Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Straighten Up!

I'm trying to improve my posture. I had an awesome massage this past weekend, in hopes that I could start getting myself back in line. I have a sore shoulder that, most days, feels like someone's stabbing it, and some days, I can't raise my arm up very high. And shrugging?? Forgettaboutit!!!
Anyway, my massage therapist is brutal and great, and I felt better (albeit SORE) for a couple of days, but it's really just as sore as before, and probably is shoulder cancer. Okay, I don't think there is such a thing as shoulder cancer. But these are the things one thinks about while being invisibly stabbed in the shoulder, you know?
Anyway, since my massage, I've been trying really hard to sit up straight, stretch out my pectoral muscles like the therapist urged me to do, and realign myself to stand up nice and tall, shoulders back, like I'm facing a firing squad. Ha!
Anyway, it's exhausting! It's a lot of work to stand up straight and sit up straight, and my muscles are wimpy and weak and it's seconds before I feel my shoulders curl and my back sag again, back to the comfort of dis-alignment. And the mindfulness involved in being aware of my posture and reminding myself to sit up sit up sit up is something I'm just not used to. I feel odd, sitting up straight, too- suddenly taller than everyone around me and wondering if they are wondering why I look so wooden. There's a weird psychological element to it, this physical change in my stature.
Maybe I'll add my posture to my Lenten promises, and offer up the hard work it's turning out to be.
(picture credit)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Perfect Storm

First: last night at the big snow tubing adventure, I listened to one of our college students tell about a revelation he'd had that day- after volunteering at the Haley House, he'd been given a tour of the cathedral in town, and said he realized that the Church is hypocritical. He said they were shown a chalice made of gold, worth thousands of dollars, and a chair where only the archbishop is allowed to sit. "It's all unnecessary," he said- wasteful and ridiculous. I didn't have a good answer to his concerns.
This morning, then, I read this article- I love this woman's blog and although I guess I'm one of the "happy clappy" Catholics that she complains about, I thought she made a really great point. I am no liturgical police-person, but I know enough to see when things can be done better. I love the reminder that no Mass, no Christian, no form of worship is offered perfectly.
Then today, being the Church Geeks that we are, Scott and I took a trip to a shrine. Our first stop was the gift shop, and I guess that was not the best place to start. It was HUGE, and full of... crap. I saw gift-boxed feathers, with ribbons on them, that were supposed to be from angel wings? They had recently renovated the place and the it all looks polished and new, with piped-in music (I heard "Pass It On" while I was browsing the clearance table!). Everything had special lighting and such. I was so turned off- the chapel, which was the last place we visited, was nice- but... everywhere, everywhere, everywhere were fund-raising pleas. Benches you could buy in memory of someone, candles for the candle chapel, and donation requests at every turn. On the end of each pew in the chapel sat a large envelope that said "remember me... remember us!"
I thought of Simcha's article and realized that I am on the whole much more comfortable with imperfect worship than perfect- I'd rather a church building be shabby and full of friendly, sincere-faithed people (I know, I know that's not a word but you know what I mean).
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Church should ever stop trying to do liturgy well. I know there are standards to good Mass. But I'd rather be in a tin church before a clay chalice with good people and a great homily than surrounded by strangers in a cathedral decked in gold. I don't even mind clapping a few times.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday was discontent of my Winter. I was driving along with the sun in my eyes and the wind blowing my car around- my windshield washer fluid tank was empty, and the new bottle of fluid I'd bought, but had neglected to put in, was rolling around the back of my car, smashing against things whenever I took turns. Still, it was too cold to get out and fill the damned thing up.
Plus, I was trying to drive with the sun in my eyes AND read directions- so I was switching between sunglasses, no glasses, reading glasses... all while squinting through a dirty windshield looking for street signs.
I think the world would be infinitely better if there were clear street signs at every intersection.
On top of that I was wearing jeans that were just a smidge too small, and needed to hunt down a low-carb dinner before class, which runs cruelly from 6:30-9:00PM.
As I was driving I thought to myself, "why do I feel so unhinged today???" I even felt completely dumb about my Old Testament class. But now I know I was just... reaching the peak of Winter despair.
Today I awoke to (low) 40's temps and sun high in the sky. My glasses (which were apparently sent off to NASA to be ground, that's how intricate my prescription is) are due in about a week, so I will soon be able to SEE. I bought myself some new jeans that fit just fine, and didn't have to go up a size. I filled my windshield washer fluid and cleaned out some of the muck in my back seat, and now I'm off to lunch with a friend.
I feel different today than I did yesterday- maybe it's hormone levels, or maybe it's just a new hope born of that change in temperature that helps me realize suddenly that there's lots to look forward to- even warmer warmth, garden plans, flip flops, summer plans. On my way out of the house I crunched some ice under which a tiny river of melt-off was flowing and felt real joy.
Bring on the Spring, I'm ready- ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking Ahead to Ash Wednesday

Here's a bit of the parent session I taught this past weekend for our parish's Generations of Faith, with some changes to make it blog-able:

(pic credit)

As we prepare for Ash Wednesday, let's look at a little piece of scripture that I think will pull this all together for us- we often hear it on Ash Wednesday (it’s one of the options) as we are blessed with ashes: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Why do you think this snippet of scripture was chosen for this day, which marks the beginning of Lent? I always hear that it's a reminder of our mortality, which, I guess is always important- but, why on Ash Wednesday?

To clear it up a little more, let’s look at the context: it’s from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament- it happens near the end of a speech by God to Adam and Eve after he’s found them hiding from Him in the garden. Remember, they're hiding from Him because they've gone against His instructions, and... well, just maybe they know they're in trouble.
Here’s the scripture with a little context: (Gen. 3:16-19)

To the woman he said,
‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.’
17And to the man
* he said,
‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
“You shall not eat of it”,
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.’

Check it out: God is MAD when he says this! It reminds me of an old parental line: "remember, I brought you into this world and I can take you OUT!!!"

I think it's pretty common for a parent to get angry when their kids do something stupid- but I think at the heart of that anger is usually frustration, born of dashed expectations. Parents have hopes and expectations for how the child they've created will behave in the world. They expect their children to be grateful for what they have been given, to know right from wrong and to act accordingly. They are angry because they are thinking "I know you can do better- I have been trying to raise you to do better."

And I think that's what God was saying to His little creations who, as the story goes, should have known how to act in the face of temptation and chose differently.

When a parent chews out their kids for doing something stupid, they demand change- they want their kids to turn it around, straighten up, and remember who(se) they are and that they've been taught- and for us, Catholic Christians, Lent is the time to do that. If we've gone astray during the year, failed to live up to God's expectations of us, now it's time to repent, and to return.

This Ash Wednesday, when I'm blessed with ashes and I am told "remember, thou art dust and to dust thou shall return" I'm probably going to hear "remember, I broughtest thou into this world and I can takest thou out of it!" and I'm going to try to do better. I want to make my Father proud.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook

Simple Woman's Day Book
FOR TODAY 2/12/11...

Outside My Window...
the world is begging for a big thaw. It's been so cold for so long. The snow is deep, solid, and crusted with dirt. The roads are white with salt and have huge frost heaves and potholes at every corner. It's a disgusting mess out there! Someone told me that it's supposed to be in the 50's by the end of this week but I will not believe it until I feel it- it's just too much to hope for.
But as Parker Palmer says, the first part of Spring, before things get green and lush, it is "plug ugly."
I am thinking... a lot about Lent, which is usually getting started around now but still won't be here for almost a month. This eternal winter is making me sick of everything, and I am hungry in every way for a fresh start. Yes, I'm a bit cranky. It just feels like it's been this time of year forever!!
I am thankful for... Scott's seemingly limitless patience with me. He graciously gives me wide berth when I am cranky like this, and amazingly, miraculously seems happy to be around me, all the time. Good God I am thankful for him.
From the kitchen... I started low-carbing this week, and feel better already. Carbs and sugar are just so toxic for me. I love the food involved in low-carbing, all meats and veggies and more meats, and I lose weight when I'm eating like this, and you know, it isn't even that hard. The best part is I never go hungry and never have to taste anything low-fat. It's great! Why do I ever go off this way of eating? I'll tell you why. Chocolate cream cheese frosting.
But tonight I made flax meal focaccia bread, and that's pretty good for less than a carb per piece. I also pan-fried steaks and finished them in a hot hot oven, and we ate them with spaghetti squash alfredo and some nice red wine.
I am wearing... yep. Pajamas. But I totally got dressed today, and went to the grocery store and got gas and those steaks. Totally productive. In clothes. But somehow, here I am in my jammies. In a sleeping bag, in my chair.
I am creating... Well there's that dinner. But at work, I'm creating a plan to rehab the ministries in our parish, which are sort of all in danger of dying out, as almost all of them are led by the same 6 or 8 70-year-olds. Suggestions?
I am going... this year is shaping up to be one where Scott and I travel separately a lot, which is very unusual for us. And, what's worse, it'll be our 10th anniversary this year. In the Fall, Scott went to the NFCYM in New Orleans, but I didn't- and this spring, maybe I'll be going to the NCCL conference without him, followed by him being off on retreat the weekend I get home. In June, he can't come on our annual camping trip with me, as he heads of for Catholic Heart Workcamp the whole next week. Isn't that weird? it feels like we will just be passing by each other in the driveway throughout the spring.
I am reading... The Old Testament, and really a lot of articles and books about the sacrament of Confirmation. My grad school project is shaping up to be a pretty cool one (I was going to say "exciting" but maybe that's just me that thinks it's exciting. I have a whole-ly new theology of the sacrament, and a whole new way of looking at adolescent confirmation that I think is going to make me a very very rich woman. Ha! Just kidding. But seriously, there may really be a book in this! Woo!
I am hoping... for that thaw that is promised. Dear Lord, send a thaw.
I am hearing... The Middle. This is a funny show! The parents in my Generations Of Faith group last night were talking about it, and saying how true it feels, and they love it. Scott is working on refining his teaching for round 2 of GOF tomorrow, typing away and whispering to himself. I think I may have PMS on top of this whole eternal winter thing.
Around the house... oh, you know, various and sundry messes. Someday, when it gets warm, I'll clean it all up.
One of my favorite things... is sleeping soundly, which I do now, because my wonderful doctor gave me wonderful sleep medication, and ohhhhhh it's sooooooo gooooood. I don't know exactly how addiction works but if I ever have to go off this medication I will completely come unhinged. Ha! Just kidding!! But seriously, it's great.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be a regular glasses wearer- no more reading glasses for this girl with the bad eye. I went for my first eye appointment and it turns out my right eye is TWICE as bad as my left eye- the doctor asked me if I'd worn a PATCH as a child!!! No. I didn't. So, you know, I'm looking forward to... being able to look forward! Har!
Here is picture thought I am sharing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Comment on Comments (with comments)

I commented on a blog! On an NPR radio show blog!
I haven't commented on a blog in years, and outside of some blogs I don't usually even bother reading the comments. I think the blog commenting process is similar to that of getting into a car and feeling safe enough to have road rage. Suddenly you're in a large cage that will give you the courage to flip off people who, outside the car, could kick your ass. When commenting on a blog, you sit in your jammies and use a false name and flip off the whole world. Whenever I've felt like commenting, I've been angry, and that is no mood in which to take to the internet.
Sometimes I read them out of curiosity and/or for humor's sake. Just last night, I read comments over at the Groupon.com blog about their Super Bowl ads. I was able to discern that most people were angry about the Tibet one, and I enjoyed one comment that said something like "shame on you, Groupon. Again. SHAME ON YOU." Heh, that still makes me laugh.
Anyway, today I was listening to The Takeaway, and they featured someone from Beliefnet talking about the new Confession App that everyone is sending me notes about these days. They said why has religion (who is this "religion" they're asking about?) been so resistant to technology and social media? They said the Pope hasn't exactly approved the app, but hasn't not approved it, either... and they wondered if the new model of church will be the online forum.
So many responses leap to mind.
1) can you imagine a church that's like an online forum? See above. I'll take a buncha people praying quietly together in one room any old day over that.
2) I don't know about "religion" but all we hear about these days from the RCC is about using technology and social media for evangelization, etc. There doesn't seem to be much resistance there, except here in Boston where everyone is assumed to be a child molester.
(oh, that's harsh. I should delete that.)
3) and here's what I said to the Takeaway people. This app is basically a back-lit version of the paper handouts at the door (or that should be at the door) of every Catholic Church that say "How to go to Confession." No big whoop. Sure it's got some bells and whistles but whatever. It's not a local, high-tech confessional. If what I hear is true, there's nothing there for the pope to be against. It's SUCH a non-story.
The bigger story, I'd say, is how popular it seems to be. It's 1.99 to download, which to me is a major commitment, app-wise. I'll spend .99 out of curiosity, but I would only spend two bucks on an app that I intended to use, and use... religiously. Ha! Sorry.
Anyway, maybe it's just me but that's the significant takeaway here. The app is listed at #22 top grossing and #23 top paid apps on the list. That's huge, no?
Last year our parish had surprisingly bigger crowds at Lenten Masses than we could remember, and when we offered Confession on Wednesday nights in Lent, people LINED UP to receive the sacrament. Why this renaissance? There's yer story.

Monday, February 07, 2011

If This is Tuesday, it Must Be Snowing.

Here's what I should be doing: homework. Specifically, I should be reading the book of Exodus for Old Testament class, or at the very least reading the last part of Genesis, which I was supposed to have read for last week's class, which I missed because of the latest Tuesday snowstorm. Seriously, we have them every Tuesday now. My semester may have started several weeks back, but I've only been to one class session so far- everything else has been canceled or on the other side of a stormy drive into Brighton. So. It's hard to stay motivated. Or, to get motivated.
Everyone around here has been dealing with ice dams and high snow banks, nowhere to shove our shovelfuls. We're starting to go a little stir-crazy, and I think I can speak for everyone- EVERYONE- that we're ready for Spring, warm weather, and green things.
One nice thing is that I've got the spelling of shoveling down, and also cancellation. And shoveled, and canceled. So. Thank God February is the shortest month.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mandrake! Not that!!!

Ahhh here it is groundhog day, and no shadow has been sighted. Meanwhile we are being pelted with tiny ice balls on top of the 8 inches of snow we got yesterday, which is on top of the two feet or so we already had on the ground. What does this all mean? God appreciates irony.
Well I never have been too keen on Groundhog's day, except for the annual viewing of this cartoon, and the opening song he sings being stuck in my brain for the day. "A ground-hog's-shadooooooooow just a-doesn't a-mean a thinggggg"

One Meat Brawl
Uploaded by klangley. - Full seasons and entire episodes online.