Monday, May 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes, on the Wrong Day. So.

1) I know this  is a Friday thing, but I feel like Monday holidays are much like Fridays, right? I mean really I have Fridays off so Thursdays are MY Fridays, and once you start thinking like that, you can write a Friday blog post any old day of the week. It's a slippery slope.

2) So, I graduated from grad school. It felt great! I did wonder if maybe I'd done the whole thing wrong when hardly any of my professors seemed to recognize me on graduation day, and I had to introduce myself to the three other people in my program as we lined up. To be fair, they didn't know each other either, and the class sizes were big, so it's not completely unthinkable that I didn't become a star in the professor's estimation. But a friend (I did make one friend) introduced me to a faculty member (the dean of students, I think?) who said "how did I never meet you all this time?" and I said "well I haven't spoken to anyone during my whole time here." Which is, a little bit, true. Around me, people were misty-eyed at leaving this time in their lives behind, and everyone understood the inside jokes in the dean's homily, but not me. I found out that my Dad had had the same experience in grad school. He said "I just drove in, took my classes, and drove home." Still, everyone's been congratulating me and there's a big party planned, and I'm trying to give myself credit for having achieved something not everyone does and having worked hard and whatnot. But the truth is, I feel mostly proud of having slogged through it. More like a veteran than a victor.

3) after graduation we went to lunch, a lovely place near my parish, where the waitress almost immediately dumped an entire tray of drinks down my back. I still giggle just thinking about it, it was sangria mostly, and a bloody mary ended up mostly in my purse. It happened in slow motion, I swear, and I remember looking down at a stick of olives sitting on top of my iphone in my purse. I laughed, because, you know, what can you do? People are... dying... somewhere. You know? And the poor waitress cried. Cried! The dress came clean, and I got a free lunch and a funny memory from graduation day. And I think I'm the first child in our family to be responsible for wine stains on my dad's pants. So!

Come on, that's funny!

4) On Saturday Scott was away on retreat and I had a whole lot of weekending to cram into one, beautiful day. I was super productive; weeding the garden, putting my new compost bin together, fixing the damned bird feeder (again), cleaning up some of the yard, grocery shopping, snacking, napping, etc. etc... by about 3:30 my back was OUT. I have come to the conclusion (late, as usual for me) that I have a bad back. It occurs to me that it's been bad for a pretty long time. In fact, the first time I came to understand what the word "out" meant in this context, I finally went to the doctor, who asked me how long I'd been in pain. I reviewed my life, and said "I guess... about three years now?" Turns out I have "high pain tolerance" and can stand more than the average wimp, pain-wise. That's a pretty cool thing to learn about myself, like a newly-discovered super power. I don't complain much, I don't think, pain-wise, so when I do you can know I'm in deep. I've never seen a chiropractor, and I suppose I should. Maybe that's something I can do with all my extra time and money now that I'm all graduated and stuff.

5) I've had to stop myself from watching the Red Sox this season. It seems like every time I tuned in, they'd start to tank, so I'm taking one from the team. I love watching/listening to Sox games so it is an actual sacrifice. I'm giddy with excitement for the Olympics though, and I probably would have lost track of the Sox once they start anyway, so I will still have lots of stuff to watch over the summer. I think the Olympics and the Tour de France start the same week, so I may have to take some vacation days.

6) I picked up an Anne Tyler book the other day, and already I'm starting to think/talk like she writes. Maybe it's really that she writes like I think/talk, but whenever I read her books I find myself feeling a little weird, and more myself at the same time. I don't know how to describe what happens, it's just that her use of language is a lot like mine, at least in my head. Here's a sample sentence:

Well. So. Here he was.

I know, right? There's something about using "So" as a sentence that just gives me a thrill. Anyway, that's where I'll be today,  on the porch reading something not at all about God or moral theology or any such stuff.

7) ... and drinking rose wine (I bought some the other day, it's NOT THE SAME THING AS WHITE ZINFANDEL, it's much more classy and adult, I hear. I haven't tried it yet but it looks lovely and so summery. I'll let you know.)... and dreaming of strawberry desserts. I have a whole bank of strawberry plants with green berries just waiting to turn red. From there it'll be a full-on battle, racing the bunnies and squirrels (I blame the squirrels) for the just-ripe berries. I have a cage for some of the plants that saves me a few, and embarrasses Scott. But mmmmmm strawberries, you know? Mmmmm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who Do I Say That I Am?

When I was in High School, I received My Calling... to you Youth Ministry. Of course, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, answering that call. My life now does not match my vision back then, of where I'd be and what I'd be doing. But I'm still answering that call, in new ways and new directions all the time. My call has evolved and so have I.
I never dreamed I'd NOT be a Youth Ministry coordinator, but here I am, the Chief Evangelization Officer at a parish that does Total Community Catechesis and working with people through the lifespan- really now from birth to death. I've fallen in tortured love with faith formation, found my spot, at least for now. I have (as of next Monday) a freakin' MASTERS DEGREE in religious education! Really, Go figure.
Last week at the conference I attended (seriously, go join NCCL right now), I decided to join a committee, and had my choice of many, including a Youth Ministry subcommittee, an adult faith formation committee, a "practical and theoretical foundations" committee, among others. I found myself wondering where I fit in. It was like one of those youth group "forced choice" activities. Pick one and defend it. You can't stand in the middle of the room pointing at all the corners, you just have to GO. Choose. But for me, it was about identity, in a real way. Who am I now, in this Church? A faith formation person, yes. But, still a Youth Minister? An Adult Faith Formation person? An academic?
I joined the Evangelization committee, and found my people. These are faith formation professionals with an eye trained on the horizon of evangelization. I think it was a good choice. Meanwhile, at home, we're being encouraged to be certified as Pastoral Associates, that nebulous title that means... whatever the hiring pastor wants it to mean. Should I add this title to my list? I'm not sure.
I never would have guessed that accepting a call really meant accepting a life of accepting calls.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The End of the Beginning

Zarley and her Lion friend, surveying the yard
When we got home from California, it was after 2:00AM. Zarley was fast asleep and when we woke her to greet her, she was stunned and groggy, and didn't really warm up to us for a while, which is unusual for her. We brought her to our bedroom, put her on the bed and she didn't move, just sort of hovered there not standing, not sitting, blinking. Finally, I put her back on the couch in the living room, where she'd been found, and went to bed. She looks skinnier than she did (to my memory anyway) a week ago. We weighed her this morning and she's a wee 5 pounds. At some point, she rejoined us in her usual spot in bed, and today she's a bit more back in the usual swing of things. Last night, after putting her back to reset herself, I lay in bed and suddenly had tears in my eyes, remembering how little time we have with her, remembering how deeply sad it was to lose Pip and how much I miss her, and mourning this soon-to-be-totally-over part of my life, the part with two cats in the yard. I felt guilty about leaving her for this week, but she was visited by loving friends and family, who all reported her to be purring and eating and drinking, so that was a relief. I guess now we just wait, and watch, and snuggle as much as time will let us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I get it

This week I can say I truly understand the Paschal Mystery in a real and serious way. Let me start at the beginning of our trip, on Sunday. We were scheduled to leave Boston at 1:30 or thereabouts, and we boarded on time, but spent the next three hours either at the gate, sitting on the tarmac, or idling somewhere in wait, due to a storm in Chicago, where we were due to meet our connecting flight. So, three hours of sitting before we ever got out of town. When we got into Chicago, finally, we launched out of our plane, ran through the terminal, down the escalator, through the tunnel to the other terminal, up the escalator, and to the end of that terminal. When we got there, we found out that A) our gate had been changed, and B) that the flight had left already anyway. So we went back through the terminal, down the escalator, across the tunnel, up the escalator, and went to find the line for United Airlines customer service. It was, and I kid you not, at least a quarter mile long. Someone told us there were 500 people ahead of us. Walking along that line, looking for the end of it, was one of the soul-crushingest experiences I can remember. Finally, a CS person came along and advised us to check the kiosk rather than waiting to see a real person, and so we found that we'd (fortunately!) already been rebooked by the airline for another flight, due to leave in about 2.5 hours. Guess where the new flight would be leaving from? Yep, that other terminal... in fact the one we'd gone to first.
So back we went, at least knowing we'd have time for dinner while we waited. UNfortunately, the plane at our gate (the one before ours) had a serious hold up (as in, 4 hours of waiting for their flight, and they still hadn't left by the time we did.) Since they weren't leaving, we had to change gates AGAIN, but only to one nearby. Once we got on the plane, we had to wait a while, because since our flight was SO late, one of the crew was now "illegal" and they had to wait for someone to replace her. As in, come to the airport from home.
Now here's where the Paschal Mystery comes in. I had the center seat all this time, and Scott, who I love, had an aisle seat. When we got on in Chicago, about to ride through the night to California, I had the aisle seat, and Scott had the center. He was miserable, but we had had such a rough day, and I was tired of being all cooped up, and I thought to myself "enjoy the aisle seat! He'll survive the middle, after all, I did! Why should I have to sit in the middle? After all, I was assigned this seat!"
But at one point, I heard Scott moan. Just a little mewling kind of sound, and he didn't ask for the aisle seat, but what could I do? When he got up to go to the bathroom, I took his seat.
When Scott came back to sit down, I very un-Jesus-like told him that he was a lucky man, and I was super-nice, and that he should never forget it. Ah, what can I say? I'm only human!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Apple doesn't know the words Catechetical OR Evangelization.

So here we are in California for the NCCL conference. It's one of the best organizations/conferences I've worked with over these years. NCCL is academic, wholistic, cutting edge, evolutionary and open-minded. The topics they are interested are the same things I'm interested in. I'm so among my people here, even in a way that's beyond being at school among my academic peers. This organization is made up of people who know whereof they speak. Lots of the people I've met here have the word "evangelization" in their titles, and they mean it. I love being in this world of like-minded, dedicated people, and it gives me hope.
It also makes my mind race, lots of new ideas and great tips and tricks to apply right away. I'm inspired to take on huge projects this coming year, huger than I should probably. I can't wait to get back (well, I can wait, I mean... we are in California after all!) and try things out.
We've been rubbing elbows with catechetical and evangelization rockstars. Everyone is approachable and supportive and helpful. Someday I hope to be one of those rock stars, receiving awards while bored people who have barely heard my name eat their free lunch and plan to steal my ideas.
Many years ago now, we attended the NCCYM in, as it turned out, the apex of the sexual abuse crisis. While we were there that week (Denver, was it?), we'd be pulled into Boston meetings to hear about which of our pastors had been removed that day, due to accusations that were either founded or un-founded. We would watch our friends' faces flicker with worry when they were told their own pastor was already gone, and we'd wait in fear to hear our own pastor's names be read. Outside of those meetings, we'd introduce ourselves to other conventioneers and when we said "from Boston" they would sympathetically frown and offer prayers. It was a weird feeling that week, a feeling of being marked as doomed, yet still walking around amongst the living.
Now, many years later, we are starting to get that sympathetic reaction from people again. The people here know about what's going on in the American Church, what dioceses are in trouble, etc. Cleveland people get that sympathetic cluck too, now. We sympathize with them.
Still we soldier on, and wish everyone from poor old Boston could come to a week like this and be bolstered with hope for the future, even while we hang in limbo and wait to see what will become of us. We'll breathe in as much of the sunshine as we can while we are here and hope to carry it home in our hearts. 

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Get Your Business Done

I graduated from my first round of training with Hospice last week, and I've learned a lot. From here, I will be a "direct care volunteer" for 6 months, and then can go on to have specialized training to be a vigil volunteer. Vigil volunteers wait with patients at their last moments, or hours, especially if they have no one to be with them at that time.
Our training covered a lot about the philosophy and history of the Hospice movement. Each patient who enters hospice is given access to services of a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, a bereavement counselor, a chaplain, and a volunteer. The team works together to offer a comprehensive treatment for each patient and their family, communicating between each member and serving the patient in a really wholistic way. On top of that, Hospice has a true respect for the dying process that I think most medical systems don't. They acknowledge that death happens, and is part of life. They say things like "our bodies know how to die" and "the patient is doing the hard work of dying." They don't see death as a failure of treatment or a tragic ending to be avoided. Just part of the deal, and something important and defining in a person's life and in the family's life.
What's also impressive to me is that unlike most social service systems, they don't have to deny the existence of spirituality. They take all comers, religion-wise, as they should, and work with people to understand the... (not their word) mystical part of the process of dying. It's really impressive.
All through the training, I kept thinking "people need to know more about this." Everyone I know considers Hospice to be a very-last-minute effort to keep pain away when there's no more hope. But I want everyone to know that Hospice is more like a team of tour guides who will help you get ready- they'll help you think about what you want and let your family know, they'll help you "get your business done" with your family and friends, help you get your house in order and figure out who'll take your cats when you're gone, help you come to a comfortable place with what you are going through. Medicare will fund Hospice, as I understand it, to those who have 6 months or less to live (with a chance to re-register if you live beyond your prognosis). Private insurance companies, I'm told, sometimes cover a year! Imagine having a kind and attentive team to help you and your family prepare for your fate, for a whole year. Honestly, I'd like that now, even though I'm not dying, that I know of.
So if/when someday you find yourself (or someone you love) facing the inevitable hard work of dying, think about Hospice for yourself and for your family. Don't wait.