Monday, December 27, 2010

Massapalooza

I went to Mass 3.25 times this weekend! I am so Catholic!!

Well, the first two were on Christmas Eve, of course, at our own parish. At the 4, which was packed to the gills, I served along with Scott as a Eucharistic Minister. It was so great to walk down that center aisle between walls of happy people. One little girl, in her mother's arms, waved at the whole procession, parade-style.

At the 6, the families of the kids in the choir bunched up in the pews on the choir side of the church, so as to get a good view of everyone in their Christmas finery and curls. I sat with one of my favorite families, entertained by their littlest one throughout the Mass, and snapped pictures of the twins who were baptized at that Mass. It was a real family affair- the family of the twins are well known to all of us, with a 7 year old in the choir too. I found tears in my eyes several times during both Masses, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for being part of this great parish, surrounded by so many people who I know and love.

(A quick plug here for total community catechesis: in former parishes, I got to know just about everyone in middle school and high school, and sometimes met their parents, but usually didn't... but here, where whole families and every generation is involved, I know kids and their parents and their grandparents and their aunts and their little brothers and sisters. It's an amazing blessing to me.)

Christmas morning I leaped out of bed (ha) to go to a 9 in Maine with my family. The contrast was amazing. There was nary a baby or toddler, which is understandable for Christmas morning, but it added to a general feeling of... seriousness, I guess. The music was solid, the lectors were good, the Altar Servers did a fine job, the homily was solid and all- there was really nothing to fault it- but, it was pretty subdued overall. It made me thankful for my parish. Oh and the most striking detail: out in the narthex was a hand-written sign that said "DO NOT LOOK FOR BULLETINS- THEY ARE FOR SUNDAY AND HAVE BEEN PUT AWAY." This is the kind of thing that totally blows my mind when I see it in churches. It's an old habit, I think, to resent visitors and CAPE Catholics (you know, Christmas/Ash Wednesday/Palm Sunday/Easter only). Even our wonderful pastor used to hold the bulletins aside for Christmas, until we convinced him this year that a great bulletin is an opportunity to evangelize to those visitors and CAPErs.

The next morning, we tried to make it to a parish in New Hampshire on our way home, but made it just as people were leaving. Well, the fact is, most people weren't leaving- they were lined up in the center aisle to receive a blessing of their family from the priests. One bunch at a time they stepped up, formed a little huddle, and were blessed. Many of them gave the priests a hug, and all of them walked away smiling. Scott kept saying "look, everyone is SMILING!!" He stopped a family and asked them about it, they said it was for the feast of the Holy Family, but that they do "stuff like this all the time here." The last position on their parish staff list is "Evangelist." I've gotta give that guy a call.

We left that little church thinking how much we want to go back there someday. I hope people feel that way coming to ours.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Drummer Boy

If there's one Christmas tradition I get sick of every year, it's the telling and re-telling and re-re-re-re-telling of A Christmas Carol. It's a great story, yep, and if there's a better explanation of what conversion is and how it works, I don't know it. But seriously, enough. At this time of year, the Classic Radio station on sirius starts playing old-timey CHRISTMAS radio shows, like Jack Benny and Suspense, and whatnot. Every show does a version of A Christmas Carol.

And if there's a song that I re-start to loathe anew each year, it's the Little Drummer Boy. If they just didn't say "pa-rum=pa-pum-pum" so darn many times!!! But I thought, this year, about what a great message the song has for parish ministry leaders.
I love how this kid (he's a kid, right? Or is he just little? I always assumed a kid...) comes upon the scene and wants to help, wants to serve, but the only gift he has is this gift of drumming. It's a wholly unhelpful gift to a newborn baby and his homeless mother in a barn. But she doesn't say "we have all the drummers we need, but if you'll fill out this form we'll get in touch with you. Maybe during Lent?" or "we don't use drummers here. How do you feel about chaperoning the Altar Server trip to Wacky Water World?" She says "cool. Drum on, drummer!"
(Or something like that.)
Last night at our church, in response to an invitation in the bulletin, over 20 people showed up to decorate for Christmas. The person in charge was super stressed out. People kept approaching her and saying "what can I do?" and she would say "there's really nothing." I tried to help, by giving people jobs and asking other people to help find jobs for people. It could have gone much better, if the people who invited help were ready to accept that help. I heard a Youth Ministry trainer say once that he bristles when he hears ministers say "we don't have enough help!" He says what we should be saying is "we have more volunteers than we know what to do with!!"
Last year at about this time, I think, I decided to "give and let give" and never to refuse someone's offer of help. It was a new skill to develop, this welcoming help, but it has been great.
Drum on, drummer.

Monday, December 20, 2010

crime scene photos

You may be asking, "what's with that box of delicious looking turtles that your sweet landlord sent you? The box looks to have been destroyed, perhaps by some g-danged squirrel or something?"
Ah, you'd be right!! Check out the smug facial expression on this little jerk!! You can see the picture larger... and notice the shredded corner of the box in our mailbox.
So I know you're asking "well you didn't go ahead and EAT any of those riddled-with-squirrel-germs turtles, did you?" and the answer is, of course, no- because I prefer the almond version, and these were pecan. So.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

4 Things

Here are the four projects I should be working on right now:
Weatherstripping the windows. I bought it, that putty kind of stuff, and it's ready to go but you know what? It's too cold to go near the windows right now.
Baking Christmas cooky (I've decided to spell cooky that way, it's all right, I looked it up, and doesn't it look even better than cookie? It just does, admit it.) gifts for my co-workers. This year it'll be chocolate-toffee bark (again) and these lovely cinnamon roll sugar cookies (click the pic for the recipe):
Also, I should be scanning in old family pictures for my parents' Christmas calendar. I started making calendars last year from all my fancy pho-tog-raphy (read that all fancy and pretentious-like) but since the brief death of my computer I don't have much left... so old pictures it is. Don't tell my parents... that I have a blog.
Wait, there were four? What was number 4? Oh, shoot.
Aw, look, it's already 9:00, too late to start any projects. Maybe I'll just eat the M&M's that were going to be on the aforementioned bark.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook


Simple Woman's Day Book
FOR TODAY 12/11/10...


Outside My Window...
baby it's cold outside!! I've made the executive decision that I'm not going to bother raking up the leaves on our lawn until Spring. I'm going to consider them "mulch," protecting the ground and gardens from the harshness of winter snow. Yeah, that's right.
I am thinking... about getting up and doing stuff, but instead I'm sitting around watching terrible tv shows. Okay, okay I'll admit it: it's old episodes of The Ghost Whisperer!! There, now you know. Don't judge me. But once I get ready to roll today, WATCH OUT! I'm probably going to get SO MUCH DONE!!! Wooo!!!
I am thankful for... there's not enough space here, or letters in the alphabet, or words in any language. I'm so blessed that it's almost embarrassing. I'm a lucky, thankful girl.
From the kitchen... the refrigerator is growling. Our compressor is going... so, it's still cold but every time the motor turns on, it makes a terrible noise. We are waiting to hear from the landlord about what will happen next, but for now it's still working so I don't mind waiting a bit. The repairman came out and somehow cranked up the coldness in there, see below for the results. The noise is annoying to us humans but nigh on to distressing to Pip, we had to move the litter box because she refused to go near that end of the kitchen. Now we have a litter box in the midst of our kitchen. But you know, you've gotta do what you've gotta do for your cats. Pfft.
I am wearing... oh man, pajamas, like I always am when I write these things. That's embarrassing.
I am creating... bark and cinnamon roll sugar cookies for staff Christmas gifts, sometime this week. I have been able to do lots of baking lately for a friend. It's the perfect symbiotic relationship; I love to bake and she loves to eat baked goods. I love to be praised and she is a fan of yummy food and when she takes bites of yummy food, she says "mmmmMMMMM!!" Love that.
I am going... to pick up Scott on Monday night, and I can't wait! He's at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, of which I am infinitely jealous. I watched the address from Bob McCarty the other day, and was reminded of the particularly wonderful hearts and souls of Youth Ministers. I am loving my job- LOVING it- but I look forward to the day I re-enter that community of ministers.
(Oh no, I just realized it's a marathon. A Ghost Whisperer marathon!!!!!!)
I am reading... Not a lot!! It's semester's end, and I'm three pages away from break. This semester I took an online Sacraments class and Sharing Faith, with the afore-mentioned guru. Both classes were helpful and applicable but I have no idea how I've done in either class. I'll be relieved to get actual grades, and hope they're good ones... I am fantasizing about buying a New Yorker to read over Christmas week.
I am hoping... for safe travels for Scott and that lots of people in New Orleans offer to buy him dinners between now and then, so that we can make it to payday. That's a hint Chris Weber!!
(ha! I crack myself up.)
I am hearing... shinies and shadows attacking a poor ghost child!! Oh Noooooo!!!!!!
Around the house... you know, cats, snoozing. Messes, waiting to be cleaned up. Laundry, waiting to be washed.
One of my favorite things... is a whole Saturday without any plans!! This week, while Scott has been gone, I've had something scheduled every day and every night. Nary a chance to take a breath and watch trashy tv. It's so nice to have an entire day... such luxury!!
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Well there's not much rest-of-the-week left, but
while I have you, I'll share that when Scott's away I have some rituals that I always do, besides watching GW. Like, I leave the bed unmade, wear ugly pajamas, leave the shower curtain open and the toilet lid up, and open all the shades to let lots of light in the apartment. It's not that we live in darkness when he's here, but he has less appreciation for light-filled, open-windowed living than I do. I also do some secret projects, which I won't outline here because he is my most faithful reader. Suffice it to say a lot shall be done, mwahahahahahaaaa!!!
Here is picture thought I am sharing.
This is what a frozen egg looks like! How fun is that?? Thanks mister refrigerator repair man!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mother Theresa I'm not.

Hot on the heels of the Coach purse conversation, I was approached at church the other day, minutes before the Immaculate Conception Mass, by a woman who said "I'm homeless, and my luggage is in a cab outside, and I have no money and the shelters are full, and I'm wondering... can I just sleep here tonight?"
There I was, in a big beautiful, warm, dry church. I had no money on me that I could give her, and she wasn't asking for any. But, I couldn't offer her the church building to stay overnight in. As shameful as it felt, the church building isn't something I have the authority to give. I led her to a woman who works at the town's soup kitchen, but she said she knew the shelters were full, and she too had nothing to give. The woman thanked us anyway and headed for the door. I watched her leave and wished I'd at least invited her to stay for a warm hour and some cookies after Mass. It all happened pretty fast. As she left, one of the Lectors who was standing at the door of the church said "I just hope she doesn't sneak downstairs and sleep there." I thought, "I kind of hope she does..."
I know that there are people who are gifted for taking care of the poor, and although I think I have a heart for the poor, I am not that person. I imagine someone like Mother Theresa would find a spot for this woman to sleep, toot-sweet, and talk the cabbie into comping her ride, too. I do not have the instincts for that- all I could manage to do was apologize dumbly and pat at my empty pockets.
So as I sat down to pray, I prayed that this woman would find a spot, and prayed in thanksgiving for the people who are better at helping others than I am, and wondered what the right thing to do would have been.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gimme gimme gimme!!!!!

Man oh Manischewitz it's Advent, time for giving and shopping and planning and whatnot. It's also giving time at the church. We put up over 1300 stars with gift requests on the walls of the church, from several different agencies. Most of them are for gift cards, many are for towels and underwear and kitchen utensils, and one agency asks for extra large jeans so their people can wear more than one pair at a time in order to keep warm on the street.
But every year, some people wish for expensive gifts. One star on the wall this year is a Coach purse. This has caused lots of discussion and disgust at the parish. This Christmas wisher is being described as greedy- and her star has been taken off the wall.
Another parishioner told me recently that she doesn't like to give gift certificates, because she is afraid that the receiver will just spend them all on cigarettes. I know people who keep McDonald's gift cards in their pockets for when they pass people begging on the street, so that they can know that person won't spend whatever cash they might have given them on alcohol.
All this has me thinking about the nature of giving. When we want to give to the poor, do we always have conditions? Why does it matter to us what someone spends money on?
I get it, I do- I would prefer any gift I give to improve the life of the person who receives it. I wouldn't want to give a person license to damage themselves. But is it supposed to be different? Am I supposed to give without expectations, without conditions?
And that Coach purse. I can totally see why this person is being called greedy. But the place where I get stuck is, I'm greedy too. The things I've asked for for Christmas, they're things I don't need, things that aren't noble. So here's the question that rings in my mind: why is it okay for me to be greedy, but not for this poor woman?
I can't afford to buy this person's Coach purse so I guess I don't have to be too conflicted about what to do in this case, but it surely makes me think about why we give and what we expect of each other.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Two Unrelated Thoughts (and that's it for the day)

It occurred to me this morning that the older I get, and the more I learn, the more easily I can see the connective tissue between things that happen in life. I had lots of good examples of what I mean by this, back when I was thinking about it in the shower, but now the one that is crowding my brain is this; how we effect people beyond anything we can understand, without ever knowing.
I heard once that Charles Darwin once heard the screams of a slave being beaten, and because of that, was inspired to research the sameness between all people, to work against racism, to change all of history. How about that, huh? Without ever knowing it, the suffering this one woman experienced echoed in the heart of a man who changed so much, for everyone, across time. She never knew it! That's what blows my mind.

On another topic, my cats are getting old. Zarley, the oldest one, has always been a little "special" but now she's special and old. For the past few months, she hasn't totally been able to recognize Pip, her only child and lifelong (Pip's life-long) roommate. Now every time she catches sight of Pip she growls and hisses. Pip hisses back, because who wouldn't?
Zarley needs periodic snuggles. She stands on the ironing board in the kitchen, and while I walk around, she yells at us and waves her paw at me, and paces back and forth, and yells and yells until I stop and turn to her. She then practically (for a 16 year old cat) leaps into my arms and snuggles against my shoulder. After a few minutes, she's satisfied and I can put her down and she'll settle into a nap. But she needs that snuggle.
Sometimes, especially in the kitchen, I'm busy! I'm cooking or cleaning or doing homework or some such thing, and I don't have time to stop, but she yells and yells and I can't not stop and give her a snuggle. I'm always glad I did, because a snuggle is always as good for me as it is for Zarley.
I think my relationship with God is similar. I often don't stop and turn to God until He waves his paw at me and yells and yells and yells. When I do finally turn to Him, it's so good for me. I don't know if God needs time with me like Zarley does, but He knows I need time with Him.

That's it for deep thinking for me today. I'm going to spend the rest of the night making meatloaf, peanut-butter popcorn, and snuggling. Perfection.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nun-nun-nun-nunnnnn!!!

A couple of weeks back I went for my yearly physical. I was sick with this nasty cold that everyone has right now, and feeling pretty lousy. I thought, seriously, about canceling my doctor's appointment because I felt so crappy. But I guess that would be counter-productive, so instead I dragged myself in.
My nurse practitioner does an EKG for everyone "over a certain age" and that is me. She said that my heart rate was speedy, and that plus my complaint of heart palpitations (NO, not panic attacks.) at night sometimes (really only a few times) might not be peri-menopause. So she ordered me to get an Echocardiograph... an ultrasound of my heart, that is, and wear a heart monitor for a day.
Yesterday was heart monitor day. I pretended I was the bionic woman all day and went "nun-nun-nun-nunnnnn" whenever I moved quickly. Only those of us "over a certain age" would even know what that is, but it made me giggle.


(check it out, the picture on the lunchbox is of Jamie ripping a phone book in half in front of a junior high class!!)




Anyway, part of the deal with this monitor is that you have to list your "activities" whenever you do some. There's a list of example activities: sitting, bowel movement, jogging, sexual activity...
It's a curious exercise to describe to a doctor, in one line, what I do during the day. At one point I did a walk-through of the chapel and church which entailed stocking a cupboard with paper cups, stopping to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, running up stairs, organizing Advent materials, writing on a white board, greeting pray-ers. How would you title that "activity?"
And later, when it was time for Lex, I thought, "is it important that I mention that I'll be at a bar, having dinner? Do I specify that I'll be leading a bible study?" It was just hard to discern what would be an important factor to the doctor reading my diary.
Today I watched the ultrasound tech sweep over my heart and show me my valves. I was riveted at seeing it happen right in front of me, and hearing the sounds of it from all different angles. I started to worry that she was sure taking a lot of recordings/pictures, and thinking "that valve looks kinda funny..." but in truth I have no idea what my valve should have looked like. It was flapping away, and that must be good news.
Today I'm feeling much less bionic and much more human.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgobble!

There's something about Thanksgiving week. It's an oasis in the busy Fall! Usually when I'm about to go on vacation from work, it means I have to scramble to make sure everything is set and covered and in place for when I won't be there, but Thanksgiving week means no one will really be there- nothing will be going on. It means the opposite of last-minute scrambling. It means slowing down in advance of that last day. I've been doing lots of reading and writing at work this week, and some fun stuff too.
So all that's to think about, at least this week, is preparing to eat a lot, and nap. Now that is something to be thankful for. And I am!

Friday, November 12, 2010

7 Quick Takes: least effort edition

1) so, yeah, I've been absent. And also, absent-minded. Seems that when I get overwhelmed, I miss meetings and forget stuff and, well, drop things, and such. I do not like that, no not indeed. I don't like feeling overwhelmed, and I don't like missing things, and I don't like it.

2) But you must be sick of tuning in here to read about my stress levels, so let me think of something else to talk about. Let's see...

3) I did a quick presentation to my class a couple of weeks ago, about Total Community Catechesis. It's a topic I know like the back-a-my-hand, and the group was friendly and interested, and I was totally prepared, but CRAP I was nervous!! I don't know why- and I was so annoyed by it. I could not breathe normally, and would just talk until I ran out of breath, and then couldn't really inhale all that well. I have spoken to crowds of hundreds of people. Hundreds! Like, 600! And I was excited, anxious even, but I was fine. So, why all the non-breathing in front of 55 lovely people? Maybe because I knew they were mostly smarter than me. (I?) Maybe because my professor's a Religious Ed Guru. Valid nerve-frayers, I guess, but I was not happy. I did calm down after the first minute or so, but, aw, you know. Stop thinking about it.

4) And while I'm at it, I should confess that Professor Guru and I disagree on something. I wrote a little paper mentioning the dreadful textbooks I used to use in faith formation programs, and my belief that one-size-fits-all curricula do not, in fact, fit all- that curricula should be designed by the faith formation people in the parish, according to what will work and what addresses the needs of the parish. PGuru, author of textbooks, disagreed. His comment was that parishes just don't have the resources to design their own curricula.
But this, I think, is a big problem. It's true that parishes don't have the resources- but that's because rather than investing the money into hiring professionals who could do just that. Instead, they rely on out-of-the-box textbooks to decide what to teach. Using a textbook series allows parishes to hire untrained, uneducated, inexperienced people (with loving, generous hearts) to do a job that should be done by someone who is better prepared.
NO I am not against using resources, NO I am not anti-curriculum, NO I am not against lesson plans. I am against allowing a publisher to decide what and how a parish should be educated.
So. there.

5) So I'm working on this Confirmation project. It's fascinating stuff!! The central tension seems to be that no one can really agree on the theology of the sacrament- but also, it comes to this: everyone says "you know, there really are NO requirements for Confirmation. BUT there are things people should have to do to get it." RE professionals seem to be really stuck on this.

We have a free gift for you! Here's what you have to do to get it!

The rules are that candidates are supposed to be "properly prepared" and that is just vague enough that everyone gets to decide for themselves what "properly prepared" looks like... and the other tension seems to be that DREs worry that if they don't put some steps (aka barriers, hoops to jump through, check-boxes) between the candidate and the sacrament, then 1) the sacrament won't be taken seriously and 2) the Church will be taken advantage of. It's a fascinating conundrum.

6) Here's what I should be doing right now: Laundry. Baking cookies. Cleaning the House. Writing a paper. So, gentle readers, you're welcome for this entry- I put aside so much to be here with you. I was supposed to get up and get busy after watching the DVR'd Office episode, but I added the DVR'd The Soup episode just so I could stay here.

7) But now I have to go. The butter is room temp and the washer is free, and Scott is whistling to me, so I must away. Thanks for reading my blah blahs! Check out other people's blah blahs at www.conversiondiary.com.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweet Saturdays

Did you know I keep a strict low-carb diet? Well that's because I am a reasonably spectacular failure at it. I do pretty well for a while and then go to the fair or a party or something and it's like I get possessed by Willy Wonka or something.
Part of the problem is I love to bake, especially at this time of year. There's something about the air getting colder and the bulking of the clothes and whatnot, and it makes me want to cook. Well, what can one do? Lent will come around before we know it and I will crawl, bloated and high from sugar overload, back on the wagon.
So today, which turned out to be an introvert's dream, I saw Scott off to Halloweeny land with the kids, and my podcasts and I got a ton of housework done, did the grocery shopping, cheffed up dinner for myself, and now I'm sitting down to one of my favorite old movies (His Girl Friday) with this delicious little something-I-whipped-up. It's a reverse whoopie pie! Chocolate cream cheese frosting as its filling! And yes, it's spectacular.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mawwaggge...


So, I went to a workshop put on by the dioces about the new marriage program, which looks great- comprehensive, theologically sound, well grounded in good research, applicable, approachable. I think it’s going to be great, at least greater than my own Pre-Cana experience, which was just bearable in my opinion and not too bad in Scott’s.

But as a childless woman, being addressed in the group by a childless woman, I felt that old familiar prickle. She began the conversation by stating her marriedness and her childlessness and explained why she and her husband haven’t had kids. I thought this was curious but I could absolutely understand her motivation, because as a married catholic woman and leader, one is always keenly aware of that fertility lens through which everyone looks at you. One day when Scott met a new neighbor and she asked him “do you have children?” he said “no, we tried but it didn’t work out.” He was in the same spot, defending his state in life to someone who had an expectation of him as a married Catholic person.

So, where does that leave me? It leaves me in the position, like this woman, of defending my childlessness. But, I refuse to do it. I refuse to tell you why I’m childless, because you don’t need to know, and because the conclusion you’ve probably jumped to is good enough. And by You, I don’t mean you, my faithful readers, because you probably already know why. I mean... you, new neighbor, parishioner, parent of my students, etc. When YOU ask me if I have children, although I am tempted to defend myself, I will just say “no.”

I once stood at the back of the church where I was working, surrounded by kids who knew I was married and childless, and heard the pastor pronounce in his homily that childless marriages were invalid. I couldn’t help but feel a little defensive there, I must say… and that was the prickle I felt when, at this workshop, our presenter went on to say, more than a couple of times, that “marriage is for having children.”

Well, what if my marriage is not for having children?

I would have to counter to her that marriage is really for responding to God’s call. Marriage is a vocation- and that one's vocation is ultimately following God. That is, vocation isn’t about God saying “I’ve got a job for you” but more like “sign up, and go where I send thee.”

I can only guess at where my life would have led if we’d had children. I imagine my bizarro self in an alternate reality wondering the opposite. But I think we’re both doing the right thing, me and bizzaro me, because we’re following God’s call for us. Marriage may be for having children, it may for not having children. Marriage is for the glory of God.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Autumn Ramblings

There is very little of a lot of stuff going on, so I'm going to take it a paragraph at a time.

My car is infested with spiders. It has been, and I'm not kidding, for YEARS. I may have mentioned it here before, even. They seem to have settled, for several generations, in my rack (that is, the rails on top of my car. What is that, a ski rack? I don't ski... anyway, I know the title "my rack" is less than perfect. Let's move on) but they move in when it gets cooler, or warmer. What I'm trying to say is that at any given point a white or pale-ish yellow spider may drop down in front of me while I'm driving... or walk across my visor... or my window, or my windshield. I think these are the spiders, and now that I know that I'm a little bit more creeped out than I was before I knew. And now that you know, you'll never want to ride in my car, will you?

This semester is plugging along, and I am finding myself (right on schedule I suppose) pining for my life back. My main problem this year is a lack of definable deadlines. One class requires six 2-page papers, you know, whenever. One is online and asks that I post, several times. And my internship is totally self-motivated and such. That is, it's up to me to do all that STUFF involved in making it happen. I don't do well with amorphous requirements. I do all my best work at the last minute, and when there are no last minutes, well...

I hate halloween. I have no real great reason, I wasn't bitten by a halloween when I was a kid or anything, I just don't care for it. And it's freaking EVERYWHERE. I am loving the fall colors when I get a chance to notice them, but the orange and black crap everywhere is really annoying to me. Scott pretends not to like it but he really does, and that's his prerogative, and I fully support it, but not to the point of hanging stupid decorations up. On halloween night, Scott does it up big, and I sit in the living room watching non-scary tv and waiting for it to all be over. There, I've said my piece.

That's all for now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I think I read somewhere that 70% of blog titles include the words "sorry for not posting much lately..."

I know, I know, I haven't been posting. It's just... you know, I've been busy (like sonic boom kind of busy) with school and work and whatnot. Also, the news I have to share is mostly worrisome news, with friends in crisis and mine and my siblings new entry into the "sandwich generation" and all that. Lately when I've been asked "so what's new?" all I want to say is "my friend has cancer and my mother is 'going fuzzy' all the time and oh my God I'm freaking out!!" but instead I say "oh you know, not much... same old same old... busy, you know." That's because I don't want to be Debbie Downer, nobody wants to hear all that. Already people at church know some things about these things and when they ask me how my friend or my Mom is doing, I feel a pang of discomfort. I don't know if it's because I feel like I'm supposed to be ministering to them and not the other way around (I really don't believe that, you know, because being church for each other means... and people have agency in their faith to pray for... and lots of other professional ministry answers) or if it's the same feeling I get when I tell people I eat low carb and see them steal a glance at my donut. That is, when I'm working and smiling and being "on" and they ask me how my Mom's doing, I feel a responsibility to demonstrate my (sincere) sadness in the midst of coffee and donuts or whatever I'm doing, and that is tricky.
So this is why I haven't been posting; because woe is me. But I haven't forgotten about either of you, my faithful readers! I'll be back on track right away. Probably tomorrow, or soon thereafter. Maybe today! I dunno.

Friday, October 01, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Bad Mass Behavior Edition

It's been a week full of stress and sadness so I think it's time for some silliness. So...









My 7 Favorite-est ways to misbehave in church:

1) I'll start with the tamest, which is from my childhood- it's just this: when someone is kneeling, slide the bulletin behind their backs on the pew so that when they slide back into their seat, the bulletin makes a loud-ish crinkling noise. I know, it's unimpressive, right? But when it's quiet it makes a mini-racket. Hijinks!!
2) Related, and also from my childhood- this one requires timing and stealth: just as someone (like, your Dad) goes to kneel, reach down quick and flip up the kneeler, so that they go all the way down to the floor. This is tricky on so many levels but when it works and someone (like, your Dad) has to stay quiet instead of yelling at you because you're in church, well, it is comedy gold.
3) This one only works on Palm Sunday, but everyone goes to Mass on Palm Sunday, so everyone can try this. You have to be sneaky though. Stand and hold your palm nonchalantly, but direct its little tip into the ear of the person next to or in front of you. The important thing here is to look straight ahead so that it appears it's happening by mistake. They'll bat it away several times before you bust out laughing.
4) The key to Mass bad behavior is that people can't react the way they want to, because they're trying to behave well at Mass- so you get extra license to take advantage of this. Plus, everyone knows that laughing in church is the! Most! Fun! Laughter of All! It's forbidden and naughty and nothing is funnier than something happening in church.
5) The old " excuse me" line when you hear a funny sound joke is always a hit at Mass. So, you know, you hear an odd sound like someone scooting across the pew or if the organist mistakenly steps on one of those foot-keys in an inappropriate time, and you turn to the person next to you with a STRAIGHT FACE (that's important) and say "excuse me."
6) Here's my favorite, it makes me laugh every time I think of it, and I can't even wait to do it again. You know how we Catholics take a break during the Our Father, and let the priest take a turn, and then we jump in and finish it off? (Note: This only works if you hold hands during the Our Father)Well, lots of people like to raise their hands (and the hands of the people they're holding) up high over their shoulders, for that last section. Well when someone holding my hand tries to raise it up, I hold it down, and hold their hand down with it. Which would be funny enough, right??? But then, I turn to that person with a straight face and say "I don't do that."
OH MANNNN it is soooo funny!!!! More funny for me than for that nice person who is only trying to pray, but still. Hilarious.
7) That should be enough to get you in trouble at least 6 times, so enjoy. And... don't misbehave in Mass. You heard it here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Palanca

My friend Kristen and I have had numerous conversations about the thought of palanca. It's the spiritual practice of offering up a sacrificial action to help another person in prayer. I don't know if that's a good description, but the gist of our conversations has been that we're not sure we get palanca, or see how it works, and struggle with the implications of it-- that is, if walking with a pebble in my shoe would bend the will of God, well... what the heck?
But now, I get it because someone I love is very sick. Suddenly, I am anxious to do palanca- I want to do something- ANYTHING- to help Katherine. I want to feel pain and suffering if it means that she doesn't have to. I want to do anything to help. I want to give give give to make sure that she gets.
And it dawns on me that I don't know how or if palanca works, I don't know how or if prayer works, and somehow that doesn't matter now- I am coming to see that doubt is for the safe, the secure, the comfortable. Katherine's mother said to me "we'll beat this, because there's no other option." And to me, there's no other option but to turn to God and fall on Him and offer what I can offer, so I will do it, whether I get how it works or not.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

7 Quick Takes: G.O.F. Edition

During my first class with the RE Guru, we were asked to say our names and "what we bring to the table." I should have said "I love kitties" but instead I said "I work at a parish that does Whole Community Catechesis really well." He was happy to hear that, and said "Oh we'll be doing a lot of talking about that this semester, maybe you can do a presentation for us!" (Crap. Note to self: kitties next time.)
But the truth is I am massively proud of our parish and especially of our parish's work in faith formation. Last night we had our opening session of Generations of Faith, starting our year of focus on the Liturgical Year, and it went fabulously well- our parish hall was packed to the gills with happy people, and the breakouts... well, let me tell you what I love about Whole Community Catechesis in seven quick takes...








1) Okay so we call it Whole Community, but lately I am liking better the term "Total Community Catechesis" which is what BC prefers to call it. I like that title because the "total" in TCC means total community, that is, that the whole parish community is invited to learn and grow. All ages, all stages, everyone who is present and not, everyone who would traditionally be in a faith formation and everyone who wouldn't be caught dead in a faith formation program. But "total" also refers to the methods used by a parish to meet those people. GOF, yes, of course, but also publications, programs like LEX and parent groups and Mass and Facebook and Twitter. It allows us at our parish to be incredibly creative and try new things and explore new ways of doing faith formation that has made us grow in amazing ways, and the parish too.

2) Last night we had over 250 people in our hall, and it looked like around 20% of them were new. A 20% increase in faith formation registrations??? Amazing. Our intern who will be working with us this year attended for the first time and said it was like nothing she had ever seen before. She visited every breakout and was, she said, really impressed. In my parent group she sat next to a woman who said "I'm here because my (elementary school-aged) daughter begged me to come." Not one complaint was heard, there were smiles all around, and the energy was amazing. A man approached our dre and said "the community here is wonderful!" Someone finding our community wonderful, through participating in faith formation??? Amazing. (and it is a wonderful community, in large part due to this program.

3) On the other hand, I was amazed and pleased last night to realize how many people there I knew. There were so many familiar faces, whole families that I knew. I remembered that as a youth minister in my first parish, I would often have kids pass through my program for 6 full years without ever meeting their parents. Now, with this model, I know kids, their parents, their siblings, their grandparents, their cousins and aunts. It is such a blessing to know families in this way.

4) I love, love, love working with the parents in this program. I started with them two years ago, and they were uncomfortable and silent. They had not been told how important their faith is to their children's faith, how important they are to the Church community, how wonderful they are, how capable they are, how valid and valuable their faith and experience are. When I first asked them to turn to each other and introduce themselves and share their thoughts, they really seemed to find it uncomfortable. Even last year, when I asked them to turn and talk to each other, there would invariably be a couple of people on the edges, who sat alone and didn't interact. Last night every single person, new to the program or experienced, turned to talk and share with other parents. It was something to behold. I really can't imagine going back to a model of ministry for young people that doesn't involve the rest of their families.

5) Teamwork! This year we're really working on growing the team and involving as many people as possible in the planning and execution of these gatherings. We've really gotten a rhythm down with each other, and love the chances we have to try things out. We have so much fun dreaming up the plans for each session, and really get to use our brains in ways I never could in traditional classroom models. This year our logo features an iphone with "apps" for all the liturgical seasons... jumping off of that, our opening large-group sessions each month feature an older member of our congregation (our emcee) trying to figure out some new "appy" on his iphone, and needing a younger person to explain it to him. They use a "calendar thingamajig" on his iphone to look at the featured season for the night. It's quick and fun (and funny!) and was a great kickoff for the learning last night.

6) It's hard, hard work. Last night we dealt with a flood of people who hadn't registered, ran out of chicken fingers and classroom space, struggled to be present to everyone in some way or another, ran around like crazy headless chickens, and then had to clean up! I want to tell you that I was DOG-TIRED at the end of the night, and needed an extra nap today. It is an exhausting model of faith formation, MUCH more work than sitting in my office while the teachers met with the kids. But I felt pride and satisfaction and genuine love of my job at the end of the night, and don't remember feeling this way in the traditional model. (well heck, I loved what I was doing back then but you can see the difference, can't you?) I am starting to think that anything one works hard for is worth the effort.

7) Check it out: there are people who say that this model is plain EVIL! I have certainly noticed that the excitement around GOF has waxed and waned, at least here in this Archdiocese. In fact, originally here the model was cheered and raved about by the "higher-ups" and then suddenly a letter went out reminding us that "systematic" faith formation needs to be the main model. One might ask what they mean by "systematic," and one might deduce that they're talking about textbooks. In fact the aforementioned evil-sayers' complaints about the model are mostly that it's not didactic enough, and relies too much on "spirituality" (blech!!!) and getting the "love of Jesus in their hearts" (oh man, how horrible!!!). What they're really saying is that the content provided in this model is not controlled by a publisher or an imprimatur.
In fact I believe that the reason the hierarchy has shied away from this model is due in large part to the lobbying of the textbook companies. But I want to assure you that we use lots of texts to plan and teach this program. We use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we use really wonderful (approved!) resources. But we don't spend $20+ for textbooks and umpteen dollars for teacher editions that can't (really, they can't) be used out-of-the-box in a community. One size really does not fit all. The best part of this model is that it's a model, not a curriculum. It can be as formative as you dare it to be.

Well I've gone on long enough... you can tell I'm passionate about this model. Come and check it out sometime, we'd love to show you what is happening in our parish.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tick... tick... tick... wheeee!!! Arms up, people!!!

This morning before work there was nothing on the radio that I wanted to listen to so I popped my ipod in the player and dialed up a random podcast from the Vinyl Cafe. This one was about Dave taking his son to ride a roller coaster, and how at one point in their lives, Dave was gung-ho to ride but his son was too scared... and suddenly the day came that his son was ready and Dave was too scared. He stopped to read the warning sign that stood at the entrance of the ride and realized that he had gotten older and more scared and couldn't jump right in like he used to want to.
It was a great story, but one point came back to me later today. The son, guessing that his father would have a hard time on the roller coaster, had done some research on the internet to help him get through it. He advised his father:
  • Concentrate on the part of the track that is right in front of you, rather than looking at the whole route.
  • If you get queasy, put your foot down hard and pretend you're driving.
  • Repeat to yourself "you only have to do this once."
Later today, I found myself in the library at school (oh God I hate that place, it is the least-comfortable, most baffling place ever and I hate it!) and looking down the barrel of a three hour class from 6-9, and melted down. I am so done with grad school. I can see it being fun if you have nothing else going on, but honestly, I'm working toward a degree in something I already do and love and it is really HARD to handle it all. I know, I know, I'm whining. But that is how I felt this evening as I wallowed in the library about the overwhelmed state I found myself in.
I went on to said long class and halfway through I heard a voice in my head say "you only have to do this once." Soon I realized that all those rules for how to survive riding a roller coaster were applicable to my life right now (and I bet the lives of anyone else in education, one way or another, right now). So I re-adjusted my vision to just the bit of track that's in front of me, put my foot down and pretended I was driving, and then repeated my mantra. "You only have to do this once. You only have to do this once."

Friday, September 10, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Projects Edition

Oh heck! It's Friday again! Gwarsh, how many weeks have I missed at this? My computer died, you know... anyhooo, here we go, with some of the many big projects I'm working on right now, at work.

1) Generations of Faith:
It's the way we do Faith Formation at our parish, and it's ever-s0-much-better than the traditional CCD model. I am immensely proud of how we do what we do. We're a creative and brave team, willing to try new things, even those things that might not work. Anyway, for GOF at our parish I write the scripts for the opening sessions, teach the parent group, plan the curriculum, coordinate the home-kits, and the events. And that's just one project. Ha!

2) Ministry Leaders:
I facilitate a regular meeting for the Ministry Leaders in our parish, helping them to align their ministries with the mission of the parish/Church, and to cross-pollinate. Amazing things happen when they get together, these leaders. Currently I'm planning a luncheon and workshop for all the volunteers in the parish, which will be centered on the spiritual practice of Hospitality (shh, don't tell them, that's a big surprise!) and we have some GREAT plans for the day!

3) Baptism:
Well I should call this "parent ministry" really, because it includes facilitating baptism intakes, classes for parents and Godparents, etc... but soon will include a mom's playgroup for the parents of kids aged .1 to about 3 or 4 years old. Included in this parent ministry, I could include the GOF parent sessions and a future "whine and cheese" parent support group that will be enacted when we get furniture for the room that we've set aside for it... October? Since moving from Youth Ministry to Everyone Ministry, I've developed a heart for parents that I never knew about before. I love working with them and want to help them feel good and able and not afraid.

4) Catholics Come Home and The Light is On For You:
This year in my new (?) position as Chief Evangelization Officer (yeah, I made up that title.. CEO for short!) I'll be in charge of these two out-of-the-box programs being mandated by the Archdiocese. I'm not sure what they'll entail exactly, but I'm in charge of them. So.

5) Gifts Committee:
This is an idea that I stole from a protestant church, I saw mention of it in a magazine. I'm inviting former members of our parish council to form this committee, whose job it will be to come to know the people in the parish and their gifts. The committee will meet periodically to match people to needs in the parish. SO: if we are forming a new RCIA group (which we are) and need people who could serve on this team (which we do) we turn to the Gifts Committee with our needs and they nominate people whose gifts fit that need. Doesn't that sound cool?

6) Grad School:
This semester I'm taking Sharing Faith, with bona-fide Religious Ed Guru Tom Groome, and an online Sacraments course, and my internship, what BC calls "contextual ed." I've mentioned it here I know, but the code name of my project is "Confirmation Doesn't Have To Suck." First semester, I'll be doing research on Confirmation prep. practices in this area (at least) and then second semester, doing workshops for Conf. coordinators, giving them strategies to get their practices more in line with the theology of the sacrament, if they're not already.

Really, this is giving me hives. Just trying think of all the things listed on my White Board of Doom in my office (coded by color to show how urgent it is for me to address it) is making my chest hurt, because how the heck am I supposed to get all this stuff done? There's much more on there than I've listed here, and each project includes several mini-projects included. The good news is, it's all stuff I'm looking forward to doing, all great stuff that I will love, but holy holy holy there's a lot of it. So I think I'll go to Ikea.



Be sure to check out the other 7QT entries at www.conversiondiary.com

Monday, September 06, 2010

Fear and Love and Crying at the Movies

I knew I shouldn't have watched. Nothing on tv bothers me like the sad fate of an old married couple losing each other. Tonight's TCM classic was Make Way for Tomorrow, about an elderly couple who lost their home and had to rely on their children to take them in. None of the five grown children were willing or able to take them both in, so they were split up and lived with different children. The promise was that three months later, they'd be together in the home of another of their kids... but instead, they were separated even farther, after a lovely and romantic night on the town in the hotel where they'd spent their honeymoon fifty years earlier.
I cried and cried at the end of the movie, for a few reasons. Funny, my biggest worry as a kid was that our house would burn down and the five of us kids would be separated like the Waltons. Tonight's movie was a grownup version of that story... and it's just as scary. And now that my parents are getting on in years and fearing their own future, we are all in position to assess what can and should happen for them. They are taking charge of this process so far, which is so kind of them, and helpful. We are blessed beyond explanation that they have planned and thought about this situation much more than Scott and I have done about our own!
Which is my next reason for crying at the movie... it occurs to me that I never remember feeling fear like that I felt when I felt love for Scott and married him for life. I remember thinking that this lifetime commitment, til death us do part, meant just that- that death would part us, one way or another, eventually. How scary is that???
It's worthwhile, this life, I am willing to live with this fear and face this unknown future where ever it leads us. I pray we'll be together for as long as we can be. I pray the same for our parents.

A man and a maid stood hand in hand;
bound by a tiny wedding band.
Before them lay the uncertain years
that promised joy and, maybe tears.
"Is she afraid?" thought the man of the maid.

"Darling," he said in a tender voice,
"Tell me. Do you regret your choice?
'We know not where the road may wind,
'or what strange byways we may find.
'Are you afraid?" said the man to the maid.

She raised her eyes and spoke at last.
"My dear," she said, "the die is cast.
'The vows have been spoken. The rice has been thrown.
'Into the future we’ll travel alone.
'With you," said the maid, "I’m not afraid."

Friday, September 03, 2010

Lord, please...?

If there's been a theme for this past year for me, spiritually, it's been prayer. I know I've written here about this struggle that's been plaguing me- the battle between head and heart. I am glad to say that my faith in God, in God's existence, has been rock-solid. I am amazed that my belief in God has not been shaken through the last 14 years of working for His Organization. (You know, I was told many years ago that if one can work for this Church and keep one's faith, it was probably a miracle.)
But this confusion about how things work, how God works and how prayer works, has really really tripped me up. I'm watching a corny football movie right now, and when the coach prays for his team to win, it's practically a reflex on my part to mutter "let's just hope no one is praying for the other team!"
See, I am not sure I want it to be true that God will change the results of your football game if enough people pray in the right direction. I understand and believe that God knows better than we do, what is best for us and for the people around us whose lives our lives touch, for history, for the universe. I get it, I really do, that God is not going to let my loved ones live forever because heck, if everyone lived forever, then how would that work?
But my inability to pray unabashedly has had repercussions on my relationship with God. It led me to walk the thin line between honoring God's supreme power to choose our fates and an inability to trust that God wants to give me the things I ask for... aw crap, it's even hard for me to type that sentence. Why should I get what I want? Lots of children are starving everywhere- why don't they get what they want? In that light, again, I don't know if I want to believe in a God that would give me a great parking spot while a child goes hungry, her prayers unanswered.
You can see how this spins me around.
But a few weeks ago, we read (and did LEX) about the reading where the friend bangs on his friend's door after the door has been locked, asking for food, and because of his persistence the friend gets up and gives him what he wants (It was Luke 11:13). In my research, I found that the better translation of that word was not "persistence" but "shamelessness." The reading is about Jesus teaching His disciples to pray- and the message is, pray shamelessly.
I have been trying it out, praying shamelessly- (not ridiculously, I am still not praying for my team to win or for great parking spots) but I am asking for good things for the people who I love. And, I'm working hard (and it is hard work) to trust that God's happy that I'm asking and that I can leave my concerns at His feet, and trust that God will address it in whatever way God sees fit.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Lapses, leashes and lasts

well readers, an apology first because of the light blogging. My computer, while newly resurrected from the dead, somehow the router at home doesn't recognize it. That is, the computer says it's online, but I can't get online... mixed messages. Anyone know how to fix that? Anyway, it means I can only be online when I'm tethered to the wall by the wire, which is surprisingly constricting. I used to use my laptop in the kitchen more than anywhere else, and now that's out, and that means I haven't sat down at my leashed laptop very often since its homecoming. And that means little blogging. Sorry. I hope it'll be fixed soon.
In the meantime, I've paid off my car! It's a small accomplishment but I feel extraordinarily proud. Naturally, things are starting to go, like the cd player. Now when I put a cd in (yes I still listen to cd's in the car) I am faced with the very real possibility that it may be in there forever. So I've been thinking about what cd could be the forever cd. Steely Dan? Yes? Maybe the Sundays... should I go with a "greatest hits" cd of someone, or a mix of favorites... or should I have Susan Tedeschi in just in case I need to howl on my way home from a particularly stressful day? What to do?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Starting Over

My laptop is off to the hospital, or should I say hospice... it looks like it's the hard drive after all, but if not that, then the mother board. We have great friends who are willing to tinker with it and see if they can save it, but if it's not the hard drive then we will probably ditch the whole thing rather than buy a new mother board, since we'll also need memory because the dear old thing was running pretty pokily. So if that's what we need to do, we'll just go all in and buy a new one.
I'm remembering things that were on there, and am disappointed to not have access to them: my handy calendar that tracks my bill-paying, my itunes library, my photos, my stickies, some grad school papers... but then again there's a certain attraction to just letting it all go.
When I was in college I took copious notes and really loved my notebooks- all the doodles I did in there, all the journal entries I wrote during class... I thought I was creating a real jewel of a time capsule, one that I would pore over in my golden years, share with my children and whatnot.
But after my 8th or 9th move as an adult, I trashed the lot of them. It was a bold move and I still get a pang when I think about it... I should have gone through them, who knows what was in there? But overall I think it was an okay decision and I haven't hurt badly from the loss of them in my basement.
The last time my computer crashed, or I switched email accounts or whatever, all my old emails were gone in an instant, before I even had time to decide if there was anything worth saving in there. And I've been fine.
On the other hand, in my office an old file cabinet holds all my original Youth Ministry files, full of good stuff that I never even look at anymore. But the other day I pulled out program planning forms from 1986, copies of copies of ones that I got at my own CLI in Maine. Gosh darn it if those weren't amazingly helpful! How brilliant to go back to the basics, use a pen and the process again after so long of thinking I didn't need such crutches. I'm glad I kept them.
But I'm okay with letting the old stuff on my old computer go- I can rebuild what I need and find all the bookmarks that I loved, probably, and if I can't, well... I probably didn't love them enough. On to the next blank slate.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Black Widow Edition

1) I'm supposed to post the image for the 7QT here, but I am on a borrowed laptop... mine, my beloved (okay it's always been kind of a love-hate relationship) Macbook died this week. It died a dramatic and sudden death, and took many important things with it. I am in mourning, and it's making me think how often things and organizations and brands die in my wake. So.

2) Notre Dame College. My alma-mater, went out of business about ten years after I graduated from it. It wasn't my fault, I was long gone, and although I avoided the calls from students asking for donations, I totally paid back all my student loans. I was sorry to see it go, I got a TON out of that goofy little school.

3) Daewoo. I bought my first (and only) brand-new car from the Daewoo dealer (a Lanos- the website described it as "like a pet that's larger than life!" and it was) in Natick, and I should have noticed how quickly the transaction was completed and I was walked out the door. A week later we drove by and the doors were locked and the showroom empty and dark. I joked about owning a collector's item, but soon after that brand-new daewoos were showing up on Ebay from dealers offering to sell them for 3000.00. New. It was a pretty good car, though, and peppy, and ultimately we traded it in for the cost of the tax on my next car.

4) Baja Fresh. Oh I loved it there, always got the Baja Burrito and it came with tortilla chips and I would dip them both in the lovely black salsa and sour cream. MMmmmmm. I remember how delicious even the hours-later burps tasted. I suppose it still exists somewhere but the local stores are gone, gone, gone.

5) Better Off Ted, Arrested Development, etc... I dunno, maybe my sense of humor isn't mainstream... but all the best shows that I love are cancelled after only a season or two. Sorry Bonnie Hunt! I blame myself!!

6) and tonight, on my way home, I stopped by Trader Joe's to pick up my supply of Milk Chocolate almond clusters, which I exist on while low-carbing- I can have one a day and they're delicious and really lower carb than one would imagine. But the man there said they've been discontinued. I am unreasonably sad about this.

7) This whole 7QT meme is probably doomed, but I hope not, I really like doing it. No, I don't, it's awful! Yeah, I don't like it at all and wouldn't be sad if it went away... so, take that God of vengeance! It would be punishing me to keep it going!! Yeahh!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Too Stressed to Title This Post

I'm not prone to freak-outs. Someone once described me as "human prozac." But around this time of year I can get a little anxious. It all started several years back when I started at my last parish. I was hired mid-August, and shown my office in a giant old (disgusting) convent. Nothing had been left to me, including any list of kids/familes or volunteers. The office and the entire building were packed with garbage- my office was filled and dirty and dark. My first job would be to sort through and clean out this place and then get organized while planning a year of programming for 1000 kids and families.
I found myself having trouble sleeping- I know I've mentioned here that I always have music going in my head, but when this all hit, I heard it all even in my sleep- the same song, over and over and over and over...I had dreams of cleaning and cleaning that office and woke frustrated and exhausted. I still remember that it was a Christina Aguilera song... but blessedly I can't remember which one...
The spell was broken when I finally had a good night's sleep with the help of the help of a friend. But since then, at around this time of year, it comes back just for a while, until I give it the one-two punch of a great night's sleep. I have a sample sleeping aid that I have kept in a glass box with a little red hammer next to it. I don't want to use it until I have to.
The last couple of years, since being at my current parish, it hasn't been bad- but this year, I think, is going to be a doozy. I'm taking two classes and an internship, and this year my ministry seems to be exploding- it's all great stuff that I'm excited to do, but somehow the already-full calendar pages in my date book make my chest hurt a little. I listed all the BIG projects on my white board yesterday and stood back to behold the source of my new anxiety. I don't want to do any of them poorly. But you know, I like to be busy- I do my best work when I'm busy- and there's nothing on the board that I dread, so maybe the fluttering I feel is the wings of excited butterflies, not nervous ones. I have so much (as always) to look forward to.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Birthday Girl

It's my birthday! Well, technically yesterday was, but it's still my birthday season. Never do I feel so popular (or, now that I think of it, all that popular at all...) as on my birthday, both in person and on Facebook. I am blown away by the Facebook wishes, and as easy as it is to send them, I know it's just as easy not to. I love wishing people a HB on their walls and it's soooo neat to get them on mine.
We went to Maine for a Summer-Birthday-Fest and I hope I got gifts to everyone I owed them to, and I brought home an awesome haul. I love those family parties, and not for the presents... but for the presence... old stories and bad jokes and silliness and great food and great people.
We then spent a few days in Provincetown with our dear friends, and had such a wonderful time. They are laid-back and easy-going and the trip was so easy and fun, I loved every minute. We went to the beach one day, and I spent more time there than I've ever spent at a beach, and liked it too. All the elements were lined up perfectly- the weather, the company, the cheesy Pringles. I am so off my diet. But let's not talk about that. There's something about P-Town that makes one feel like they can say anything, un-censored, and that was kinda fun. Not that I have much salacious to say, but I'm usually at Church when something comes up, or in polite company, or in public. It felt nice to be free like that, even if I didn't come up with much naughty to say. I'll think of something for next time.
We went to a drive-in, too, and saw The Other Guys, which made me laugh out loud. It was very Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, and that is my kinda movie. Last night, on my official birthday, the Pappanicos took me out for sushi and OH it was so good, and so good to be with them, followed by ice cream and then home to watch the Sox with my brother, keeping an eye out for Scott and his yoots, who were in the bleachers.
After a day of lounging hard (I finished my book, and unpacked my bags and took a nap and had grilled tomatoes...) Scott is out "doing errands" and then we'll go off to dinner. Tomorrow, more lounging, plus laundry. I love vacation, and I love birthdays, and I love my friends, and I am a blessed, blessed girl, whether I deserve it or not.

Friday, August 13, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Another Edition












1)
One of my jobs when payday comes is to do the grocery shopping. I don't totally mind this job, as it feeds my thrill at having a full fridge... but if you've been reading this blog for long, you know that I have a love-hate kind of relationship to this task. Today as I made my 5th stop to complete the trip, I thought "if only there was ONE place I could go to get this all done!" Of course, there IS- the supermarket. But, the one I go to doesn't sell birthday cards or salt-and-vinegar almonds, or good-enough meat, or whole-bean coffee, or locally grown tomatoes. So, five stops it is. But here I sit in front of a plate that only very recently held a grilled swiss and tomato sandwich and it was allll worth it.

2)
The other night I had a magical ministry moment. It was our last gathering of the Young-Adult Lectio group I have been leading through the summer, and the entire population of the group was bona-fide young adults! Out of college, even. They had real-world things to say, in response to the reading, and really thought hard about the whole thing. And when I told them it was over, they groaned. They groaned! They suggested we start back up again in September, but maybe at a local restaurant. That means beer! Beer! AND when I asked them if Tuesdays would be an okay night, they all said "sure!" SURE!!! Now, really, youth ministry is so awesome. It is. But moments like these are really miraculous for someone who is used to the vague hazy responses of high school students.

3)
I'll be 42 this week. That is, my birthday's coming. 42 sounds so very adult. I've not had a real reaction to any of the numbers so far, outside of excitement... I love birthdays. But sheesh, 42?

4)
I'm working on hospitality as a spiritual exercise. I am really still so moved by the hospitality of the SSND... and I want what they have. So I'm trying to remind myself to be hospitable whenever I get the chance, except at the grocery store. One thing I've noticed about true hospitality is that it's not about asking how one can help, it's just jumping right in and helping. Not asking "do you want to sit down?" but standing up and giving someone a seat. Not saying "want help with that?" but just jumping in and grabbing a suitcase to carry. Not saying "let me know how I can help" but making a dinner and bringing it by. I want to look for opportunities to help and welcome. Except at the grocery store.

5)
New favorite podcasts!! This could be a 7QT episode all on its own, but never mind that. I recommend This is That, a new CBC fake news show that had me for 7 or 8 minutes before I figured out they were bluffing. So funny. The Dinner Party Download, which gives cool jokes, small talk topics, drink recipes, and whatnot guaranteed to help you "win" at your next dinner party. Wiretap is a freakin' riot. That's also CBC. And both CBC and NPR have podcasts that plumb the depths of their archives, good for odd and interesting shows: CBC's is Rewind, and it's weekly, and NPR's is Playback, which is monthly.

6)
Check it out, my first sunflower's in bloom!














7)
Here are the things that I am looking forward to: a trip to PTown, my birthday, the continuation of tomato season, school starting again, and working on my project. GOF starting up again, and all sortsa other new ministries. Real TV shows coming back!!! Seeing the LOST epilogue, although I'm not sure how I'll be able to do that... oh and of course Conan O'Brien coming back to TV. Wait, are a lot of my looking-forward-to's about tv? Is that bad?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back from the MOTHERHOUSE

Well we are back from the MOTHERHOUSE, and I have to tell you, re-entry into society has been tough. It was all so lovely there. We hung out with an elder sister who was so spunky and so full of great stories, and so warm, it made me want to hang out with her on a regular basis. She is on her final round of chemo and feeling good, and asked for prayers so that next summer she can go to Japan and teach English for a summer. Every time we entered a room, be it the dining room or the chapel, she was there waving us over to the table or pew that she'd saved for us, and she was hooking us up with dinner in the dining room or extra cookies for the road.
Scott and I agreed that any young woman who were to go and visit these women would want to make a life of it. The possibilities and options for a School Sister seem to be endless (outside of getting rich, or... married...) and each one gets to use her gifts, and did I mention the JOY? These women were so happy. It was infectious, and I left there inspired to do better at my own vocation, to do better at my job, to do all things well and to show my joy in being a Catholic Christian.
Back at home I caught wind of the underground blogs that are peeking deep into the workings of the Archdiocese of Boston, and reading through them made my chest hurt. It made the idea of living a life like the sisters, soooo much closer to that Acts 2:42-47 model, and able to do Christ's work without all the bureaucracy and politics and, well... crap. I will try to keep in touch with my inspirational sisters and rely that joy to keep me on mission. But someday, I'd like to go back there...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

From Inside the Wall

I am writing from the inside of the MOTHERHOUSE!! (I don't know why but I can't say "motherhouse" without thinking MOTHERHOUSE...) It's so lovely here. It's like staying in the best bed and breakfast, with the best hostesses in the world. I have learned more about hospitality in the 14 hours or so that I've been here than I can remember learning before. I can see why they call it the Mother-house, because it's like walking into a mother's warm kitchen, and being greeted with hugs and cookies.
We arrived later than we'd planned, after crawling through traffic. But there were sisters here to greet us as soon as we got out of the car. Each one that greeted us said "Welcome!!" and grabbed our bags and jumped at the chance to show us around or to get us a drink or to answer questions. We laughed as one of the sisters literally wrestled our pastor's bag out of his hands. There was no choice but to give up and be greeted and served and treated like Very Important Guests.
We settled into our cells, Scott and I in adjoining bedrooms with good hard single beds. Several sisters apologized for the single bed situation, to which we said "we can handle one night of adjoining rooms!" Our room has a private bath with a shower- I'm not sure why we merit such swanky accommodations, but I feel like this whole place is a living, breathing, warm embrace, so it almost feels natural that they'd give us their best.
We got here just as dinner was finished, and so they brought us to a smaller dining room and warmed us plates of food- I felt so grateful that I ate every bite. I have no idea what that meat was! One of the sisters said it was "some kind of beef." But it tasted like welcome. Later, at a receptions, the sisters practically hand-fed us snacks and treats and even at the water cooler a sister filled my cup for me. Everyone introduces themselves and welcomes us and chats with us about their connection to our parish, and smiles and tells us how lovely we are.
This place is HUGE. We took a walk around the buildings last night after Vespers, admiring the grounds. It's beautiful, and beautifully kept, and designed thoughtfully to be a good home and workplace for the sisters.
This morning, I crept down the hallway to iron our clothes and found Sister Pat, who said "here, go ahead and use the iron." I said "oh are you done?" and she said "Oh, these clothes aren't mine, I just saw them here..."
I keep thinking, if we greeted people at Mass and treated them this way every time they walked into the Church (like, I have to say, Scott does), what would our church look like? I bet it'd be fuller, and full of smiling faces.

Friday, August 06, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Random Edition












1) I have a policy about not making political comments online, if I can stop myself. It's hard, because so many people say such stupid things, and I could so easily come up with something great and sassy and smack-downish, but... I think it's probably better for my friendships and for all the world if I keep it to myself and the ballotbox. I was taught as a kid that it is rude to ask people who they vote for, that this is an extremely personal decision. Now, when I hear people ask others (like kids) who they voted or would vote for, I leap in (slow-mo, like someone jumping on a grenade in an old movie) and say "YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER THAT!!!" I can see how tempting it is to bleed one's political views all over the internet, but it just feels wrong to do it. I did make one comment, once... a friend had a video of Barack Obama stumbling at the loss of his teleprompter, and they said something about how people made fun of Bush. I commented "this doesn't make Bush look any smarter." But that's all.

2) That said, I do believe in everyone's right to say what they want to say. I just don't see the kind of debate that might be carried out via Facebook status as changing anyone's mind. And, I have a visceral reaction to meanness, just about anywhere, unless it's me doing it and it's funny.

3) Well now I'm embarrassed about the truth of that last statement. It's true, but it's terrible. I have been working hard not to be so darned MEAN lately, even when it's funny. And also not to be so nervous around change. But that is neither here nor there.

4) Our fly invasion is over!! I don't know what happened, or why it stopped, but it's over. Now all that is to be done is to hang up our awesome flyswatter and wait for next year.

5) I've been reading a management guru's book, and looking at how easily it can be applied to ministry. This guru says that one should treat one's employees like customers. That makes me think that we should be as intentional about our volunteers' spiritual growth and learning as we are about that of our students. What would our ministries look like if we invested as much in the volunteers as we did to the "people"?

6) I've found my bacon. Have you noticed how hip bacon is these days?? Everyone is coming out of the closet and admitting how much we really, really love the stuff. I saw a kid with a t-shirt on the other day that just had a big heart and two strips of bacon. Anyway, my new brand is John Morrell. It's hard to describe the deliciousness of this bacon, But OH GOD it's good. Oh. God.

7) Tonight we're visiting the local St. Rocco festival, it's adorable. This saint-festival thing is soooo Massachusetts, I don't remember any saint festivals around when I was a kid in Maine, but I love them. They parade a statue of the titular saint and people attach money to it later, and then they buy vodka at the liquor store and pour it into the slushies that they buy at the booth on the corner. At the big one in Boston, St. Anthony's, you can go to Mass in the square, and while you're at it you can buy and eat a cannoli. But, don't talk too loud, because MASS IS GOING ON. Just be quiet and eat your cannoli. St. Rocco, the patron of knees, is celebrated over about three blocks, with a heavy Knights of Columbus presence. It's great. Last year when my Dad had a knee replaced, I asked St. Rocco to pray for him, so I'll be glad to see the ol' guy again (well, his statue) and say a prayer of thanks.

And that's 7! Have a great weekend!






PS: I just wish we could have Clinton back. There, I said it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I leap over the wall!! (In)

Are you sitting down? Because I have exciting news. Well, probably not so exciting for you as for me, and also it's not news to me, because I've known about this for a while...
I'm going in the convent!!!
Just for one night, I'm totally planning to come back.
Scott and I are heading to Wilton CT with our pastor to cheer on our friend, who is taking her first profession as a School Sister of Notre Dame. I am thrilled for this amazingly beautiful woman, who spent some time with us during her novitiate, but also pretty psyched for myself, who will be staying in an honest-to-goodness frickin' convent. Well, they call it the MOTHERHOUSE, which I think is even cooler, because it sounds like a SPACESHIP, and this particular motherhouse looks like the PENTAGON. That's how cool it is.
So, what does one wear to a Motherhouse? What kind of gift does one bring to a new nun?
I'm thinking the polka-dotted brown with a pashmina to cover my shoulders modestly, and hoping open-toed shoes are okay, and bringing maybe something special from my nun collection.
Have I mentioned my nun collection here? It started innocently, when I announced to my fellow social worker friends that I was leaving that glamorous life for a job in the Church. They, naturally, assumed I was becoming a nun (because what other possible jobs could there be for a woman in the Church?) and started giving me nun-themed gifts. I have silly ones, like nun-shaped salt and pepper shakers, bottle openers, and toys, but also a pretty cool collection of world war I postcards of the Sisters of Mercy at work in the battlefields, and great books and pamphlets about nuns escaping convent horrors... oh and figures of bowling nuns, and nun music boxes (they ALL play dominique-a-nique-a-nique....). Anyway, through it all I've come to learn and appreciate much about the women-religious, as they're often called now, as underground workers for growth and truth and change in the Church. Oh gosh, don't quote me, that may be a secret. Shhhh!
Anyway I will try to take lots of pictures for you of my exciting time on the inside!! WOOOO!!