told everyone that he got a letter in the mail from some organization, telling him that giving money to them was like giving money to God- that any money he sends them, God would repay many times. He told us proudly that he did send a lot of money to them, and continues to do so, and it always does come back, somehow.
I remember standing at the front of that room, looking at him, and thinking "oh that poor man is being robbed!" But in a way, I didn't want to challenge him because he was giving out of great faith.
The question I ended up facing then was, Am I smarter than he is, or is his faith stronger than mine?
I think I've written her about when I was a kid and we went to Mass at St. John's, a tall, Gothic-looking church, and thought I might be able to fly. It was probably during the homily... I remember thinking. "God can do anything. He said faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. If I have enough faith right now, and I stand up, right now, in front of all these people in this non-standing moment of the Mass, I bet I could fly."
But, I didn't stand up. I remember feeling ashamed that I didn't have enough faith to try it out. Since then I've wondered, was I really talking about trusting God, or testing Him? Was I logical and smart not to stand up, or was I weak weak weak in faith?
I don't have a good summary statement with which to end this entry. I think I'll be chewing on it all week. Learning to surrender to God is a process that I am constantly, constantly wrestling with. God is teaching me how to do that, and why I should do that, one struggle at a time. But I'm still not giving away all I have, and I'm still not standing up to see if I could fly during Mass... I'm not sure I ever will be able to do that, and I'm not sure if that's what God is asking of me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Recipes

I read a lot of recipe blogs. I don't do a lot of cooking, mind you, but I do save a list of great recipes that I want to try, someday, when I get the time.
One of my pet-peeves is people who offer great recipes, but before you get to the recipe you have to read a whole intro about how their husband used to hate some food before they tried this recipe, or about their Nana who used to make it on a wood stove in a sweltering kitchen on hot Summer days, or whatever. I always somehow get trapped into reading the first parts of these posts, and then shake my head and scroll down. Just get to it! I'll make my own story about cooking it!
Now that you've read my introduction, here is one of my favorite recipe sites: www.tastespotting.com

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Give and LET Give.

The other night, on my way somewhere, I found The Choice on CBC on my satellite radio. This is some kind of a rerun show, where listeners or radio people can request a replay of some great favorite show of theirs.
This episode featured Margaret Visser, who has a new book out about gratitude. She was talking about how gratitude is expressed in different cultures, and about the trickiness of the whole gratitude thing. It was fascinating stuff (and you can hear it on itunes by searching for "CBC Listener's Choice" and looking for the Sept. 18 2009 episode) and I haven't been able to shake it since then. It's given me a lot to think about.
One of the things this strangely-spoken woman said was "Give and Let Give." Wow, easier said than done, right? If you're like me, the Give part is easy- it's the LET Give that is hard.
I thought of how often I've been asked by someone at work "can I help you with that? Anything I can do to help? Want me to do anything?" and my response is always an instant "oh no, I'm all set!" It's almost like a reflex- I don't even think about how this person could help me, and I'm somehow ashamed for them even thinking that I might want to trouble them, ask them to do something that I should be doing.
But on the other side of this, I am often the one asking that question. Is there anything I can do to help? And here's the kicker: when I offer to help, it's because I want to help!
My Mom recently told me that she was struggling because she needed grocery shopping done, and didn't want to call someone to drive her to the store. I reminded her that she had a list of people who had offered to do that very thing while my Dad was recovering from his recent knee surgery (he's doing great, by the way!). She said "well we can't ask people to do things every day." But the more I think about it, the more I think she's wrong about that. I think people who offer to help would love nothing better than be taken up on that offer. We all like to be helpful, to be needed, to feel like we have aided someone in need.
But if it's my reflex to deny the little offers of help that come every day, like an offer to help me clean up a kitchen, or move a table, or assemble home kits for the church, how am I going to develop any ability to graciously accept help when I really need it? And especially with church, I think it's probably important to let people help- it reminds me of the pastor in Kansas who tells his staff that if we are not asking people to serve at the parish, we are getting in the way of the Spirit for these people. I bet the Spirit can work through even assembling kits and moving tables- how, I don't know- but God is God and I am not.
So I'm going to practice. The next time someone offers to give me a hand with something, even if I don't need their help, technically, I'm going to look for a way to let them help me. Who wants to help?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scenes from a Fall

It's the most beautiful time of the year up here on the hill. The birds know it, and the trees know it.




































And on an unrelated note, could you study with this kind of pressure??


Sunday, October 11, 2009

What a pain...

My doctor told me once that I have a high tolerance for pain. It was a relief to be "diagnosed" this way, because I never had really known how to handle pain- I'm never sure when it's bad enough to be complained about. The doctor told me that when I went in because my back was out.
I had heard about backs going out, but until mine really went out, I knew what people meant by "out." I had been sleeping on a board, because our bed was old and way too squishy. (Really, a BOARD!) When the doctor asked how long I'd had back pain, I said "well, I guess about 4 years or so." I guess most people address things like this before 4 years go by.
Now my back is out again, but still it's hard to know how to address it. I mean, I feel fine unless I move or sneeze or have to lean one way or another. And even though it feels like stabbing when it happens, it only lasts a minute or so. So I'm being a good soldier, and taking Aleve, and hoping it'll right itself.
Or maybe I'll see a chiropractor. My sister says that no chiropractor will ever tell anyone that they don't need chiropractic care. At the fair this week I had free assessment from one in the "trade hall," one of my favorite buildings there... it's the one where they sell the Sham-wows and the sandpaper hair- remover pads... the chiropractor said that I carry 12 more pounds on my right foot than my left, and noticed that my right shoulder is significantly lower than my left- which I knew, it's been that way since my rainbow-colored book bag from high school.
I thought my surgery would really help my back, and I think it actually has- but surprisingly I have had to relearn how to sit and stand, because my posture is really really different now.
You know what else though? Here's something really painful: the Cleveland Show. Wow, it is a stinker.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mickey Mouse

I'm a half-a**ed crafter. I do not come by my skill-less-ness honestly- my mother has always been a gifted crafter- she majored in Home Economics, and was an expert sewer and knitter. All my life we had homemade sweaters and mittens. I never did learn to do either, despite a few attempts. I had some success on the Knitting Knobby, making throw rugs for my Barbies, but when I tried knitting with actual needles I didn't get far before I sat on my needles and broke them. In my own home ec. class, I picked out a pattern for some cool diaper-design shorts. These were shorts that were all one piece- when you put them on, you kind of tied the back on, and then put the rest through your legs and tied them on in the front. Like a diaper. Surprisingly, I can't find a link to anything like them online to post here, so you'll have to use your imagination. Anyway, I got about halfway through making them and lost interest. I somehow finished them enough to get through the class but never did wear them.
But as an adult I tried a few things, and over the years my crafting gene has blossomed a bit. I did cross-stitch for a stretch in my 20's, and wasn't too bad at that. I learned to crochet through a mini-course at my parish. A lovely woman there volunteered to teach us to make baby blankets for hospitalized children. My first one turned out so bad, and I am NOT making this up, that they wouldn't let me give it to a baby. One of the kids in the mini-course said "well, they could give it to a blind baby!" I've gotten better at crocheting since then, although I only really know how to do one stitch.
A few years ago, Scott bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. It's a simple one, and I like using it, but I have no idea what I'm doing. I actually altered a bridesmaid dress a few years ago, despite having no right to think I could do such a thing. It held through the reception though and I saved a LOT of money doing it myself. This weekend I found a great tip for how to hem pants. I did my new jeans and a couple other pairs of pants, andLink they came out pretty good, despite my only "eyeballing" them, and not measuring a thing. I was pretty proud of myself, and it only encourages me to fake my way through sewing projects without working on developing any actual skills. Maybe I'll try a quilt someday... how hard could that be, right? All straight lines? Ah well, I am a Mickey-Mouse crafter. But as my father has been known to say (with a wink), "sometimes, Mickey is the man!"

Friday, October 02, 2009

staying up late

I don't have much to say but I hate to have a rant be my last post, lingering on the top of the page. Tonight we are in suspended animation, because later (much later) is the Laser Tag Lockin for the high school youth. They show up late at night and play play play until the crack of dawn, and then go home. It's fun!
I won't be playing this year because with this cold, it would make me cough until a premature death. But I traditionally go and greet the bus when it gets to the laster tag place, which is nearer our house than to the church. I hang out until I can't stay awake much longer, then head home. The weekend is a bust, really, because by the time Scott gets home Saturday morning, the sun is coming up and he is completely exhausted- we lay around all day and recover. Not a bad payoff for staying up late once a year. But I have a list of to do's, and will probably sneak out and be productive while Scott sleeps it off in the morning.
Speaking of productive, this week was one of catch-up and I did manage to get a lot accomplished at home and at work, after last week's whirlwind. In fact this month looks just a bit easier than last (good Lord I should hope so) and that makes me breathe a lot easier, despite the bronchitis. Today we took our 14+ year old cat Zarley to the vet to have her nails attended to- she has double paws (at least) and lately some of her lesser-used claws have been growing out of control and into the pads of her feet. Ouch! We were like proud parents, presenting her to the vet, who was lovely. When we tried to eject her from the crate in the exam room, she stuck one giant foot out and the vet tech said "Oh my God! Is that ONE foot?" We beamed in pride of our unique and sweet kitty, who was very well behaved the whole time. Now she's feeling better, trying out her short nails and not sticking to the carpet anymore. We were relieved to hear that she's doing well, physically, and is healthy and sound.
And that's all the news there is.

Monday, September 28, 2009

They call it HoFo for short.

So, I'm about a third of my way through Grad School, and so far it's good, although for the life of me I can't justify even the fraction of it that we're funding. But anyhoo. This semester I'm taking the 1-credit class that is required for all the people in my major (do they call it that in grad school?) called Holistic Formation.
I'm not exactly sure what it is. Last week was our first session, and our leader told us a lot of things that it isn't, but never really got around to telling us what it is. All I know is, there are about 8 of us, and we sit in a circle, and last week (seriously) they had us draw a "faith map" on big paper with... crayons.
I have a bad attitude about this.
Part of the requirements for this class is to come up with a spiritual something plan, which includes finding a spiritual director and going on a retreat. I have a wonderful SD whom I've been seeing for over two years now, and have been on more retreats than you can shake a stick at. I'm feeling kind of in pretty good shape spiritually (as in, I'm addressing my spiritual needs currently- not that I'm spiritually perfect). The crayon drawing I dutifully drew last week was one I've done lots of times, with my middle school students. I saw my advisor in the hall after class and complained about it, and she told me to be a "good role model" for the others in the group. Sigh.
It reminded me of the battle I had with a former pastor over requiring the Catholic school students in our parish to attend high school faith formation classes with the "publics." In my opinion, youth ministries MUST have something- something for the kids who attend Catholic school, who take religion class every day. But, at least in that program, sitting through classes for the public school students was no the something. The pastor thought that the CS kids should be in those classes because they would build community, but I suspected that they'd be so resentful about having to be there after studying theology in school each day that they wouldn't be very open to building community. The pastor suggested that maybe the CS kids could be great role models in the classes, serving as mini-teachers. I doubted that they would be happy with this conscripted service, especially after paying a registration fee.
I thought that the Catholic School kids deserved programming that was designed to suit their particular needs and stage, and I would have gotten around to that if I'd been able to stay at that parish longer than I was. But in the meantime, I thought it was better not to force them through a program that would only build resentment of the Church.
Now I'm feeling like one of those Catholic school kids. But I guess I have no choice, I will muddle through and earn my one measly credit and wear down every crayon they give me. But I'm not gonna like it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

a-choo!!

I came down with it Tuesday night, and woke up to a fully-engaged sore throat, stuffy nose and (well, you remember) head that itched from the inside. Thursday I soldiered through my day, yearning for my bed all day but making it through nonetheless. Friday we went to Maine to infect... I mean, visit my parents and then headed back home. Scott started to feel it last night, so we had some ice cream to soothe ourselves, and went to bed. Mine has migrated into my chest, which ALWAYS happens when I get a cold. Scott slept in this morning, until the afternoon. At one point I tried to get him to get up and have some breakfast and he said "No." It's never really easy to get him out of bed but he never has flat-out refused.
Tonight we're supposed to attend a banquet, and I have a fabulous dress to wear- but it's not looking good. Maybe a nap will help...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall

This morning I woke up with a sore throat- was it just from sleeping with my mouth open? No, it's looking like the real deal. Now my head itches, from the inside. Dammit, I'm getting a cold.
This year one of my resolutions was not to suffer. If there's a medicine that will stop whatever nasty problem I'm having, I'll take two of it, please. My house is loaded up with anti-itch cream so that no bug bite would bother me, and pain-killers (nothing with street value, just Aleve, Tylenol, Excedrin) for whatever cricks and aches might crop up. Now I'm dosed with Motrin cold and allergy but it doesn't seem to have kicked in yet, despite the fact that I took it over 45 minutes ago. Ah well.
Outside the sun is just breaking through the gray of this morning. It looks like Fall out there- our big beloved Maple tree is dropping just a few starter red leaves, but soon I know it will start to look like a real party with confetti. At work, the tree I park under drops acorns on my car, and when I head for home, they rolllllllll off. We're already planning our usual Fall activities, and panicking about the Summer stuff we never did get to. Suddenly it's almost October.
Ah well, what can be done? We can't help but go along with it. When October comes, I can't still be in August. I guess if we can't slow down the time we can at least ride it like a roller coaster. Hands up everyone! Here we goooooo!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm no mermaid, either.

I am no mystic. I bring a boulder-sized grain of salt when I hear about miracle sightings of what-have-you. There was a moment in time when the YM community was in a tizzy about rosary links turning gold, and I've heard lots of stories by people I don't know who have seen the sun "spin" or who have witnessed other kinds of phenomena like that. I guess my attitude isn't so much a "that is bunk" kind of attitude- it's more "okay, cool for you if that's what does it for you."
To me, though, the idea of rosary links turning gold or Jesus appearing in a kit-kat seems like a miss. What good does it do the world? I mean, if anyone can make their visage appear in a kit-kat, it's Jesus. But whyyyy? If we could trade those golden links for food for the poor, then I'd be on board. I just don't know if (or why) the Mother of Jesus or the Savior of the World would bother with appearing like this. Maybe it's just me but I think miracles should do something big for the world. How about a nice cure for poverty now and again, huh?
When I was in high school, at a particularly prayerful time in my life, I was alone in my church, staring at the figure of the risen Christ on the wall. I stared at his face for so long that his lips began to appear to move. But I couldn't understand what he was saying! I couldn't read his lips and he wouldn't speak up. It looked like words, but... ah well. Of course it was an apt symbol of my relationship with God, even now- He, speaking mystery to me. Me, not getting his message at all.
I'm not a complete disbeliever in miracles... and I guess ultimately, it's none of my business. If a newly-gold rosary brings you to a new level in faith, then good! And Mary-sightings in windows certainly get people talking and praying, and remind us of her presence. So that's something. But I'm no mystic. God doesn't speak to me in gold flakes or fillings. He doesn't speak to me at all. But I know he's around.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Soundtracks

So, I may have mentioned that this is a stressful week for me. I have three big events at work this weekend, bang-bang-bang... and I have big roles in all of them, especially Saturday's ministry day. My Dad had knee replacement surgery this week, which meant a lot of organizing of my siblings and me, to take turns being up there in Maine with my Mom. With most of us on an educational schedule, this would already have been a tough time to fit everything in. I'm jealous of my sisters and brother who live close enough to run up there in between things.
My Dad has had some complications, including a particularly scary one today. I've been worrying in between all the amazing amount of stuff I had to do today, from a 3 hour New Testament class (that last hour's a KILLER) and getting everything done for this weekend. On my way to class, I knew I needed some music to crowd out the thoughts in my head. I wanted something I could sing to, LOUD, with lots of words and no deep meaning.
I grabbed "Katy Lied" by Steely Dan out of my CD case and knew right away that it was the perfect choice. It's lyrics are mostly nonsense, something really hard to make any meaning out of. Whatever story they put together is so odd that it's hard to apply to one's life. And this particular album doesn't spend a lot of time on instrumental breaks.
I first got this album when I was leaving Washington to head back home from a serious folly, on a train trip that would take 4 days. It was a new album to me so it had the added distraction value of giving me lyrics to learn. It kept me going all the way across the country. I feel like I owe a lot to this album!
So Steely Dan it is, until I can get through a trip leg without fear and worry creeping in. Hopefully this won't contaminate the album for the future.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY 09/11/09...
Outside My Window... It's a regular Fall day- the wind is whipping, it's prematurely dark, the sky is cloudy and the rain comes and goes. It's a perfect day for cooking up some comfort food and watching old movies.
I am thinking... about the movie we're watching (old), from 1938, You Can't Take it With You. It is making me so happy, really, inordinately happy. It's about a crazy family bent on staying happy. It's making me laugh out loud. The dance teacher just said "I feel so good life is dancing around inside of my like a squirrel!"
I am thankful for... this fleeting chance at relaxation- this week will be a crazy whirlwind of activity, from our first weekend of GOF to my father's knee operation in Maine, to a banquet, and of course classes. It's exhausting to think about it, so I think I won't. Truth is, I love pretty much all of it, so that helps the stress stay at bay, a bit.
From the kitchen... Tonight I baked a chicken, and made spaghetti squash alfredo. Oh it was so good!
I am wearing... jeans that I bought today, two sizes smaller than my old jeans!
I am creating... well, nothing right this instant. I'll be creating all week- there's stuff I should be creating right now, by rights, but... tomorrow.
I am going... to Maine on Tuesday to visit my parents- Dad's operation is Monday, and we all are taking turns visiting. I think I'll bring the fixings for a good breakfast, including real cream and bacon and good coffee. Stick up for breakfast!
I am reading... all fun reading is off the docket now, and it's on to lots of Freud this week- and the Gospel of Mark.
I am hoping... that I can get it all done. Oh, I had decided not to think about that, right?
I am hearing... this lovely movie.
Around the house... mess! But also, a husband with a full belly and two sleeping cats.
One of my favorite things... is watching old movies. James Stewart and Jean Arthur are just adorable in this one. Last week we watched "The Man Who Came to Dinner." It was wonderful.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Oh seriously, let's not talk about that now.
Here is picture thought I am sharing... here's my view out the window in our kitchen, I have this beautiful view every time I do dishes or wash my hands. How fortunate am I?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I'm not starving

Today was a long day, starting early with the funeral of one of our favorite parishioners, a 91 year old pip who we will sorely miss around the church. That meant, on top of the sadness, that we were at work earlier than usual, and dressed up.
It was a fairly productive day, but when I was ready to leave, Scott wasn't, and so I waited him out until it looked like i could make a break for it (both our cars were there).
On the way home, despite the fact that I was starving, I stopped at Target, and wandered around there for a while. Then I went to Trader Joe's for dinner fixins, and finally got my growling stomach home at around 9:00. I put dinner on to cook, and tuned into the prez's speech.
Just as dinner was juuuuuuust about ready, my phone rang. It was Scott, back at the church, calling to tell me that I had his car key in my bag. I checked, and he was right. I fell to my knees, shook my fist and wailed "WHYYYYYYYYY!?!?!?!?!"
No, I didn't, but I could have. Instead I changed out of that darn skirt, turned off the burner under my dinner, and got my empty belly back on the road. Soon, I hit a construction area which detoured me onto the very road I needed to travel, in the opposite direction. I will admit that here is where I started to pout.
I flipped on Canadian public radio, and As It Happens was doing a story about kids from some Canadian high school who sponsored a Hunger Banquet for their peers (they called it and "awareness lunch" I think. Those crazy Canucks!). One of the students said "it's not really much of a sacrifice to go for two school periods without food, but it did make me think."
I immediately apologized to God for using the word "starving" while driving in my nice car, soon to be back in my cozy home, with enough food to feed a lot of starving people quite nicely.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SNORC?

Starting today, life gets faster. We were up and running from an early (for us) hour, and just now are sitting down for the first time today. Tomorrow looks a lot like today, and then, every other day, forever, or at least until Easter. It's overwhelming to look at my calendar, which I've now started color-coding so that I can keep track of the different departments. I started class today, and the professor handed out a 55-page list of "recommended readings." FIFTY-FIVE PAGES!! I thought he must have been joking. He wasn't, though. Fortunately, the "required readings" were only about 3-4 pages long. Ha.
This morning as we both rushed about, I pulled out my brown shirt to iron. Weirdly, I saw that it had a letter N on it. Then, a letter S. They were TINY, but perfect. I went on to find O, R, and C. Here's a picture:
I wish I'd put a dime or something in the picture so you can see how tiny they are. They are about the size of a pencil lead. Really small. It was so strange to find them there, on my shirt. No idea where they came from.
As you can see, they spell SCORN. Or, I guess, CORNS. Either way, it seemed like a warning.
I got in my car and noticed that my trip meter was it 666.8.
But on I went, and made it through the day fairly unscathed. So far.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Brokey McBrokerton

This has been a sobering week. Yesterday my office mate's husband lost her job, out of the blue, after 40 years with the same company. Effective Yesterday. It was surreal how fast it happened, and painful to watch my coworker realize that her health coverage was suddenly gone- she stood, dazed, in front of my desk alternatively telling me what happened and taking long pauses where she gazed off into the air, doing math and looking into the future. It was not expected, not even feared, and now they have no time to plan for "what if?"
This morning I sat down to write the rent check and realized with that old familiar feeling that we are ALREADY broke for this pay period. How does this keep happening? We have no kids, no home improvement/maintenance bills. As I glowed about yesterday, we own very little. I took pen to paper and added everything up. It turns out, we don't make much money. I had fooled myself into considering my salary as my income- but in fact, with the two of us together making what we make, minus taxes, we end up with what would be a fairly good (for a youth minister anyway... ha!) salary for one person. If we were one person on that salary, we could get ahead. But after taxes come bills, debts we are working hard to pay off, and the car payments- well, you know the drill.
It's embarrassing to have to tell people that we can't afford to go to dinner with them (and sad, because going out to dinner is one of my very most favorite activities!) but the fact is, we sometimes can't. We just have to keep on keeping on until the cars are paid off and the debt is paid down, and hope that people still like restaurants when we are solvent again. And we keep reminding ourselves that we chose this lot, we earned this situation (and to be honest, no high-paying job where I could not be doing what I'm doing now would ever pull me away... for long. Ha!) and we are making progress- and we are thankful thankful thankful that we have jobs at all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Load Out (Stay?)

Today as I was on my way from one spot to another, I was listening to Canadian Public Radio. They were interviewing a man in California, whose home was being approached by the wildfires out there. The man being interviewed had decided not to evacuate but instead to "stay and defend."
I started making a mental list of what I would do in this situation- what would I bring and save, what would I let go? I thought: I'd need clothes, enough to wear for a week or so- (if the fire was today, I'd only have to grab my laundry basket) and some shoes- my engagement ring- I'd craftily grab our camping gear, so we could be woodsy survivalists, if needed- but first and foremost of course, the cats.
Scott added, when I told him about my thoughts, photos and our computers- and I'd have to agree with that, they contain so many of our pictures and documents and whatnot, and I would need to check facebook from the woods. Tonight on the radio, I heard another story about a Katrina survivor who thought he had gotten out everything important, but had left quilts that his grandmother had made him. We have quilts.
But the thing is, we don't have a lot that we couldn't live without. Leaving our house behind would be sad, but of course it is not our house- it's our landlord's. We have a LOT of stuff- way too much stuff- but when it comes right down to it, there's not a lot that we need. I feel a certain degree of pride in that.
Still, I hope the fires don't come.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gifted

I stayed up late the other night watching POV on public tv. This episode was called Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, and it followed a few of the kids and staff at a residential school somewhere in England. The kids were pretty tough, could be violent (and spat at people! And "wee'd" on the floor!) and had to be restrained often. Iknow I've mentioned this already but in my 20's, I worked at similar programs.
I was reflecting on it today and thinking about the amazingly patient and loving staff portrayed in the film, and remember how I used to be able to do what they do. I don't think I could do it now. I really requires a tough heart, a resiliency that I lost when I moved out of social work and into ministry. I thought to myself today "anyone who CAN do a job like that MUST do it, because the rest of us can't."
But then it occurred to me that some people might think that about MY job. I have heard many people over the years tell me they could NEVER work with teenagers, which always kind of blew my mind. I always thought "if they only knew how great it is..."
But the fact is, we are all uniquely gifted. And what we can do, we MUST do, because God has gifted us for specific reasons, for specific purposes. I am more convinced now than ever that we each have a role in the Kingdom- and that it is true, God doesn't necessarily call the equipped, but He always equips the called. Link

Monday, August 24, 2009

half longs

Every year I think I'm a wicked cool gardener and plant vegetables from seed. It is a ridiculous endeavor. My neighbors put in little plants and by now have big raging bushes of vegetables that they are overwhelmed by and have to give away (thankfully). But not me, I nurture hair-breadth seeds to minor success and weird shaped bounty.
Behold the cucumbers from my garden this year:














They came out as golf-ball sized roundy cukelets. My neighbor asked me if they, like my carrots, are "Danvers Half-Longs." Well, undeterred by their weird size and shape, we sliced them up for lunch today and let me tell you they were delicious.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

love first.

Several years ago, I went for a massage. I was looking forward to a wordless hour, peaceful and calm while my tensions were smoothed away. The woman who was to give me my massage asked me about my work and life, and at the time I was a social worker for the state and a part-time youth minister.
A few silent minutes later, she asked me "I hope you don't mind me asking, but... what do you think about CHINS? Do they work?" A CHINS at that time was something you could file for in court if your family was in crisis but the kid wasn't breaking any laws and it wasn't a straight out neglect or abuse case. It stood for CHild In Need of Service. (Of course it should have been called a FINS: Family In Need of Service but that idea hadn't caught on by then- maybe it has by now.)
The massage therapist went on to tell me that her granddaughter was out of control, spoiled, didn't know how great she had it, and the girl's parents were at their wits end. They were considering calling the court to have her put on probation, or maybe sent away to a group home. She wondered if I thought that would bring her granddaughter around- would it make her thankful for what she had, if she'd lose it?
I wanted to stay silent and enjoy my massage, but I had that familiar burning that meant I had a message for her. I said "I think that filing a CHINS on her, and sending her away from the family will only convince her that her family hates her and has given up on her." She was, of course, taken aback. This was not the answer she was expecting from a social worker.
I suggested that this girl needed her family to take her in, take her on, be her hero. Instead of throwing up their hands in disgust, they needed to commit to doing whatever it took to bring this girl back in and love her, no matter what. I told the grandmother that she could love this girl back into the family. I suggested that she start spending more time with her, that she become the granddaughter's champion. And I suggested that maybe volunteering for people in need, AS A FAMILY, might help her better understand how blessed she is, how good she had it. I suggested they start attending church together.
She thanked me and finished my massage, and I gave her my card, and said that if there was any way I could help I'd be happy to, and that I'd be praying for them.
Many months later, maybe even a couple of years later, I got an email from the grandmother, thanking me. She said her granddaughter had come around, things were better, they were happier.
It makes me think about how easily frustration and anger can overtake our other emotions, blind us to other options we have, close off avenues that we should by rights be able to see. Negative energy, I think, is like a cancer, and we have to be vigilant at keeping it at bay. I have a bumper sticker in my office that says "Teach them Love." I think it's a good reminder for us as teachers and as learners. Love must be our first response, and love can change the world.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

vacation ends

It was a great vacation, practically perfect in every way- when I look back on this vacation, the scenes will be all watery-looking, like as in a movie flashback to a perfect day.
It was a "staycation," pretty much, with some nifty day trips thrown in- but even though I was mostly at home, it felt like a lovely resort, except that there were no mints on my pillow when I got to bed at night, which is probably good because they would have melted. It was steamy, almost the whole time, but I didn't mind. We had one air-conditioned room, the bedroom, and spent a bunch of time in there eating meals on the bed, like a college student. But the best part was the mornings. (Parts? Were? If onlLinky an editor would read my blog!)
In the morning, while Scott slept in, I'd get up whenever and make my breakfast. I'd take it out to the porch with my book-du-jour, and sit out there until I didn't want to anymore. I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (hey that's a pretty cool book- did you know it's, like, allegory??), Driving with Dead People (dark, and not funny. But riveting), and Firefly Lane. I loved The Patron Saint of Liars, really, I mourned the ending of that book. Now I'm halfway through Annie Dunne, and all the way through my vacation.
As dreamy as the week was I'm excited to get back to work- just as our high school seniors are moving on and the end of their era has come, a brand new era begins- new kids, new families, a new theme, new classes, new plans. Here we go!!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm younger than that now

Holy Shit!* This aging thing is quite a trip.
I met up with some of my girlfriends the other day- we strolled down memory lane and realized with a shock that we've been friends for around 20 years. How on earth did that happen?
Then, when one of my friends was talking about a woman we all know, relaying her current situation and referring back to her backstory from 20 years ago, it hit me like a bat to the head: if our lives were books, (chick lit, obviously) we'd be at the resolution of a story arc. We know now, at around 40 years old, how the stories that began in our twenties, turned out.
We have perspective, wisdom, experience- we see consequences behind every action. We have sympathy and empathy that only comes from being in and out of troubling situations ourselved over the years.
We didn't have this back then, back when we started our stories together. It was all a laboratory, a writers' workshop, where we all laid down elements to an epic story- an autobiography.
A young woman, a dear friend of mine just starting in youth ministry gives me a hard time sometimes. She says "I can just hear you saying 'oh, you're so young, you'll see'" And she's right, things do look different from here, because while I'm watching her story unfold, I'm watching mine in reruns.
I'm grateful for whatever wisdom I've gained over the years, grateful for the teaching moments, the mistakes, the near misses, the lucky breaks. I'm grateful for old friends who can remember the beginnings with me. It's better to be 41 than to be 21.

* sorry about the cussing.

recipe: best ever fruit salad.

cube melon, other melon, and be sure to include watermelon. Throw in other fruits, berries. I'm thinking strawberries and kiwis would be delish in this. Put them all in a bowl, and then pour honey over them. Stir. Let sit for a while, overnight if you can resist that long.
Oh my it's good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Church.

I've heard it said that doctors can't enjoy sex. You know, because the Know Too Much. I imagine the same is true, in some way or another, for every occupation. Scott can barely stand to awatch movies that have Catholic stuff in them, because they always get things WRONG- like a combination of several liturgical colors on display at once in a church during a wedding, where they ask if anyone here knows of any reason why these two should not be wed? I have a higher threshold for this kind of thing than Scott does (I am the one who yells at him "IT'S A MOOOOOVIEEEEE." But seriously, are there no Catholics in Hollywood who could give these things a once-over?) but still, when I visit another parish, I have my Church Professional eyes on.
This week I'm on Vacation, and so I have the odd opportunity to take Sunday OFF. I decided to be ca-razy and go to Mass on Saturday, in a new church. I chose St. Joseph in Wakefield, one that looks sort of similar to my home parish in Brunswick ME. Bricks, modern decoration, round-square shape. As I walked in, I tried not to look for things to critique. Being a professional Churchy person means that when I walk into a parish, I'm looking at the decor, at the information racks- I'm looking to see if anyone looks back at me, if anyone smiles, if anyone recognizes that I'm an outsider. I'm looking to see where I should sit- somewhere nearish the front but not too far from the back- somewhere that I can see the musicians, see the ambo, figure out where to go for Communion when it comes time.
St. Joseph won me over- the people around me were friendly enough, that is, they smiled back when I smiled at them. There were no "obstructed view" seats, and I found a good place to sit. The altar servers were cute and well trained, the priest's homily was pretty good, they served Communion under both species. The musicians were phenomenal. They were two young ladies and a piano, and they sounded like a combination of Danielle Rose and the Wailin' Jennies. I would surely go back there. OH and at the end of Mass, the priest welcomed the musicians back from a trip they'd been on, asked for applause for our newest altar server, and congratulated a man who'd gotten a hole in one that day. I really liked that personal touch.
I'd go back, if only to pray along with those musicians- it seemed like a great place to pray. I hope my parish holds up to the standards for visitors who join us every once in a while...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vacationing

This week the stars seem to be aligning for a true vacation week. Of course I'm not traveling anywhere, just a "staycation" as the kids are calling it these days, but these have always been my favorite kinds of weeks. My days are pretty much free for me to get up whenever, eat breakfast on the porch, then sit and read until I can't sit still anymore. The grocery shopping's done and the fridge is full (I noticed this time how few of the aisles I had to venture down, as most of my shopping happens out on the edge walls, where the fresh food is. That's a good sign, no?), and I don't even have a lot of laundry to do. The bedroom is clean and has an air conditioner in place, and the living room has a lazy but helpful ceiling fan for the not-quite as hot days.
I am devouring Driving With Dead People, a Memoir, which is fascinating, and like all the best books I've ever read, is affecting my speech patterns and creating in me an urge to narrate every moment of my own days. Oh and gobbled up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yesterday in one sitting. Today I actually sat in the sun with tanning lotion (sunscreen) on, for as long as I could stand it, which was only about 20 minutes.
I do have some plans this week, including one on SUNDAY which usually is an impossibility since I work in a church. I'm seeing some old friends, and maybe hitting the beach with my sister at some point. I'd like to clean out our garbage-can-nook, which is a far uglier place than the word "nook" makes it seem. It's smelly, and that's cutting into my porch reading enjoyment.
Meanwhile my grad school books have been ordered and are starting to arrive in the mail, like birthday presents but not. Cards, though, are appearing in the mailbox for my 41st birthday, this Tuesday.
I'm putting an entire Summer into one week and it's blissful. Ahhhhhh.... Link

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Several Random... Things.

Every other thought lately is the start of a fabulous blog post, but unfortunately none of my thoughts are the rest of a fabulous blog post. So, here are the starts.

When did people stop looking both ways, or using crosswalks? When did this "I dare you to hit me with your car" attitude start?

I'm turning 41 in less than a week. I guess that puts me squarely in my 40's. Aging is a weird thing- my nephew just told me that he "doesn't feel 20." Good Lord.

This Fall I'm taking New Testament (my brother says I should do well in this because I've "already read the book." In fact I've already taken the class, but it was 20 years ago, back when the New Testament had just been written!

This is the time of year when I start to yearn for Fall tv shows to come back. A little. But you know, I can wait! So.

I feel kinda bad about this whole Summer reading thing. I guess I forgot that libraries existed. But I'll confess I love owning books... our entire dining room is a library, basically, and it would be even more library-like if I had creative control over the interior decorating scheme here. The other thing about owning my books is that I have a habit of underlining and noting in books, and librarians, I bet, frown on such a practice. I just bought my school books, and can't wait to get into them... but I still have some Borders Gift Card moolah to spend on a couple of choice tomes for the next week's reading.

I forgot to start running, which I had intimated would be something I'd be doing by my birthday. It's really, though, in my defense, only been in the last month that I can run up the stairs without a weird spot or two of pain. So, you know, maybe now. Or, soon.

I have had some really great ministry moments in the last couple of weeks, which makes me hopeful and excited for this coming year. Summer is such a down-time at a church, people scatter and not much happens but planning... all hypothetical stuff. But our young adult group has been fruitful and fun, and made me feel like a minister again- like riding a bike after a long break. I did that this Summer, too.

I've been away from Spiritual Direction since the beginning of Lent. I don't know what happened, except that things were just going so darn well for me, spiritually- I feel kind of funny going for direction when I'm not having serious struggles- you know, nothing to "work on." But it's time to go back.

A week of free time, mostly, stands happily before me. I want to go to bed so that it'll be tomorrow. But then again, maybe I'll sneak out and look for some shooting stars!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Reading

For the past couple of Summers our insurance company, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Boston, has invited us to participate in a nifty little program. For filling out a questionnaire and vowing to improve your eating and exercise habits in the coming year, they'd send you a HUNDRED DOLLAR gift certificate, to any place that was listed (on an impressively long list!) of options on a website. I've dutifully filled out the questionnaire, vowed to improve, failed to do so, and spent all my money at Amazon.com on Summer reading.
This year, mysteriously, the offer did not come. I was at a loss for what to do, as I don't have a hundred extra bucks lying around for Summer books. I asked around and got a stack of paperbacks from my sister, and vowed yet again to read the Chronic (what?) les of Narnia. I still might get to that.
But now it's mid-August and I haven't bought ANY summer books, and I have a little vacation coming up during which I'd love nothing more than to spend hours on my porch reading something wonderful. I got Borders gift certificates for my pre-birthday and they are burning holes in my pocket book. But at this point, shouldn't I use them for school books?
I just tore through a book from my sister called Firefly Lane, a typical Chick Lit tome, which was not great but kept me reading. I think I'm past any Chick Lit phase I may have been in, if I ever was. Before that I read the middle chapters of My Stroke of Insight, a true story of a scientist who observed her own stroke while she was having it.
So, what next? I think I'll take a stroll (ha: scroll!) through my Amazon wish list and treat myself to just enough reading to get me through the month of August....

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Back from the wilderness

We're just back from camping, and it's a weird re-entry for me, into the real world. We were really off the grid, with very little internet access, and have only just started using camp stoves to cook with on camping trips, as opposed to cooking over the fire like we did for the first few years of our marriage. We stay fairly dirty while we're camping, and eat haphazardly, not on a regular schedule. We take naps, we sit by the fire and keep it going all day, we float lazily in the lake, we drown in bug spray, we wash the dishes in cold water.
So when we get back, it can be quite an adjustment. I feel luxuriously clean after my first home shower, and today I marveled at the uniformly cold food at my disposal, the warm water, the evenly cooked bacon. I always worry that we have missed something BIG in the world while we've been away (like the MICROBURSTS that hit our town this week!) and when I get back and jump back into the daily flow of things, I half expect people to be able to tell that I'm from an outside place- I feel like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer for a few days.












It always rains when we camp. Always. My brother is now calling it "the Morin Effect", because as soon as we arrived at the campground this week, where they'd happily been romping in the bright sunshine since Sunday, the sprinkles started to come. But rain is part of what I love about camping. I love the creativity that is called for by camping out in the elements (in a tent). I love the teamwork that is required. I love the different way that everything has to be done, from putting together lunch to changing one's clothes. I love that for part of each day, there's little else to do but rest and read and relax.
I am happy to be back, but I miss the lake and the tent and the call of the loons. Maybe there's time for one more trip before the Summer's over?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY 07/25/09...
Outside My Window... our bunny is probably eating what little is left of my pea plants. Hey, I don't mind sharing, but they sheared off the whole bush in one night, so that it looks like they used a weed whacker. Ah well, we got some yumminess before it all happened, and next up are the carrots! I figure the bunny won't bother with those. That whole rabbits & bunnies thing, that's a myth, right?
I am thinking... about our next camping trip, coming up this week. This time it's in Maine with my brother and his family, and it's at one of our favorite campgrounds, Scott's Cove. Problem is, payday is midnight of the day we get there... we'll have to do some stretching until we can sneak out to the grocery store the morning after we arrive! I'm excited to be camping more than once in a Summer though, and looking forward to some down time, to the sound of the Loons on the lake (actual Loons, not my family).
I am thankful for... two whole days of having nothing, really nothing, to do. We did a lot of sitting around, and ate yummy things, and got a few things done, and watched some great movies. It was kind of like a snow day, but with sun!
From the kitchen... Oh let me tell you, we had a delicious low-carb meal of chicken with blue cheese sauce, and broccoli. it was divine!!
I am wearing... sweatpants and a t-shirt. I should have changed before I wrote this. Of course, I could lie... nah, forget that. But hey, my hair looks fantastic today. Ask anyone who's seen me (Scott).
I am creating... nothing right now... but this Tuesday, what shall I bake for "Wait...what??"
I am going... back to work tomorrow, to a passel of baptisms.
I am reading... well, okay, not much- I just finished reading "My Stroke of Insight," about the scientist who has a stroke and is somehow able to observe herself going through it. Fascinating stuff- well, most of it was. She is clearly more scientist than writer...
I am hoping... for good weather this week!
I am hearing... the creak of my rocking chair whenever I move, and a movie that Scott's watching- the click of my keyboard... I love that sound.
Around the house... mess from cooking dinner, and laundry in various stages of cleanliness.
One of my favorite things... is making Scott laugh, and laughing with him. Yesterday one of our cats was in the window, staring out at something, and Scott and I both joined her at the window, cramming our faces in there to see what she was staring at. This in the midst of a GREAT old movie we were watching, on a lovely lazy day. It struck me in that instant just how much I love our life. I started laughing and then gasping, and then tears were coming down my face, and I laughed so hard while Scott was saying "what? What??" I tried to get out " I... Love... Love..... I love.... I love our life."
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: A week of work in 3 days, then scrounging and packing, then all in.
Here is picture thought I am sharing... an old favorite of our cats, from our first apartment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm too old to attend my own program

Last night was our third session of the young adult group I'm facilitating for the summer- we call it "Wait...what??" and it's designed for high school graduates and college students and beyond who want a chance to refresh on the basics of Catholicism. We sort of billed it like "did you graduate high school and realize you forgot to learn about your faith?" The idea is giving a place where they can ask their "I never understood this..." or "I don't get this at all..." kind of questions.
Using Paprocki's "A Well-Built Faith" as a structure (well, ultimately more as inspiration than anything!), the actual lesson is pretty scant- mostly just presenting the question/topic, giving some supporting info and a story or two, then we discuss for the rest of the time.
Here's the delightful thing about young adult ministry- they TALK! Anyone who's tried to conduct a group discussion with a bunch of teenagers who are too painfully self-conscious to speak in front of each other will understand what I'm saying here. The YA's ask questions, they admit to their own feelings, they laugh, they get off on tangents and happily jump on each other's trains of thought.
Last night our topic was "Sinners... like me" and we had a great discussion about sin, forgiveness, and Catholic guilt. WW is turning out to be just what I was hoping it would be, with credit going much to the great people who come, and their young adult-ness. Can't wait for next week: "How to pray like a Grown-up!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

blasts from the pasts

I'm rethinking friendship...
I remember telling one of my youth group kids that life is like a river, and that we are like twigs floating along that river, and that at various points other twigs would float alongside us, and then the current would take us different ways. The point being, friends come and friends go.
And, I really have believed that. I think it began when I realized with surprise that I was no longer friends with the high school students I'd graduated with- the soulmates I had bawled and cried about on graduation day, swore I'd never lose touch with, knew in my heart that we would be friends for LIIIIIIIIFFFEEEAGGGGAGAAAAWWWW..... But by sophomore year in college, I'd lost touch with most of them. In my defense we did not have facebook back then, or AIM, or even email! To keep in touch then meant hand-written letters, or saving a coffee-mug full of quarters for a phone call in the phone booth in the dorm hallway. Besides, I had a whole new crop of besties, and didn't feel like I had much to tell my old friends after a while. It was too much work to update each other on our lives after so long between contacts. (What? You dyed your hair blond? When did THAT happen? Six MONTHS AGO?)
But by the time I graduated from college, I was resigned to the idea that soon, I'd lose touch with most of my college friends, too- even this was before email, and now everyone would be moving on and moving away.
I kept in touch with a few important friends, and lost touch with a few important friends. But after years, even my most important friends drifted away and were replaced with new Social Work friends, who were then replaced by Youth Ministry friends.
Then, just about everyone was pushed aside (but not replaced) by my husband. I knew, though, too, that this happens when one gets married- and in truth, most of my friends were getting married or having children too, and entering their own silos. A group of my friends, "the girlies", have done pretty well keeping in touch- we all worked in one way or another at a group home nearby, and all of us have moved on now to a variety of different lives.
I'm not good at keeping in touch with my friends when they have children, I'm sorry to say. I am no Auntie. It's terrible but it is kind of like having a friend that gets deep into some hobby, I don't know, like Ju-Jitsu... and all they want to talk about is Ju-Jitsu. I don't do Ju-Jitsu- I'm happy that you love it, but describing the moves in detail doesn't make me love it. I love my friends' kids, but I don't do kids. I know that makes me a jerk.
But I'm there when trouble hits, I know that- if you're in crisis (even if it's a Ju-Jitsu crisis!) I'm there. I'll bring you comfort food, I'll sit with you in silence, I'll run errands for you. (Oh, but I don't babysit.)
But along comes Facebook. Now I'm being contacted by old Youth Ministry friends, Social Work friends, College friends, High School friends, and even Elementary School friends!! It has been amazing how easy it has been, albeit over the interweb, to feel kinship with people that I literally have not seen (and some I'd forgotten about completely) since 1978. Our memories do connect us.
Last weekend was my college reunion- and I ended up spending the day with three of my dearest college friends. I was so nervous to see them, and they were nervous too, and I wondered how we'd catch up on 18 years of history- but by the end of the afternoon, it was amazing how easy it was to be together again... and I felt sad that I'd let all that time go by. My friend Deidre hugged me hard and said "it doesn't have to go back to not being in touch. Not again." And I don't want it to. I found myself dreaming, on my drive to work today, about the 4 of us getting away for a weekend, bringing our wedding pictures and old stories, and getting to know each other again. Now, I guess, I see why people do that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dreaming

The job posting for the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry position in the Archdiocese of Baltimore is up, and it sets me to dreaming... as a kid in youth ministry, with my newly-discovered call, I set my sights on eventually working at the diocesan level in my home state of Maine, where YM was progressive, professional, and devoted at that time. I don't know how things are there now, but I've always kept my eye on that office, because, hey- who knows? I feel quite sure that I'd never ever ever get a position at the A-Diocesan level here in Boston. I'll leave that at that. But Baltimore, lovely Baltimore... Scott and I have long looked at Baltimore as the promised land. They actually do stuff- a lot of great stuff! Recently they took a long hard look at the sacrament of Confirmation (something every diocese and YM office should be doing), for instance. They are taking a strong lead in the ultra-important area of adolescent catechesis. Oh, and Compass? So cool. If only Baltimore was in Boston. Sigh...
Still, it's tempting to imagine what I'd do in that position. I have been critical, I know, of the decisions made by our own office in the past few years, so I've spent some time with the question of "oh yeah? What would YOU do then?" And here's what I think I'd do, to start. I think I'd spend a year traveling around my new territory, meeting YM's and finding out what is going on in parishes. I'd read a LOT of bulletins, websites, parish reports, and I'd attend a LOT of YM events, both parish and diocesan. I'd serve on the teams of diocesan activities, as retreat team member, as kitchen crew, as small group leader, as grunt-person. I'd be doing lots of setting up and cleaning up, and I'd attend so many meetings it would make the average person's head spin. I'd ask everyone a lot of questions about how things have gone, how things are going, and how things could/should go in the future. I'd have a lot of dinners, lunches, and coffees with a lot of pastors and YM Coordinators. And I'd do a lot of praying and faith sharing with diocesan staff.
And after all that, I'd get down to work, having identified the mission of the office, and getting people on board with working toward that mission. I love the job description for the Baltimore job- it is a great description, too, for the parish Coordinator of YM. It occurs to me that my description, up there, is similar to how I'd start at a parish YM position, too. Last week our staff discussed that we must not consider our congregation as a big white piece of paper to which we are bringing the color. We must give our people credit for the gifts, talents, and yearnings they bring to the table. The Archdiocese of Baltimore is already doing great work, what an amazing position to step into... their next Director is going to be very blessed to join that team.