Monday, December 27, 2010


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


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.