Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Yeah!

Here we are, at the brink of a new year, and I'm not sure whether it's a happier thing to look forward, or to look back. As best I can remember, 2011 was a fairly good year- although I'll admit my memory isn't quite as sharp as it used to be. Right, right, I remember now- some bad and sad, but also some glad. And 2012 looks pretty promising. NPR is asking on Facebook what word you'd use to describe 2011, and all I can come up with is "adult." I did some grown-up things this year; played a lot of games of scrabble, made some progress toward paying off our debt, weathered some scary times with loved ones, hosted parties, lost our pensions, worried about our parents, grad school, drank unsweetened iced tea, gained weight, lost weight.
But now all is reasonably well, my kitchen smells like chocolate, my dear sweet husband is at the other end of our dear sweet home, the cats are good (for now) and I'm feeling all deep and philosophical. I just made Marble Gooey Butter Cupcakes- the recipe is for a 9x13 pan but I'm bringing them to a party so I thought I'd give cup-caking them a try, and it seems to have been successful, so far. They look scrumptious but are a stitch to get out of the pan.
One of them came out in pieces, so I'm eating it. Whenever I bake, I always keep the lousiest looking one for myself.
It makes me think that in every batch of life-choices we make, there are bound to be some that come out a little rough, and it's a good rule of thumb to remember that those mistakes, well, they're for me. Not everyone has to see them, and they usually still taste good (better if you eat them right away). My mistakes are for me- to gobble up and learn from, to perfect my skills on. It's not a bad rule for life. Maybe this year I'll look for mistakes I chew on and learn a little something. I was going to say "grow from them" as I am currently doing from this delicious cupcake, but that's the opposite of one of my resolutions. Must stop growing wider.
I called my parents to wish them a Happy New Year, and asked if they had resolutions- my Dad told me he's going to keep working out this year, and my Mom said "If I had any, I wouldn't tell anyone." I said "sure, and a year from now you'll be telling us how successful you were at all your resolutions, and no one will be able to doubt you." Not a bad idea...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eeyore's New Year's Message

What a year 2011 was. A roller-coaster of emotion. Some friends who were in dire danger have turned back toward health, while we lost a dear friend and colleague. Here on the hill all has been well- we've started to see what it means to be aging, and to have aging parents, but so far so good. But I am always a little bit dreading, having had such a charmed life, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I imagine it can't just go on being smooth sailing forever, especially when people I know are hit hard by tragedy. How can we expect to be happy and good like this in the long run? Our turn is coming, I just know it.

I don't know if being constantly wary is good for me, or bad- I suppose bad, because it makes me a little bit unable to enjoy the present fortunes. But for some reason, I am loath to just relax and live in the now. New Year's is a time when I feel this particularly acutely. What horrors will the new year bring? Will this be the year when I finally get what's coming to me?
I know, I know! Gloomy! And living with a low grade fear-fever doesn't insulate me against bad things that may or may not come, they come whether I am ready or not. My mom told me once, when I was young, that it was better to have low expectations because that way, I'd never be disappointed. Sound advice! And it's served me, well...
But here we are, days before the new year and dealing with the news that our lovey cat Zarley is in (has?) chronic renal failure. We're between diagnosis and plan, but we are not those people who mortgage their family to pay to keep their pets alive. We want to get the timing right and honor her sweet self, and be good pet-owners and make it as good for everyone as possible. She's such a sweet kitty, a crazy old lady, and outside of my family and a few friends, one of my longest-standing relationships. I want to be as good to her as she's been to me.
And our Archdiocese is slowly eking out plans that may totally change our lives, professionally and personally. Our parishes are being re-configured, and while it was always something that would need to be done, there is a lot to this plan that is scary. I spent more than a few minutes at Christmas Mass thinking "is this the last Christmas we'll have this? Where will we be a year from now? Who will be our pastor? Will we still be a staff?" They won't tell us anything real until they're darned good and ready and so all there is to do is stew and worry and spiff up our resumes. I'll be glad to have a Masters' Degree in my pocket.
You know me, I can deal with bad news but I do hate suspense. I don't exactly want to fast-forward through time, but if I could only get the ending of the story emailed to me, I think I'd do better in the midst.
So happy, cheery new year everyone!! I promise this year of blogging (which should be more often than last year, since I have no homework to do!) will not be totally gloomy. There are good things coming, too, this I know.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Merry Me Edition

1) I am starting to feel super Christmas-y. Even though it's over 50 degrees out, and there are moths banging themselves against our storm door, we have the tree up and decorated and lit up, and somehow suddenly I can stand the sound of Christmas music. We have some shopping done, and rumor has it we will be allowed to sleep in on Christmas day, and all is pretty much right with the world so far. (I am just enough of a cynic to have to add "so far.") Tomorrow is my first day off with nowhere to be in SO long. I can hardly stand the excitement. I'm going to make cookie dough for my coworkers, do the grocery shopping, and make cinnamon ornaments. With glitter!! I'm giddy.
2) This week I attended my last class of my grad school career. I can hardly believe it. I ended the whole thing with Fundamental Moral Theology, the course I was the very least interested in. It was hard, and not my bag, but I stuck with it and even did all the required reading, mostly. Today I handed in a 20 page paper that I am so glad to be done with that I only proof-read it once- so reckless. I hope he likes it. Please God let me not have to take this class over again!
All that's left to do now is my Synthesis Project, which consists of two ten-page papers and a 5 page pastoral plan. I feel like I have warmed up with a heavy bat by doing this 20 pager, and the synthesis should be light-weight in comparison. I will submit my first draft in January and then do any revisions needed, and defend it by April 2 to graduate in May.
3) Once I'm done with the project, I'm going to do so many things that I couldn't do while in grad school. Not because the classes took up all that much time, but for three years now I have been in "I should be reading" mode. This last class has required an ave. of 250 pages of horrible reading a week. But right now, I pretty much have nothing I should be reading. It feels kind of wicked. So once I'm done, I'm going to read things that aren't about God, and I'm going to watch documentaries, and I'm going to do crafts, and I'm going to visit my parents more. I'm going to... well I don't even know. But I will have unburdened time to figure it out. (Oh I'm going to blog more!!)
4) I'm back to seeing my spiritual director after a long break, and I know I've said this before here but she is amazing. She basically hugs my spirit for an hour and reassures me that I'm not horrible, not Wrong, and that God is still walking with me. I wish everyone could have a person like Mary to go to, and I hope I can be a person like Mary for people who come to me.
5) I'm way off my diet. I'm enjoying the binge eating and all, but I'm looking forward to getting back on the wagon at some point after the holidays. I love ice cream and croissants and cookies and cider and... all that stuff... but I love feeling better, and I feel infinitely better when I've cut sugar and flour out. But for now, on goes the bender.
6) We are about to go through some significant changes in the diocese, which may put my job at jeopardy or at the very least will put me in competition to keep my job. You can imagine a diocesan-wide Survivor reality show, where everyone tries to be Christian while not getting their tiki torch snuffed out. I am trying not to be nervous about it, but also feel a little like we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am in a wonderful, beautiful, holy parish with fantastic people and am loathe to leave there. I can't really envision my future right now and that is an uncomfortable position for someone like me, who hates suspense.
7) My brother asked me recently how school had changed my personal theology (well that's probably not exactly how he phrased it but that's what he was asking) and it is an interesting thing to think about. I think I sounded a little groovy to him when I said "it all comes down to LOVE" but there you go. It turns out that those 1970's catechists were right on, and super-radical, and in touch with Jesus' super-radical message, when they focused on the message of Love. I am sure now that we can tell what's of God and what's not, by asking simply "is it of love?" I mean... that's big. If something's not of love, it's not of God. If I'm not being loving, I'm not being what God calls me to be. It sounds simple but it's just the opposite. Following commandments? Now that's simple. Love? Hard.

I'm heading to bed early so I can have a full day of not having reading to do tomorrow. Merry, merry merry!

Monday, November 28, 2011

What rung are you on?

I will be done, pretty much, with grad school in January. How cool is that? I'm starting to see a ton of free time open up ahead of me. I've been fantasizing about doing crafts, reading books that are not about God, taking naps, and just experiencing that state of being where I don't have to be thinking "I should be doing homework right now."
I've also been thinking about doing some volunteer work, finally. I work in a parish, and do what volunteers do for my living. I do ministry, and I do cleanup, and I even sort food for the food pantry collection. But, I do it because it's my job, at least to some degree. I do good things, and I am spiritually fed while I am feeding, but it's... my job. I feel like it would do me good to go and help someone else out.
I believe that we should always be doing something to pull people up the ladder. No matter what rung we're standing on, there are always people hanging on the steps below us. I know you have heard it as many times as I have, on tv and radio shows, people saying "I thought I had it bad, but then I saw..." During this time of high unemployment, I feel like it is a great time for people to go and give their free time, and get some great experience and exposure, and feel like they are doing something important and worthwhile. I've even heard about hospital chaplains who ask their patients, some very very sick themselves, to pray for other patients in the hospital. However low we feel on that ladder, there are always people below us who need us- there is always something we can do.
In January we have our first NODA (No One Dies Alone) meetings at my parish. We'll be working in partnership with the local Hospice to set up a vigiling team, to sit with people who are dying and have no one to call. I'm feeling very much called to this ministry- not just to make it happen in the parish but to serve. The timing is perfect, and I am really looking forward to this.
I cannot wait to end this part of my life and start something new and brave! Who's with me?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Look to your left and to your right...

I lead a lot of groups, and this thing happens at every group I attend or lead, so I think it must be something.
At every group there's one person who is extra challenging, or who is less than socially adept, or who is a conversation hog. There's one person who is extra geeky, who makes comments that are WAY out there. There's one person who makes everyone think, "if that person wasn't here, this group would be PERFECT!"
And since it happens every time, I can't help but think there's a reason for it. So many times in groups we talk in theories- what it means to be Christian, what Jesus is trying to tell us in the Gospels, stuff like that. Then we roll our eyes at the crazy/weird/ annoying thing that person does.
I think God sends that person to every group, because we need her there. We need to be reminded that it is not all just theory. We need to put our money where our mouths are, and treat that person with respect, patience and kindness. As God said in "Evan Almighty:"

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

On top of every other reason to be respectful to that person, we should be respectful because they need us to be. They come to Church stuff because they NEED JESUS. They want to hear God's voice and feel like they're in God's presence. Can we really be satisfied with being the eye-rolling, impatient representative of God's Church for these people who need love? Do we want the Church to be like every other group these people try to belong to?

Here's another thought that I can't get rid of- since that person is in every group, what happens if we find ourselves in a perfect group? Maybe it means that if you can't see him there, then YOU'RE HIM. After all, someone needs to be the least fun in a group, the least smart, the least cool. And when we're HIM, won't we want to be treated well?

That God, He is a good teacher.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Several Quick Things, remote log-in edition

1) I've been plagued with electronic issues lately. My laptop, which died a near-fiery death a year or so ago (I forget now) and was brought back from the brink by a generous friend, still has some quirks. Think Steven King's Pet Semetary. You know, it lived, but there's something a little different about it, and it's kind of... mean? Aw, Fluffy! What happened? Ouch!
Anyway, it mostly manifests this way- the wifi works beautifully, everywhere, except at home. Which really wouldn't be much of an issue, except that the laptop can't feel the presence of an ethernet cord either. SURE, you say, google and get help from the brains online. Well, I did, at work, and after doing what they told me, it has sort of returned to a semi-life, with each page taking about 4 minutes to load, mostly text-only, and sometimes not at all. But it's... better than nothing?
1.5) Also, my Satellite Radio receiver is acting up. About 5 minutes after powering on, it just goes silent, and stays silent. The display taunts me with the name of whatever show I can't hear. Sat. radio is frustrating enough for a talk-radio listener, viscously blanking out whenever there's an important point or punchline.
1.7) So I'm relying a lot on my wonderful, blessed IPhone. I can play my podcasts on the car radio through the doohicky I have, and have constant access to google, IMDB, and facebook. Thank you God, and I guess, Steve Jobs.
2) it truly did snow here last night, we got about an inch I guess, although it's hard to know with all the rain and slush what really counts as snow. I'm looking out the kitchen window right now, at our lovely summer furniture and my garden covered with slushy grossness. We had all day on Friday to get it covered up or brought in, and the shovels out, and whatnot, but instead we lazed around. Mother nature now mocks us, and I continue to sit on my butt. So, HA Mother nature.
3) this week's This American Life is about middle school- as a Youth Ministry couple, we listened intently... and it was really good. It reminded us how thoughtful and deep middle schoolers really are, and what a great age it is to do some great communicating with kids, before their mouths officially clamp shut. But it also affirmed how scary, treacherous, and anxiety-ridden middle school can be. One person talked about how little he thinks middle schoolers are even able to learn, school-wise, because they're so full of all that's going on inside and around them, and I have to admit, I don't worry much about how much material middle schoolers learn (in religious ed) but I do think it's invaluable time in which to form and strengthen connections with caring adults, faithful peers, and God. Middle schoolers, they are awesome. I think a lot of people see kids in middle school as a lost cause, but it's the exact opposite. It's just about appreciating them for who they are and where they are. The Church that does that for a kid, at a time when no one else is doing it, is able to make a difference.
4) Along these lines, I visited the youth group at their annual Laser Tag Lock-In. No head injuries this year! One girl did ask for ointment for a scrape she'd gotten on her arm, but by the time I got back from the first-aid kit with it, she was already off playing Guitar Hero so I assumed she'd recovered okay. I stayed a lot longer than I'd expected to, because the kids were SO fun, so great. They were kind to each other, said the funniest things (Scott won one round and was bragging about being number O-N-E and a kid came up to him for a high-five and said "oh yeah? Well I came in last, L-A-S-T-E!" Also, there was "you don't play video games? Why not?" " Because I have a life?") It was grade 8-12 and the range in sizes and movements and humor was massive, and fascinating. There was a big scene when someone got mad because people kept shooting him... in laser tag... and a family dispute, and everything turned out all right. I had a blast, just watching everything and having conversations with the kids. Well worth the sleep lost.
5) Last night, in the midst of our groggy post-overnight sleep, the carbon monoxide detector started to chirp. I swear they are set to lose battery power at night. Anyway, my natural response was to try and sleep through the chirping, and my second natural response was to rip the detector from the wall and pull out the battery. and stuff the whole thing under a nearby blanket. Scott, with a cooler head, got up and reset the detector and we are no worse for the mid-night wear.
6) My cats are getting old- 16 and 17, by our best guesses, and although they are still healthy the older one is continuing to get... well... crazier. It's coming out as a deep, obsessive love for me. She follows me around, must be near me or if possible in my arms, like a baby. She has double paws, and claws, and love from her is painful. But to deny her affection feels so mean. I wake up at night to her trying to take the same space as my head, imposing herself on my pillow or sometimes, licking my forehead in a fit of mid-night passion. It's... sweet, but so annoying. But I can hardly deny her. It is a lot of work to be the object of someone's obsession.
Okay, the roads seem clear, and the sun is out, so I'm off to work. Wonder where the shovel is?

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes, Rainy Friday Edition


1) It's Friday, but a GOF Friday which means we should probably be getting ready to go in to work. I should also be putting the final touches on my teaching (it's Baptism tonight!) and of course... reading Fundamental Moral Theology. Are you sick of hearing about how I should be reading for this class? I'm sick of saying it. Sorry. I am going against every instinct to really read our stuff and not skim it, not read only the subtitles, not only read the last paragraph of every section or the last sentence of every paragraph. I'm really trying to be an actual student because it's my last class and I feel like the professor really expects us to read it all, and... I do want to say something reasonably intelligent in class, but I have to tell you it is miserable stuff. I have new respect for philosophy majors, and a new hatred of philosophy.

2) I teach the parents of younger kids at GOF, and love it. They are a wonderful group and are so good to work with. They respond back to me, they speak to each other when prompted, they nod their heads. I tell them how much I love and respect them (because I DO) and how wonderful they are to even give a little bit of a crap enough to go to a thing like GOF with their kids. I always try to hi-hosey this group (there are enough teachers around that we could switch often and take turns) but I always grab them. This summer our DRE asked for feedback from a few of the parents who had been there throughout our 8 year history of GOF (not just about my teaching but overall opinions about the programs) and one person said "She is great! She must be getting sick of us after all this time though!" which makes me think, hmmm... maybe they're hearing a little too much of me. Maybe THEY are sick of ME. It's possible. This would be a great semester to hand off this responsibility to another capable teacher, and I'm gonna. But I'm going to miss them, and I hope secretly that they miss me...

3) yesterday was Graduate Project Orientation and I was one of the near-graduates there. I don't want to jinx myself by saying how doable it seems. There is a much harder option, where you write a 50-75 page thesis, but why on earth would anyone pick that? The PhD students there said that sometimes people choose it if they "have their eye" on a PhD program (oh God no) but that by the way, their PhD program did not want a 50-75 page writing sample upon admission. So, you'd have to be nuts to choose this. There is also an artistic option. You can make a piece of art, or do a performance! I won't choose this, which I'm sure would be a shock to my undergrad self. In freshman year of college we all had to do some kind of project/production for a freshman intro class that was required of all of us. I wrote a poem about how everyone reads into poems too much, put it on a big white board, and called it a day. Got an A. I am gifted, I guess, at finding the minimum requirement and then doing that impressively-enough well. But not this semester. I'm looking forward to my paper. First Draft is due January 5!

4) I had a conversation with a fellow red sox fan last night and understood everything that was said, and knew what to say back. It wasn't a super deep statistical kind of stuff but I totally sounded like I knew something about the sox, and I did! How cool is that?

5) My parents have bequeathed us their bird feeder, which is called a "Yankee Flipper" but should be called a "Squirrel Hurler" or a "Hurl-A-Squirrel." It has a MOTOR on the bottom that will fling anything heavy that tries to get on it, thusly:

What you can see at about 1:35 is that although the squirrel can't hang on, the spinning does shoot out a ton of birdseed, which the little bugger can eat off the ground once he's done feeling woozy. We have not yet seen a squirrel give it a spin, but we have come home just about every day to a half-pound of bird seed on the ground under the feeder, and a menagerie of birds and critters literally stuffing their cheeks, happily.

6) I've got nothing for number six, let's just move on.

7) So I wrote this whole thing on here about my new understanding of how God works, and it took me a month to even get up the gumption to write it, and I tingled when I posted it, and outside of one (good) comment (thanks Cate), I've gotten no response. I kind of thought this was the thing that would make me a theological rock star, and was ready to entertain (and then reject) offers from PhD programs, but... no. Ah well. Still, I hope it makes sense to people, or doesn't, enough to make them want to send me a note. I'm more than willing to hear that it's CRAP, even.

OKAY, time to get showered and ready for work. Baptism excitement here we come! Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Check out ConversionDiary.com for more 7-Quick-Takers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

God as Perfect Parent

There's a thing that I can't get off my mind. It came to me on 9/11, at Mass in Maine, near my hometown. It's not exactly 9/11 related, but I got to thinking when the priest, during the homily, asked "where was God that day?"
You know, too, that this has been a year full of bad news, for people that I know and love. It's been the kind of year that makes a person wrestle with her faith. I never did lose faith but all along, since almost exactly a year ago, I have had a vague understanding that I was coming to know God in a whole new way.
Anyway, I was in Mass that day, thinking about how God works, and this is what came to me:

I am not a parent but I have seen this happen, so maybe you have too. Picture a young child, a toddler, who's pinched his finger. When little kids pinch their fingers, they cry like their heart is permanently broken. Their pain is REAL! I know, because I've had my finger pinched too. This child's mother responds by holding her child and soothing him. She knows that the child's pain is real, because she's experienced it too. She doesn't do much to fix the pain though, and she doesn't remove every possible pinching thing from her child's existence. She has the perspective of many years. She has a whole lifetime of experience to know that, although the pain is real, it's temporary. Seen in terms of a lifetime, that pain is practically nothing!

Here's another thing I've seen. Teenagers get their hearts broken, and feel like it's the end of the world. I remember so many teenage girls over my years in ministry, who were absolutely crushed by some rejection, some hurtful thing that a boy did. I know that their pain is REAL, because I've experienced that pain myself. There is nothing you can do for a heart-broken teenage girl but listen to her and love her through it. I know things will get better and that the world is not better because I have the perspective of time. I almost wouldn't even want a teenage girl to go through her teenage years without having this experience, however truly painful it is.

So, it occurred to me, if the experience of a lifetime helps me have perspective about the pain that we all feel in youth, then how must the experience of ETERNITY give God perspective about the pain we all feel in life? Maybe this explains, in a way, why God doesn't intervene the way we would want Him to, when we're in trouble. Like the toddler, or the teenager, we turn to our parent and beg them to take the pain away and never let us be hurt again. But the parent, even if He could, doesn't. He knows that however real our pain is, it's temporary. Not just temporary, but God knows that in terms of a eternity, our life-time pain is practically nothing.
We can't believe it because the pain is so REAL. It's hard to imagine in the moment, or the lifetime, that this amount of pure and real pain will ever be dwarfed by anything.

God knows our pain is real, because God has experienced pain. And God knows that we can't see beyond our very real pain enough to say "aw heck, this pain is really insignificant, compared to eternity!" It's not our job to have that perspective, but it is God's.

So if this is true, then I know it has implications for my prayer life, and my relationship with God. I can stop asking God to fix things because I know God doesn't do that. It's not a question of whether God could fix things, and whether God won't fix things, but that God doesn't have to fix things for me, any more than a parent would splint a pinched finger or home-school their teenager so as to avoid her having any romantic relationships. God simply loves me through my very real pain and knows that I'll figure it out when I have more perspective.

How, then, do I pray? I think... we can look at our young people again. The toddler runs to his mother and cries, accepts her comforting. The teenage girl does a lot of crying too, and turns to someone who will love her through it (this is where Youth Ministers earn their stars!). When we are hurt in this lifetime, we run to the arms of our God, who almost wouldn't even want us not to have this experience... who knows that in terms of eternity, this is so temporary... who loves us through.

(I'm not totally settled on this new theology, I'm still mulling it over. But it's giving me a new way of thinking about God that I'm kind of liking. It's probably heresy. I dunno. Don't call the pope just yet, let's work this through a little more.)

No-day Panorama of Goodness

Today is what my friend Nancy calls a "no-day." No-where to go, no-thing to do, no-body to see. This morning I did my only errand, which was to go pick up bacon (couldn't skip that one). Then I made breakfast, and Scott and I ate on the porch. It's in the upper 70's! After breakfast I was drawn like a magnet to the new (inherited) rope swing in our yard. I settled in without an ipod, without a book, without even my iphone, and listened to the birds, watched them eat at our feeder, saw the little planes buzzing over our neighbor airport.I sat there for a while, pulled my feet up and let the swing turn me around.
I got a panoramic view of our little neighborhood and it was like a sweet version of my life passing before me. There was my garden, so productive this year. There were the sunflowers I planted by the light pole on the corner. There was the sweet apartment we live in and love, and then the car that's paid off and only makes a little bit of a concerning noise. There, there was the porch on which we've dozed and played and laughed and cooked and relaxed. And there on the porch was Scott, lazing in the sun with his feet up.
We have free tickets to the fair, but I bet it's already crowded there... and I'm a little worried about being tempted by corn dogs in the midst of my latest first week of low-carb eating. (PS, have you seen all the wheat belly stuff? As if it isn't hard enough to cut out carbs! I wish I had the guts to cut out wheat though! Yuk yuk! "The guts!")

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Comfort Food

Every time my family gets together and I bring something that tastes good, my mother (bless her heart!) will undoubtedly turn to me and say "who would have thought you'd be able to cook???" or something similarly uplifting. Praise never was her... gift. But the truth is, I've been surrounded by some REALLY good cooks for a long time, and it wasn't until I got married and had my own captive audience that I really got a chance to develop my... chops. (yuk yuk!)
But now I have a pretty good repertoire and what's more, I really like to cook. Tonight I overestimated the Fall-ness of this Fall, and baked a chicken for dinner. When I roast a chicken or turkey, I chop up mushrooms, onions and a clove of garlic and drop them in the pan under the bird. I usually put a few in the cavity too, just for fun. When the bird is done I can make gravy right in the pan (tonight it worked beautifully- oh so yummy- just added some cream and a few sprinkles of flour). I love the chunks of vegetable in the gravy.
I also made an apple pie today- a honey apple pie. It's an easy recipe, none of that tedious mixing of the apples with sugar. Just pile the slices in the crust, pour honey over the top and sprinkle with vanilla, cinammon and dot with butta. I don't know what the butter's for, but when someone tells me to add butter to something, I just do it, no questions asked. Here's the link to the recipe, and here's a pic of mine:
Can't you just see the deliciousness squiggling up in the air, out of those steam vents? YUM.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anna and Our Staff

hello.
I've been not posting, because I have so much reading to do. It's not that I'm actually doing the reading, but if I have reading to do and I'm not doing that, then I shouldn't be hanging around blogging... when I should be reading...
But we just got home from a friend's wake, and I'm so tired and sad but also so proud and grateful. Our friend Anna was our office manager at the parish, and she died this week from gastric (and other kinds, eventually) cancer. Anna was an average Jane, just working hard and cooking for her family and loving her granddaughters, and she was diagnosed in March and worked right up to August. Through working together, we know her family; we all went to her daughter's wedding and her granddaughters were baptized with us, and we were there for her beloved mother's funeral. Anna was a big part of our staff lunches, keeping us posted on good town gossip and happy stories of her family. She would gather us all together to celebrate anything that came up, at her home or out at restaurants.
Tonight was the wake for our friend and the staff understood that we would be there for it, for the family and to help out. After a while, we all found each other and stood at the sacristy door watching the wake unfold- the largest wake I've ever seen. Soon, we all moved into the rectory to find some food and have a drink in Anna's honor- we sat around and told stories and ate together and I realized that that was exactly what Anna would have encouraged us to do, and would have been the first one up the stairs to pour everyone a drink.
Back to the wake and we stuck together still, our staff, hanging on to each other, taking care of each other. We were the last ones there, helping the funeral home staff move flowers and vacuum up for the morning. I'm so thankful for Anna's legacy with our staff, which has become a funny, loving, quirky family, and I'm fiercely proud of the work we do and the way we hang in together when things are good and when they are bad. I'm so thankful God brought me to this parish.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mega-Veg

Just strolled out to my garden after what seems like forever and may have been weeks. I had spied some red tomatoes out there and wanted to see what time had produced. What I found, my friends, was a MASSIVE cucumber. It's so big, I don't even know if it will taste good... it's bigger than our remote control, longer than Scott's head. That onion in there with it? It's a vidalia- so there's some contrast for ya. Looks like tonight we'll be having cucumber soup with a side of sauteed cucumbers, and cucumber ice cream for dessert.
No, we won't have any of that, really. But we may have some cucumbers, cut with some salt sprinkled on. What else is necessary?


















By the way, that's our first carrot, in the corner near the onion. We continue with our tradition of producing non-carrot-shaped carrots. Ah well, I'm sure it'll taste just fine... with a side of cucumber.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Breeeeaaaathe...

With all this September stress, I'm trying to keep things in perspective. While I'm stressing about getting all my reading done, I know that people are experiencing real stress and real suffering. I'm trying to find places that I can give myself breaks. This week I met with my advisor at school and she agreed to let me put off my thesis work until next semester. I felt like I could stand straighter the moment I asked to make the change. On the way home from my appointment with her, I had a window open in my car, and the vibration of the air coming in that window was making my head throb. I cracked open a back window and felt instant relief, and knew that this is what had just happened with my advisor, too. Just taking the pressure off in one place means that I can relax more across the board.
Tomorrow we have our only day off and I'll spend it reading. My new (and LAST) professor is assigning more reading than it feels possible to achieve in a week, but I'm trying to remember that sitting on my porch in the sun, at my comfy home, with two cats and a wonderful husband inside, is a darn sight better than what others are having to do on Saturday. I can do it.
Don't forget to breathe!!

Monday, September 05, 2011

WOAH!

There is a lot going on. We moved my parents to their new apartment at "The Home" and are trying to clean out their house to be sold. Want to buy a house? My brother is getting married this weekend and Scott is recovering from an appendectomy. Want to buy an appendix? (Note: You can't buy an appendix, even on ebay. And why would you? You don't even need the one you already have!) Add this to some work stress and I can feel my shoulder muscles seizing up just from typing about it.
The fact that today is Labor Day and that therefore labor is strictly prohibited is actually an added stress. There are some work things that it would have been great to have dealt with TODAY, and my parents need to see a doctor, but can't. (The nurse line said "that is urgent, but not critical" which I think means "oh that's bad all right but this is a HOLIDAY WEEKEND.")
But I guess I should just chill out and enjoy the forced relaxation. As soon as the wedding's over, classes start, and GOF starts at the parish, and the whole year takes off like a malfunctioning merry-go-round. Which is to say, still a fun ride, but faster than one would expect.
It's a stressful, busy time of year, so I bet you're starting to feel stressed too, so I will pray for you, if you'll pray for me. For patience, for endurance, for grace. For trust that we'll get to it all, and get it all done, and won't ruin the world with our missteps. For moments of peace and contentment and joy. Ahhhh, okay everyone, let's get back out there!
photo credit

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bungee Your Projectiles!! Do it!!

We are home safe in the house, and everything outside has been battened down, in preparation for the coming hurricane. Yesterday I bungeed down our potential projectiles, including the plants hanging on my fence. I feel pretty good about our hurricane preparations, although I would never say that (and certainly not say it online) because it seems like that would be asking for trouble. I hope we've thought of everything though.
This being new england, everyone is talking very tough, saying that it's going to die out before it hits us, laughing at people who prepare. This is something we hear before every blizzard, too- "it's new england, get over it!! If you can't drive in a blizzard, you should move to Florida!!" but this one does seem to have the weather people riled up pretty good, and I feel like I'd rather prepare than not. I remember watching the coverage of Katrina, and thinking "why didn't they LEAVE???" We can't say we haven't had a LOT of warning. It's not even really supposed to hit here until mid-day tomorrow. I mean, I'm not being hysterical, but I don't want it to be my lawn chair that crashes through the neighbor's window, and I can always use the water I have in pitchers and pots. No waste, no harm, no foul.
Best case scenario, we'll have a good little show, and make it through unscathed, and... have to stay home from work, due to the state of emergency? Stay safe everyone and charge yer phones, just in case.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oh look, it's Friday, and I can do this legitimately!

I just saw Scott off to a bachelor party-camping trip, and now it's thundering out there to beat the band. This week has been a roller-coaster of emotions, so you might as well come along for the ride, in 7 stops.

1) First, on a happy note, I celebrated my 43rd birthday (holy cow, 43? I haven't given that much thought but it does seem old, now that I'm typing it... or at least, really adult!). I am so blessed with such great friends- we went on a sushi crawl, four places (two of which begged us to stay, promising better sushi than any other place). We went to one place for apps and drinks, then two more places for their specialty rolls, and then pulled up to the 4th place which was to be the top of the list- but it was closed. How disappointing! But we did all right, ate a lot and had a TON of fun. I smiled all the way home, glad and grateful for such friends and my sweet husband, who dressed up to be the chauffeur and even changed his tie for each new restaurant.

2) I know I've mentioned here that this has been a year of bad news, and just in the last week we've gotten a couple more gut-punches. I've been wondering lately if this is what happens: you know how at some point, in a couple of year's span, everyone you know gets married? Then, a couple years later, everyone starts having kids? Well I've been wondering if in the same way, over a span of a year or two, all the shit starts hitting all the fans? 4 or 5 of my friends have lost a parent this year, or experienced some sort of parental trauma. I see now that as we're all getting older our parents have hit this stage of need at the same time too.

3) This year when a friend of ours was diagnosed with something serious, I was gutted. I spoke to a mutual friend and told her the bad news, for which I got in some minor trouble. I know my friend must have felt that I'd gone over her head with the news, but when I told, it wasn't because I wanted to tell her story- it was because it was now my story. The news I shared with this friend was about my sadness, my worry, my concern. I was a mess and needed to talk about it- I never even thought that I was betraying a confidence. I wonder how much people in crisis know that their stories become part of the stories of the people who loved them. This year, my story is having chapters added with some regularity. In a way I'm grateful to be able to be part of the lives of these good people, and honored to be invited to share even in the bad news.

4) My parents seem poised to move out of their house; they now have keys-in-hand for their new place, and my siblings and I are anxious to get them moved. I know this will be emotional time, and stressful, and a lot of hard work. I think we are all looking forward to having it over with, and ready to move on to the next phase of this journey. Still, I'm pre-emptively tired and wondering if there's some way I can't just make it all go smoothly for everyone, while they're off a lunch or something. For now, though, I have an urge to hunker down and take cover while I can. With the place to myself this weekend I'll get lots of reading and some chores done and spend some time in silence, gathering strength for whatever comes next.

5) My brother is getting married, and I'm so thrilled for him and for his bride. They seem like a perfect fit, and so happy- it's thrilling to watch, even from afar! I keep thinking about our wedding, I guess that's natural- I mean, when I think of romance, I think US! But overall I can't wait to celebrate with my family, this exciting and happy occasion. This week on a random trip through a nearby town, Scott spotted this sign, with my brother's and future-sister-in-law's names. Hurray for coincidences!

















6) I'm almost at the end of my studies for my Master's, and I'm stunned to realize that my theology has gone through some twists and turns through it all, and has surprisingly ended up with LOVE. People in my generation are mocked for having been given sloppy CCD in the 70's, with the insufficient message of "God is LOVE" as the main idea. Of course, it was a tumultuous time, just post- Vatican II. There was confusion, I reckon, on what to teach- but there was still one dependable truth, that of God being Love. Older people found this to be rubbish, and despair at the fact that the people of our generation don't know much Catholic vocab, and can't answer the questions in the Baltimore Catechism. But I have a feeling that it was just that God-being-love stuff that might have helped people like me hang in there in this Church, even through some pretty awful times. And little did our parents know how radical a message this Love business was. Only now, in my last year of grad studies in theology, I'm starting to grasp the hugeness, and the radical-ity of it, myself.

7) which makes me feel like the people of my generation are people who could save this Church from falling further apart. We have seen how our parents' 1950's faith stories are turning out, we looked the scandal square in the face, we made decisions to stay or to go. We have been given the Good News that God is Love, and we have the capacity to understand how life- and world-changing that Good News is. We have a unique perspective, very different from our parents' or our children's. We, I think, more than any other current generation, will come to know what will have to be done.

Wow, this is not where I expected these quick takes to take me, thanks for bumping along with me on this one. Read more at Jen's Conversion Diary blog, and may you have a decidedly un-interesting week!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For the Love of Reading

In August, we catch up on all the birthday presents we've neglected to give over the past several months. We are pretty bad at giving gifts on time, and I blame this on the fact that we are both youngest children. If I've missed your birthday, do let me know, I'll get something right to you!
Anyway, I bring this up because lately, in the face of all this gift-buying, we've been talking about buying books for the kids we love. I can't keep track of whatever is the latest thing for kids these days (I think we had some hits during the whole silly band phase but that didn't last long), and it feels like something personal to buy someone a book that I loved or that Scott loved at their age.
So we bought our 3-year-old neighbor a copy of Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel (he is a truck lover), which is still in print! At a used/antique book store, Scott looked for Ribsy, and I poked around for The Diamond in the Window and The Swing in the Summerhouse (out of print, sadly, and expensive!). I loved these books and can still remember how it felt to read them. We bought Scott's niece a copy of A Wrinkle In Time, another book I adored. For my niece Nina, copies of The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) and The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin.
I don't even know if kids read real books anymore- do they? But what I do know is that my sister Nancy was instrumental in gifting me with a love of reading, and introducing me to some wonderful YA books, and I'm forever grateful to her for that. I do have one tiny beef to register, about the newer printings of these books- they put illustrations of the main characters on the covers. I see why they do it, but... I feel like there's a lot of value to letting the reader conjure up their own mental picture of Meg Wallace. Maybe that's just a curmudgeonly thing all my own, but seeing the illustrated cover of Ramona the Pest made me object: that's not what Ramona looks like!!!
It's been fun revisiting my YA friends. Such good memories of many many hours spent together! I hope our kid friends fall in love like we did, way back when.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leaving Home

Woah, what a roller coaster of emotions this trip home has turned out to be! I'm writing from my parents' computer room in what is soon to be their ex-house. They're moving closer to me, closer to most of my siblings, and into a much easier situation. The move is a good thing, good for everyone, and I'm relieved and excited about how it's all falling into place. Still, it's a big change.
We moved to this house when I was a young teenager, from a much bigger and older (and better) house across the street. I don't feel a lot of attachment to this house- it's too new, too ranchy, and I didn't want to move here in the first place. It wasn't designed with the kids in mind- it was built to be a place my parents could ease into their older age in. All one level, easy to heat and brand-spanking new. Unlike our old house, it is small, and outside of the custom touches my Dad has added (Scott says he has a little wooden shelf for everything!) it's pretty bland.
But now that my parents are leaving our home town, and it's kind of emotional for me. I shouldn't complain, it's been many years since I've spent any time here at all, and I haven't even visited enough to call it my home in a long time. But driving through town tonight, sitting in the car at the Dairy Queen, hearing the sounds of the fair through the trees, it's all so familiar, like knowing my way around my own house. We have lots more trips up here to come, as we start to empty the house and prepare it to be sold, but it feels as if a switch is being flipped this weekend, and there's lots of "last time" vibe in the air, for me.
You can go home again, I guess, but not forever.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zipadee doo dah and BLAM!!!

Today was one of my favorite kinds of days. I got up at a reasonably late hour (nowadays I can't sleep very late. Is it old age, or just the fact that my cat begins to mercilessly lick me at a certain time every morning?), had some breakfast, watched an old movie that thrilled me (it was inner child perfection!!) and then headed out to the garden.
As I sat next to my garden frame, weeding it and counting cucumbers, and listening to both Radio Lab AND the second crop of baby birds in our birdhouse, with the sun shining on me, I thought: my life is WONDERFUL. I am truly fortunate and grateful.
But I have to admit that the best second of my day was... well, let me set this up.
We live in an old house. The plumbing is not modern. Our sink backs up all the time, and we've tried all the green and not green ways to clear the drain. Baking soda and vinegar, boiling water, and all the different brands of drain de-clogger. Running the dishwasher leaves a couple of inches of gray water in the sink (both sides... ewww!) for a while. We are careful, have a mesh cover over the drain and lately we've even been pouring everything through a coffee filter! Old-house living is not for the impatient.
BUT TODAY! Today we bought CLR Power Plumber. IT IS AWESOME!!! I found it on Amazon and the reviews were great, so I bought it downtown, and gleefully invited Scott to join me. His job was to hold a towel over the other drain, and I filled the main side and stuck the CLRPP into my drain, and pushed...
BLAM!!!! It shoots some kind of (supposedly gentle) chemicals and compressed air into the drain, which we were not exactly ready for. But it was SO EXCITING! And yes, the drain cleared out immediately. We have 14 more applications in our can, and if you have a slow drain, we would be happy to come and clear it out for you. It was that fun.
I also made pesto (first time! In the blender! I used this recipe, but used toasted sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Could not find pine nuts anywhere!!) from the basil in my garden today, and we had it on haddock for dinner. And I got my laundry done, and cleaned the kitchen, and just loved this day. Ahhhhh Summer, and there's still a whole August to go!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Help a Brotha Out

So here's what I've been thinking about lately.
We've decided that this year at our parish is going to be the year that we start really empowering people to volunteer, to step into ministry, to do service. The thing that is holding us all back, as a staff, is that we feel bad asking. We don't want to burden people, we don't want to ask too much, we don't want to impose. We know that people are more inclined to help if they're asked, we know that every person who is in ministry today is in ministry because they were invited, by someone, personally. That's statistically at 100%. Okay that's not true. Some people see a need and fill it, some people, I guess, read it in the bulletin and step right up. But mostly, people serve because they are asked.
And here's the thing. I think people want to help. My sister, once when her pet was having a health crisis, agonized about calling my friend, who is a vet. I had a feeling that Sandi wouldn't mind helping, but Nancy was so worried. I asked Nancy (who is a teacher), "if Sandi's son was having trouble reading, would you be mad if she called you for help?" Of course not. We all worry that people will be offended if we ask them to use their expertise to help us, without paying them for their time, but doesn't it feel great to use our gifts and talents to help people we care about? (Oh gosh, I hope Sandi and Nancy don't mind me using their names!)
Oh but wait, this is my real point. I keep thinking of this episode of RadioLab that I heard a long time ago, about heroes. The story is about an award for people who do heroic things (like, SERIOUSLY heroic things) to save the life of another person. The criteria were strict; the candidate had to put themselves at risk to save another person, for no good reason. But there was a problem... can you guess? NO! It wasn't that they couldn't find enough people who fill the criteria! (You should totally listen to the show.)
Thing is, I think we are givers, by nature. I think we want to help. I think that as a staff, we should be inviting people to do what they are naturally inclined to do. God gives us gifts, not to keep, but to give away. I want to be known as one of those people who helped others use their gifts.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

over-rested

I love Summer and I love vacation, but always by the end of it, I'm craving my regular life back. I am looking forward to having normal food at normal times, getting a normal amount of sleep, getting back to work to do all the stuff that I haven't done all summer, and not running out of money in the bank half way through the week because I'm doing so many fun and expensive things.
Today is a weird transition day between what has sort of felt like a vacation (that is, it's been a disruption of my work week, and it's been hot, and we're broke!) back to work- but we're going to a banquet with our pastor instead of going in to the parish. It makes me a little anxious not to touch base there, because I have been away so long (really, only 3 days since I last was there!) and don't feel prepared for tomorrow's GOF meeting (was there something I was supposed to do? I forget!!) and will be late tomorrow, prob'ly, so I won't even have a chance to go in before the meeting and get myself together.
Well I'll try to keep my mind in vacation mode, and enjoy the free food and (I assume) air conditioning at the banquet, and apologize profusely tomorrow for whatever it was I was supposed to have done. I'll blame it on the wicked course-load from last week. Yeah, that's what I'll do.
Truth is, when I'm away from my parish, I miss it. I miss the staff, the crazy Monday lunches, I miss my office, I hate to miss Mass there- so many faces that I don't get to see, so many funny things and poignant things and good people. I'll be glad to be back in the swing of things.
Tomorrow, normal life. Ha!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes, Heat Wave Edition

You can click on the image to see where this whole thing started, and although it's clearly meant to be done on Fridays, it's an awful fun thing to blog with... thanks conversiondiary!

1) I finished my ecclesiology class yesterday, which turned out to be as great as everyone had told me it would be. My professor was amazing, and although it was physically trying to sit still and focus for 3 hours in the early morning for full-on lecture, I learned a LOT and this class will be one that changes my ministry.

2) Did I mention it's been wicked hot this week? 106 degrees yesterday, which is fairly unusual around here, although I feel like we do have a day or two of this every Summer. Yesterday was, I think, the peak, and walking outside felt like a slap in the face. We are fortunate to have TWO air conditioners in our apartment, one in the bedroom and the other in the living room, and as long as we don't use them both on high at the same time, we won't blow a fuse. Hey, that's just the kind of sacrifice that this kind of crisis calls for.
Really the worst part of it is that the thought of turning on an oven or standing over a stove or grill is just too much. We've been eating out a lot, which is no good for our budget or our waistlines.

3) We have had guests in the house most of the week, which is also unusual for us- we do not have a guest room so anyone willing to stay over here is relegated to a couch or air mattress, and must be willing to share said spaces with cats. We've never had a bad guest, despite the limitations of our place, and we love having company. I always wanted to have a place where people would come and visit and, I think I've mentioned this on the blog before, it gives me a weird thrill when we have something someone needs, or have plenty of food and drink to serve, and when people seem comfortable in my home, I feel real pride. Even better if they can stand some clutter here and there.

4) The Tour De France, my favorite part of July (outside of all the other great things to love bout July) is coming to a close. I've seen at least part of every day's race, and love it just as much as I have since I discovered it. I found it probably 7 years ago, back in the Lance Armstrong years, back when my work schedule started in the afternoon, a Summer when I just couldn't take Regis and Kelly anymore. I love that the Tour is ancient, has all sorts of unwritten ruled and traditions, and that the commentators are so catechetical. They teach about how the drafting and slip-streams work, and how the teams work together, and about things like "natural breaks" and feeding zones that the cyclists do. It's fascinating! The fact that they need each other to succeed is fascinating to me- in the last parts of the race, a cyclist will turn to another and urge him to take over the front position so he can "take a break" from pulling all the weight. One good example of what I mean is this: early in the Tour this year, a cyclist crashed and broke his pelvis when he flew into a deep ditch. His teammates stopped to carry him up the hill and to the ambulance. But the cool thing is, up ahead, the group of cyclers (the peleton!) heard about the crash, and stopped competing until the teammates caught up to the group. They just eased off and slowed down until they could get back in. Nice, no? I like the idea that the group of teams, all competing against each other, still take care of each other and rely on each other to succeed.

5) Our garden is still awesome, and I will post some pics today- we've gotten 5 or 6 cucumbers, not counting the one I left out there so the bug that had already started to eat it, could go ahead and finish. I have 13-15 little tomatoes, and a spaghetti squash! The carrots look awesome... and I've already pulled up a couple of onions, which were sweet and didn't even make me teary when I butchered them up. Woo gardening!!

6) Last night I went into Boston to take Scott and a friend in to the Red Sox game. We took the train in, and had a beer at the Bleacher Bar, which I highly recommend. It's built right in to Fenway, in the space of the old away team batting cage, and it has a big garage door that opens right out onto the field. You can watch batting practice and the game from there, but there are NO photographs allowed. This is more of a tragedy because over the bar, the men's room has a clear glass window over what I'm told are the urinals. From the bar you can look up and see people's sheepish or gleeful faces, and sometimes they wave... and sometimes they wave both hands. Impressive.

7) I'll have to come and finish later, I'm off to Mass... just you wait, it'll be great!
(time elapsed: two hours)
...I'm back, we went to a parish in our town that had no air conditioning and a nice enough but seriously long-winded visiting priest. I mean come on, when it's 97 degrees IN the church, you've got to have some MERCY for crying out loud.
Anyway, here's a picture of our friend Greg in that infamous men's room, waving his hat at us through the window. He's not tall. And you're not supposed to take pictures in there!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer School (and the award for using the word "stuff" too many times in a blog post goes to...)

So I've been taking a summer class, Ecclesiology, with Fr. Michael Himes. It's fascinating, and he has a fascinating take on the subject. I overheard him tell someone today that he rewrites his lectures every time he teaches the course, so as not to bore anyone. But he has the kind of mind that's so full of stuff that I imagine it's a pretty consistent narrative, year to year. Today I was imagining his brain, just full, and how if he donated it to science at some point, they would be amazed at the theology and Church history and world history and music history (!) he has crammed in there. I know, you can't see that by looking at a dead brain- but this class involves getting up really early in the morning and so I can't be responsible for the kind of daydreaming I do before noon, on little sleep.
Anyway, it's a great class. He started at the beginning of the Church, and has pulled us along through history since then, and we're just getting to the point where he's wicked excited about what he's teaching (not that he hasn't been having fun teaching up till then. He loves this stuff! I love a teacher who loves what he's teaching) and that means Mohler, and Vatican II. We did Schleiermacher, whose reading was impossible, but the prof. made sense of it and even made it sound like fascinating stuff! He's making my head spin in a way that makes me look forward to writing my final, just so I can work out the questions. Good stuff.
This is my first and only Summer course at the school, and it's been an interesting experience- the Summer Institute is populated by people who come from far away and spend the summer studying and sightseeing and making friends. Half of my class seems to be from Australia. We don't get to comment much in this class, but I love listening to them chat with each other at break, and love how they say "MONING" to everyone that comes in the room before class. Being mildly introverted, I don't really mix with them, but do chat when chatted with, and I know some people from the academic-year programs. It's friendly enough, and I'm enjoying it. But sheesh I'm TIRED! I have made it on time every day so far (knock wood) but somehow I never remember to go to bed early to make up for the early rising. I'll get the hang of it by Friday, and then it'll be over. The worst part is that the dense reading and early rising make for nappy afternoons, and I've got a lot to do.
Soon I'll have lots of ecclesiological thoughts to share, but for now, it's back to the books.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Oh Broccoli!

Remember those old Alka-Seltzer (or was it Pepto Bismol) commercials that went "I like ________, but they don't like me!" Now that I'm older (as with so many things!) I get what they meant by that. I could fill in that blank with garlic or broccoli, and that is why this week is the best week to make oven-roasted broccoli, which is the recipe that I have been so crazy about over the last few weeks.













It's so delicious that it's worth the repercussions, as long as everyone in the house has some, and believe me, everyone in your house will want some. It's so good that I've been willing to heat the oven (and my kitchen, which is only a larger oven) to 425 degrees, even in this Summer heat.
So, do try this recipe, and enjoy. For the record, I've made it with bacon grease in place of the olive oil, for health purposes, and it's just as good. If not better. Oh yeah.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Jiggety-jig

I'm home from our annual camping trip and all settled in to my happy place (read: chair in front of the tv). I had a bunch of energy when I got home and should have unloaded the car completely, but it was rainy (or, looked like rain, or had rained recently) when I got home so I just took out the essentials (cooler, suitcase, food and toiletries) and left the rest in the car. I had some energy because I stopped on the way home for a nap- I woke up ridiculously early this morning and was wiped by 11:30, helped by a sugar crash after a donut from a local shop near our campground. Oh, God, it was good. Anyway, I stopped at a scenic vista and took a snooze about a quarter of the way home. I know, a chain-saw wielding murderer could have attacked me and no one would know where I was (it was a beautiful windy road along the Quabbin reservoir) but I thought it might be equally unsafe to drive asleep. It was beautiful there, anyway:

















And you know if you're going to take a nap, it might as well be overlooking a gorgeous mountainside. I guess.
Instead of unloading or bringing the air conditioner up from the basement, which I also considered, I got dinner and sat down to watch today's leg of the Tour De France. I can't believe it's only 6:22, when's bedtime? I'm so excited to sleep in my bed tonight!! Maybe I'll take a shower before bed and do the cursory bug-bite official count, and revel in the feeling of cleanness and water pressure. Our town's fireworks are postponed, so it's only the illegal fireworks I'll be listening to tonight, just the cats and me, missing Scott while he's away at Catholic Heart Work Camp.
Happy Independence day everyone, here's to days off and homecomings and cats sleeping in suitcases on top of dirty laundry.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ode to our Nick

Here on the North Shore of Boston, every town has their Roast Beef place.
These RB places, they make a sandwich- they carve the beef right off the roast and put it, warm and juicy, onto a hamburger roll (or an ONION roll!) with your choice of toppings, and then a special barbecue sauce (or, I hear there's a horseradish sauce too).
Once you've lived on the North Shore for a while, someone will bring you to one of these places and teach you how to order. My order is "Junior, LTM Sauce, and a small fry well done." That's Lettuce, Tomato, Mayo, obviously, but these things must be ordered in haste and when you use the initials then they know you're no outsider and will not be a pain with your order. They're not like the soup Nazi, they're very patient, but it's a badge of honor to know how to order like that, and also an early sign of heart disease.
These places are not fancy, but clean and run like clockwork. They are Greek, and offer Gyros (pronounced "yeeros" I think, delicious wraps with garlic sauce like WOAH.) along with their beef as well as Greek salads with perfect creamy Greek dressing, and they're closed on Greek Easter.
At ours, Nick made the sandwiches for over 20 years and made them the BEST of anyone who worked there. He had a thick Greek accent, and a big smile, and if we would call to order, he would tell us "ok, number one!" but I am pretty sure he gave everyone the number 1 when they called. Scott had a long-running joke with him, ordering a slice of pizza every time we went there (they don't serve pizza), and he was always friendly to us, and to everyone.
We had heard that Nick was sick, some kind of cancer. Yesterday when I went in, the young man at the counter told me Nick has died. The crew there had just come from his wake, and his funeral is this morning at the Greek Orthodox church. Nick will be missed, and no one's roast beef sandwiches will ever be as good as his...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trapped at home with the birds

I'm happily trapped at home because Scott is at a long meeting and my car is in the shop. Something about brakes, but they're covered under a LIFETIME GUARANTEE!! so it's just the annoyance of being carless for a while as it is being fixed. I finished my book, and my laundry and there's not a lot of food in the house (it's pay week!) but I can't go get some more, and can't get started on packing up the car for the camping trip. I've finished my book (funny, but dark, and a little too close to possible... scary!) and had a nap, and now I'm facing a yawning gap in time. I'll make chocolate chip cookies, but have to wait for the butter to soften up a bit. Ah well.
Outside the crows are cawing and chucking at each other. This neighborhood is a hangout for a crew of large black crows who behave a lot like a gang of bad middle schoolers downtown after school. They just hang around and intimidate the smaller birds, knock at the birdfeeder until it spills seed on the ground and then gorge on the stolen seed. They just sit there, talking or yelling at each other, and they have little squabbles over nothing. At dusk they fly around from tree to tree, yelling and annoying the neighbors. Whenever I walk outside I clap my hands, making them scatter, making me worry about whether or not they'll recognize my face and hold a grudge as I've heard on NPR. Why doesn't the parks department put something on for them in the summer?? Keep them busy?? The yard is full of the scars of them digging for grubs (well, fine, they can have the grubs but do they have to destroy the grass?) and their poop is on every surface. I guess that's different from middle schoolers, if only slightly. Ha!
I actually really love middle schoolers, so maybe I should give these birds a break. They do give a creepy feel to the neighborhood though. The birds, I mean.
Anyway, must figure out something about suppa. Ahhh, trapped.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Googling on Sunday

Today I was faced with the dizzying opportunity to go to Mass anywhere I wanted to go! I have today off, and although I do get homesick for my parish when I'm not there, I love to go check out other parishes and see what they're up to.
Coincidentally, I got this cartoon in my work email this week:

















It's funny 'cause it's true!! Or, I should say, it's... so... likely!
But the good thing about being a stranger in a strange church is that it reminds me that there are strangers in my church every week, some peeking in (because they've seen a Catholics Come Home ad?) and some Professional Catholics like m'self. You can't tell by looking! In fact, today the priest at the parish I visited mentioned the Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano in Italy and I was so simutaneously intrigued and disgusted that I had to google it on my iphone, right there during the homily. I know, totally bad behavior. But the point is, you can't tell a book by its cover- anyone in the pews around me could have looked upon my frown and iphone use and judged me harshly, or sniffed in disgust when I passed the basket without adding to it (I realized on my way there that I had no cash, and didn't have time to stop at an ATM and even if I did I wasn't about to give a 20, and there was definitely not time to stop and break a 20, and although I did have change and I know every bit counts, I did not want to be that person who tosses a handful of clangy change into the basket...) and that must remind me not to judge people at my church who look sheepishly at their hymn books when the baskets slide by their shoulders. Let's all just assume that those people give weekly, through online giving, which is totally possible in almost all parishes these days. Okay?
Anyway, this was a small parish that had been tha-rough The Ringer back in the beginnings of the clergy abuse scandal, and they seem to be doing well. By 10 after, right on Catholic-schedule, the church was pretty full, with lots of kids, and everyone sang and was friendly. The homily was long but not too shabby, and while it wasn't the very best in exegesis it was solid and based on the Eucharist, this being the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. It made me think, and made me google, which is not a bad goal for the modern homily, now that I think of it...
Happy Sunday everyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Too bad it's raining.

We stop to take advantage of a pause in the incessant rain, not to complain (see blog title) buy to creep out and check on the waterlogged garden and save the worms gasping on the sidewalks and gaze up at the sky for the first time in days without getting an eyeful of rain.
Yesterday was a day off for me and a home-alone day, to boot- I used the rain as an excuse to do very little chores and to take naps. I had a lovely solo dinner and caught up on the DVR and read my secular book (Super Sad True Love Story... so far it's dark but quirky, my kind of book!) and tried not to anger Mother Nature (ahem, to clean the selfishness out of my soul) by not complaining about the grossness out there, because next week it really needs NOT to rain. We both have camp trips coming up and in the case of my trip, soggy camping is considerably less fun than dry camping... and for Scott, soggy camp trips with hundreds of bored and cranky teenagers are seriously less fun than dry camp. So. Let it rain, for now.
Today we're wandering around the house, with all the doable chores already done and it's too soon to start the rest of the chores, and other chores like laundry aren't worth doing when it's so DAMP. So, I dunno, maybe we'll go shopping. Or, take naps. Scott is back to work tomorrow, so we won't go far or stay out late, but it smells funky here, and the sink is clogged, and... aw, too bad it's raining.
Oh, the colonoscopy? All's well! Thanks for asking!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Turd Degree (sorry!)


I am tantalizingly close to vacation week. I worked today (and was super-productive! What is it about weeks-before-vacations??) but am taking tomorrow off (until evening LEX) to take a certain beloved someone for a colonoscopy. Tonight has been preparation night, which basically means we just wait around... for the other... poo... to drop... It has been SO hard not making jokes like that all day.
Anyway, for an introvert, taking someone to the hospital for a procedure is an exciting prospect! I have my book and another book all ready to go, despite the fact that the procedure is only supposed to take about 30 minutes. I figure with waiting time and recovery time, I should get in a few chapters. I have been trying not to eat in front of him, because he cannot eat, and I am trying not to have to go to the bathroom, so as not to take up the only seat in there. I'm weirdly psyched to go to the hospital, where there is a Starbucks IN THE LOBBY and comfy seats and free wifi.
Well, I am sure that the procedure will go smoothly (wokka wokka) and everything will come out just fine (Stop! My side!!) so it's not a stressful trip... for me. I will not giggle, and will not make poop jokes, and will not bait him into saying inappropriate things under anesthesia, this I vow. After tomorrow, one more day of work and then I'm freeeeeeeee to rest and relax and read stuff. I can hardly wait.

Friday, June 17, 2011

7 Quick (random) Takes

So. In no particular order:
1) I just took a bite of my first strawberry of the season. I love that moment! We haven't had a lot of sun, so our strawberry plants have a lot of tiny, deformed, white nubs of berries on them but one went all the way and turned a gorgeous red. I picked it yesterday but set it on the kitchen windowsill to prolong the anticipation. The taste was surprising, like a memory recovered. MMMM I love strawberry season!
2) If there's one thing I regret about my child-free state it's the loss of the opportunity to name someone. I think that would be such an honor, and I can imagine it would be fulfilling and fascinating to watch someone grow into the name I've given them. I kind of collect names in my head, and when I hear names on the radio I often pair them with my last name to see how they'd sound, and imagine the kind of person who would have that name. Fortunately, we get to name whatever pets we'll have for the rest of our lives, and I want you to know I take that responsibility just as seriously.
3) If there are two things I mull over in the car, in my alone time, while listening to the radio, they are names of non-babies, and songs I could sing at Karaoke. Don't get me wrong, I'm never going to sing karaoke, but it's fun to imagine it. My dream song would be "Loving You" by Minnie Riperton, but I'd get the crowd to sing the high notes, and that would be funny. You see my singing career and comedy career are intertwined, and similarly non-existent.
4) Even though things have slowed down considerably, and work is a breeze these days (I spent a lot of time this week reading all the journals that came in the mail over the winter that I didn't have time to read) I still am aching for a vacation week. I'll get one, too, starting next Thursday. Even if work is not slave-labor, there's something about vacation that just hits a giant re-set button for me. I can't wait.
5) I watched the whole Bruins Stanley Cup series, and it was a lot of fun! You know I love school and team spirit, and that I reflexively get choked up at the sound of cheering so this is perfection for me, even though I am generally not one to watch hockey and would never make it through their 13-month season (it's longer than this sentence!!), especially with the amount of tension in those games! I prefer a nice leisurely game of baseball, or the short-term crazed burst of excitement of the Tour De France. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is Yay Bruins! It has been fun being a near-Bostonian during this time.
6) We attended a big fest in honor of our friend who has been in ministry at a nearby parish for over 15 years. As we stood there, watching him being presented with citations and gifts and celebrated by people who talked about how he has touched their lives, Scott and I came to the same conclusion: we can do anything in this ministry job. We can do trips, we can do new groups and ministries, we can do new things, we can stretch and grow and develop. The world is our oyster. It was very inspiring and I think having seen his success, we're going to work on our own.
7) Scott and I are off to see Katherine soon, and are willing the rain to go away so we can walk with her around her neighborhood. I have been learning a lot about myself through hanging out with Katherine, and seeing myself through our conversations together. We talk about big stuff like God and Glee, but also about science, a lot- it turns out I'm into science! Who would ever have thought? (Not, certainly, my Mom.) Last week Katherine asked me a science question and I thought "huh! I'm a science geek!" She is a bona-fide scientist, so it was kind of an honor. Oh, and just to be clear, I don't KNOW anything about science, but I find it all pretty fascinating. That's something, right? Even though I don't know much? Like having a sense of humor even while not being funny.
Anyway, Happy 7 things. Our Quick Takes hostess (over at www.Conversiondiary.com) is having a much more significant week than I, so do go take a look.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Earworms

This week, I can't get this song out of my head. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Risky

This afternoon, the doorbell rang at the rectory. The offices are closed on Sundays- no one's in on duty to handle doorbells and phone calls, because the staff on Sunday are usually running around doing other things. But the truth is, even if someone is around on a Sunday afternoon and the doorbell rings, we are prone not to answer. It's because if we are in the rectory, it's because we taking a break or grabbing a quick bite, or because... well, you just never know what you'll find when you answer the door at a rectory, off-hours. I usually don't answer if I'm there because I don't know how to do some of the things that people come to the door for (like getting a Mass card or whatever) and I don't like to answer the door when there's no one around to ensure my safety. I know, it sounds mean to leave a doorbell unanswered, but often, people who reach past the "CLOSED" sign to ring the doorbell can be... scary. A priest in our Archdiocese was stabbed in the eye several years back, answering the door at off-hours- I know, right?? It's just... risky. But today I was having lunch with Scott and one of the priests was also in the building, and the doorbell rang... 6 times. I decided to risk it and go to the door.
The first thing I could see, below the mail box, was that whoever was there had his pants tucked into his tube socks. It was too late to turn back at that point, though, so I opened the door to an old man who had two shopping bags in his hands, and a stack of grocery store fliers. He had a big smile, handed me the flyers (couldn't decide how to spell that, so I went with both) and asked to come in. I said I'd be happy to take whatever he had to give me but didn't invite him in, but he pretty much insisted.
So I let him in, and he put the bags down to sort through them. I realized that this is the man who brings random grocery items to the rectory door a few times a week- the housekeeper and office manager know him well now. He handed me a bag of cough drops (because, he said, they're good to have now that it's getting cold out!) and then a box of mac and cheese. He said "oh, women love this stuff!" Then, he reached in and handed me a package of English muffins. He said "these are for you and the priest." I said "how nice of you to think of us!" and he said "Well, I'm a Roman Catholic. And as they say, everything counts. It takes a penny to make a dollar, and one prayer counts too." He combined his other items into one bag and said to himself out loud, "I'm so happy." I saw him out and he said "now, I want you to have one of those English muffins, maybe with some jelly!" and I promised him I'd have one.
I am so glad I answered the door. I think it's possible we made each other's day- he was so happy to give, and I am so blessed to receive.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mmmmmm, that feels great.

It's ten years, officially, and so far so good. Our anniversary trip was flat-out wonderful- we had a great time in beautiful Mystic, CT eating great food, staying at a lovely (and quirky) inn, people-watching at Foxwoods (we didn't play even one slot machine!) and driving the countryside. Even the parts of the trip where we were just resting or reading or exploring were fun and I loved each minute of it. We had a delicious and decadent (for us!) dinner on our anniversary night. As great as it was, I was happy to come home to our comfy place and see the kitties, who missed us terribly, it was clear.
On the last day in CT, we got up and went to a local spa for a massage! Well, two massages. One each! And this leads me to my point for this blog entry, as I had a big religious epiphany during my massage. My massage-therapist was a lovely, soothing woman who made me feel comfortable, relaxed, and pampered. Her movements were never harsh, even when she was working on my tough spots. I was compliant and happy to have her move even my arms and legs when needed, and I just closed my eyes and floated along. I thought silently, "massage-therapist-lady, I love you. I will turn in whichever direction you move me, and I want to be the best massage client ever, because you, to me, are wonderful." And then it hit me, this is what we want God to be. We want God to be soothing and comforting and always making us feel better, never allowing us to feel pain. We want angelic music in the background and we want God to just gently turn us in the right direction. And we'll go! We'll gladly go limp and let God do the work. If it were only like that, we'd be compliant and trusting, and we'd want to be the best followers ever, because it is all so lovely and comfortable.
Oh, but my friends, this is not the way God works.
Tonight at LEX we talked about this Sunday's Pentecost Gospel reading- it's a quick one, from John (20:19-23) where Jesus appears to his freaked-out disciples after rising from the dead. We noticed that Jesus appears with the wounds from his crucifixion, where we supposed (being God and all) He could have chosen to appear with a nicely healed body. Why did he still have those wounds? We guessed that maybe Jesus was showing that He knows that we too, like Him, will suffer. That pain is part of life, and that death is part of resurrection. He suffered, but then triumphed over suffering. Pain is real, and true, and it exists, God knows. Massages are nice, (really nice) but they're not real life. Life is walking, sore muscles, working, suffering and victory. Massages, and vacations, are temporary. Life goes on, wounds and all.
I don't know how God works, but I know how God doesn't work! (still, it would be nice, wouldn't it?)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Joyride

This week we celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe it. My parents tell a story that on their first anniversary Dad said to Mom "it feels like we've been married forever" (or some version of that). He meant it in the nicest way possible, and she took it in the worst way. I think that's what marriage does to a couple.
Ha! Just kidding.
Anyway, looking back over ten years, it does seem like it's gone impossibly fast, and like we've been forever together. I can barely remember what life was like before Scott came along.
To celebrate, we're going on a schmancy trip! We're going to an exotic New England location, and staying in a classy inn, and getting massages, and having dinner that we'll dress up for! I obsessed for a month about where to go, sending Scott daily email destination suggestions (who was totally distracted with Confirmation and graduation Mass and retreat, and various and sundry other things) and fantasizing about spending a lot of money on frivolous things. But not too much money. I feel some pressure to celebrate up this significant anniversary (significant because it's, like, an even number, I guess... they've all been fairly significant so far though.) Now that we've booked and it's practically here I am trying not to look at travel things anymore, like the Yankee Magazine I just bought, and trying not to get so excited that I wreck the whole thing, like someone hugging a kitten to death.
BUT I CAN'T WAIT TO GO!! And, you know, 10 years is something worth celebrating. So cheers to Scott My Love, and thank you for so far.

Latest Musical Obsession...

Oh my, I cannot get this song out of my head. Check it out, s'good:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holy Spirit, yo

I have long had a love/bewilderment relationship with the Holy Spirit. I love Him/Her/It, whoever or what-ever It... She... He is. When I was confirmed in tenth grade, I had to have an interview with the pastor and a Sister who was working there at the time. At the end of the interview, they asked me "do you have any questions?" I said "yes, I don't get this whole 'Holy Spirit' thing." The Sister looked at the priest, and the priest looked at the Sister, and then finally they looked back at me. The Sister said "well......... you know how, when you have a friend, and you do something nice for that friend, out of the spirit of friendship?" I nodded. "Well, it's kind of like that."
...
I guess now that I can see what she was trying to say- the Holy Spirit is what prompts us to movement, to action, to holiness. At least, that's how I understand the whole thing... at least, currently... my understanding of the HS changes, I think, as my life rolls on. (My favorite description of the Trinity, by the way, is "Lover, Beloved, Love." Apparently that is some kind of non-Catholic teaching, but heck, I like it, and it's my blog.)
This week, I was invited to visit our parish's charismatic prayer group. In truth, I have been invited for... years... but have never made it there. I have never been a charismatic-faith kind of girl, and even more, I have an reflexive, cynical, suspicious feeling about it. Case-in-point, they invited people up to a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" and I thought, well, what are they saying? Is the original baptism not enough? Would it not be powerful enough to encourage people to renew their baptismal promises, or something? And, are they saying that without this baptism, we have less of the Holy-Spiritl? Or, that somehow we get more Holy Spirit through this un-sacrament? I dunno.
But overall, I was happy to be there, even through my initial discomfort.
I've been around charismatic Christians before, and have heard people speaking in tongues, which seems to be a really big deal to these groups. (I don't get it- what good does it do? But I digress...) anyway, what I realized last night was that these people were truly filled with love and felt God's presence so sincerely. I loved them for that, and admired them for pursuing and living their faith. I knew that the Holy Spirit was indeed present and active in this group of dear people, and that God must be pleased by their passion.
I'm willing to admit that I don't know much, and have a little bit of jealousy for those who do.