Faith Fridays

Well, I’ve taken several Fridays in a row off, so no time like the blogging challenge time to bring back Faith Fridays.

Several years ago my mother purchased Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscovering Catholicism. It’s sat on my shelf because I either didn’t have time or interest to read it. But after reading Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home (which I still need to post on) I felt it was a good time to read it. Parts of it, honestly did not speak to me and nearly made me put the book down, but I persevered to the very end and was glad I did.

I’ll start by talking about what I liked. I really enjoyed his 3rd and 4th sections. I felt like he gave all Catholics an excellent background as to why we need the sacraments as well as their history in the section on the Pillars of Catholicism. I also gleaned much useful and motivating inspiration from his sections on discipline, fasting and the Mass. His call to action in the fourth section “Now is Our Time” was extremely convicting. Kelly’s book was written in 2002 when the Catholic online presence was much different than it is today and he identifies many areas the Church (all of us) need to attack. Much of it is still very applicable today. He also speaks eloquently to the urgent need for Catholics to get their Bible’s out and start reading. To start studying. He even quotes my patron for 2014 St Jerome in this section, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Which should light a fire under quite a few rear-ends.  And he speaks to community building both within the Church and in welcoming new-comers. He identifies easy ways to help bring others in gradually without a full-frontal attack. Much of that seems very prescient now thinking it was written over 10 years ago and sounds eerily familiar to people who follow Pope Francis’ speaking on love for one’s neighbor.

The first half of the book was difficult for me. In talking about it with my mom, we identified some of the reasons why certain aspects were difficult. One thing I disliked that happened throughout the book were the dated cultural references. Kelly frequently uses Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan as examples. Of course he was several years removed from the scandal of a life Woods created for himself that he would never consider using him as a reference today but even so, I kept feeling that if I read this book today as a person ten years younger than myself, I would have trouble identifying Michael Jordan’s contributions to basketball and to an extent Woods’ contributions to golf  and considering neither has been considered the best in his game in quite sometime, the comparisons don’t hold as much weight. And this may sound minor, but there is a factual error in his description of Michael Jordan’s talent/persistence. I live in the town where Michael Jordan grew up and played high school basketball. In addition, my husband grew up the same time as Jordan and played against him in high school so I have some personal knowledge of this. He did not make the varsity team as a freshman not because he was not a hard worker or not talented enough. The coach had a policy that freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team. Period. Michael Jordan didn’t make the team because of policy and no other reason. So, hearing that myth recited yet again, well, it bugged me and that’s probably just me but it’s all part of the mythology and idolization and I just felt like, especially since we know it’s not true any longer, should have been edited out of the book.

I think Kelly did much better with his stories of  Blessed (then Pope) John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St John Mary Vianney, and St Francis of Assisi. I think it would have been better if Kelly had stuck with saints in the first two sections of the book as their lives have been lived in this world and their good works longer established. There is a more timeless quality when using the saints vs personalities currently on top in pop culture. There are very few Beatles these days where the cultural impact is still felt. But there are plenty of saints to choose from who are continually celebrated in the Church.

Another thing that initially turned me off is Kelly’s writing style. His language is plain and down to earth which is fine but I did feel like he sometimes abruptly jumped from one topic within his chosen section to another without enough transition so that I felt jarred. For me it was a flow issue. I also disliked his frequent repetition of the exact same phrases. I felt that could have been cut down a little. I have to confess, this is a purely personal aesthetic and so I understand if people feel like I’m being too critical, but in light of all I’ve been reading about people saying ,”I just can’t read Ann Voskamp’s book. It’s too lyrical. It’s too flowery. It’s too…whatever” I stand by my statement. Like Voskamp’s style is not for everyone, neither is Kelly’s. For those of us who tend to read more scholarly or more lyrical, it can be difficult to get into this book.

I also felt as though the first two sections would have better served as their own book separate from the second two. It felt to me like they were written for different audiences. I felt as though the first two sections were better suited to new converts or people who were very new in their adult faith walk (despite age, we’re all different with that). The idea of “being the best version of yourself” as the route to sainthood I know has spoken to many converts and I think that when it’s followed by slightly headier defenses of the church and calls to action it can sometimes get jumbled. By separating this one book into two, it not only meets 2 different audiences more immediately, it also would allow some absorption time for those who will truly benefit from the first 2 sections before diving into to the deeper topics of the second section.

The book was also written before the death of Blessed John Paul II and of course before the entire papacy of Benedict XVI and Francis. So, I think that some preparation may be helpful for those who came into the church after that time. Just to get in the headspace of where the author was when writing. It can be helpful especially in light of knowledge we have now of events occurring since that time to understand what was going on during the time this book was written both in the Church and in the world.

I think Kelly’s messages overall were very good and that many could benefit from Rediscovering Catholicism. I felt that for where I am right now in my faith-life, it may have been more simple than I was really needing, but I would not hesitate it to recommend to someone who is where I was about 5-10 years ago. Particularly anyone who is luke-warm about the faith.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

So, as with all things autism, surgery Wednesday was unexpected. Unexpected in that nothing unexpected happened. I mean we had no dramatic screaming going back to surgery (although she did protest I was told back in the room being put under) and there was no drama at all about the food. She did ask for a cookie (seeing as the cafe is right next to the surgery registration, fail). And even waking up, although she was not happy about the iv, there was almost no drama at all. And we got to home a full 30 minutes earlier than our earliest estimate. Unexpected for sure.

— 2 —

Reign. So, I’ve been tempted by this show like nothing else on television but I was hoping that The Michael J Fox show would make it so I haven’t watched it. Then I found out that Catherine de Medici was played by Megan Follows who I adored as a child with her portrayal of Ann-with-an-e Shirley in the PBS version of Anne of Green Gables et al. And I was further intrigued. So, The Michael J Fox show and Sean Saves the World were both canceled and so, I didn’t really want to watch Hollywood Game Night and so I decided I would swing on over. Of course it was a terrifying episode. But they probably all are to an extent, I realize. And so, I am hooked. One episode in. So I am now going to have to hunt down every episode I’ve ever missed. Because, I’m obsessed. One episode.

— 3 —

In a little over a week I will have been married 11 years. Which doesn’t even seem possible because my brain is convinced I am still 19…all evidence to the contrary aside. 11 years and we dated for 3 years and were engaged for an entire year before those 11 years. So, fifteen years total. We have absolutely no plans for this day because we never have plans for events like these. But we are definitely married for 11 years.

— 4 —

You know what makes everything better. Doughnuts. No, I’m serious. Doughnuts. They are yummy, they are full of calories and they are sweet. Doughnuts. They make everything better. No, I don’t own a scale. Although I really should. 😉

— 5 —

I might have found my Lenten sacrifice. Remember when I said I prefer quick, intense pain to something drawn out. Well, can I rethink that. God was listening all too well. Because if this happens, it will be quick and intense and then a long slow stabbing pain that will actually last long past Lent.

— 6 —

Weddings. Weddings are totally on the brain right now. My cousin’s wedding was last week on Friday. My brother-in-law is getting married this October and my brother is getting married June of 2015. My cousin’s wedding was up in Buffalo so we weren’t able to attend but it sounds as though my parents and 2 brothers (and one fiance) who did go had a great time. But my kids have never been to a wedding. Most of our friends have already gotten married (before we had kids) as have siblings. My married brother eloped so we’re going to our first wedding as a family. And yeah, not worried. Not.at.all.

— 7 —

Let me tell you about my son Joseph. Joseph is six. Joseph is in kindergarten where he is learning how to read. And is forming opinions. Joseph is my “enforcer” child. Meaning he has the overwhelming urge to back me up with his siblings. I cannot tell you how many times I ask him to point to the Mommy in the room and tell him when I need his back-up, I will request it. He is a gamer who envisions heaven as a giant arcade. He loves Star Wars. And despite looking like his father with his blond hair, blue eyes and pale skin, he shares my big toe is the biggest toe, freckles and love of our cat.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Building the Online Tribe

I have a few friends I have never met in real life. Only online. Which sounds weird to me even now, even in this day and age. But, to be honest, these people have sustained me in innumerable ways and we all live way too far away from each other to have in-person relationships. And they honestly make me better people and make my IRL relationships stronger too. Today I’m gonna tell you about 2 of them.

Jennifer Ambrose of Ambrose-a-rama: I first ran across Jen, or Ambrose as her handle read, in the comments sections of Danielle Bean’s personal blog and Rachel Balducci’s blog. And I first read her blog in the midst of tragedy. And then, all the sudden, she was reading my blog. And I was blown away. Because I loved her writing and thought it was fascinating that she lived in China and she always seemed so COOL to me ;). Well, she joined facebook and I timidly sent a friend request. And then I realized we had a LOT in common. She might be an engineer and I might be math deficient but we are both writers. With similar tastes in movies and music. And we are both rabid sports fans. Or more importantly, rabid HOCKEY fans. We just had an awesome exchange on twitter about what language Kronwall and Teemu might be swearing at each other in during the Olympics. If you love hockey, you understand that last statement perfectly. The fact that she lives so far away, ahem Beijing ahem, means meeting in real life, probably not going to happen anytime soon. But I really wish it could because I could so see museum visits and coffee shops happening. For realz. Because sometimes, I just need someone who gets irony and dry humor…oh and who has stories about tapirs. Or just one story about one :). She has reminded me more than once that we just have to be ourselves and trust God to take care of stuff. And that really helps on the days my life is a Fellini film

Katherine of Having Left the Altar: I found Katherine through 7 Quick Takes Friday. And then she found ME on facebook after we had been following each other’s blogging for a while. Our first three children match in age and I thought that was pretty cool. She’s had two more since those days. I do love that she has ALL girls because I get to revel in that little girl madness that Shelby has sometimes and doesn’t other times. Now, Katherine and I don’t live as far apart as Jen and I do, but it’s far enough that it would take SERIOUS planning to get together and right now, neither of us is able to get it together like that! It’s funny because again, much of our lives look like opposites: she has “a lot” of kids and I have literally “a few”; she homeschools and my kids get on a bus each morning; I have more boys than girls. But we’ve shared some odd things that kind of have a “solidarity” quality. Like having October birthdays, a sincere love of geek humor and addiction to buzzfeed quizzes, and a strong dislike for the “Sign of Peace” at mass. And connections to Duke University ;). Katherine is great at helping me see what they call perspective. It’s not as bad as my run-away brain thinks it is. And Jesus loves me. Still.

The online tribe is underrated. How often do we bemoan not having more “in real life” contact and try to belittle our connections made here. And while nothing is quite the same as our in-person friends, it is a gift to know people we would otherwise have never known without this crazy thing called technology. It helps us to remember our brother is not just our mother’s son nor our neighbor we pass each morning on the way to work and not just those in front of us in the pews on Sunday. It’s people we’ve never met, people we may never meet. People who because of the advances in communication can uplift us, can encourage us and can even help improve us.

I smashed my thumb because I’m awesome

or God wanted to teach me a lesson.  That second one is probably a lot more accurate. Something about taking time and whatever.

I did it taking laundry out of the washing machine and moving it to the dryer. Yes, you read that sentence completely correctly :(. Again, I’m trying to think of it as a special talent I am awesome at despite all the evidence to the contrary.

This morning my daughter underwent surgery for dental repairs. She had to undergo general anesthesia because autism is always fun like that. Seven cavities that we couldn’t do anything about because flossing her teeth is it’s own level of hell. Super special. One crown, the rest just fillings. But she handled it like a pro. My only complaint, they had the cafe right next to the surgery check-in. Yeah let’s torture poor people already undergoing surgery :(.

Let’s turn those frowns upside down. To those who may be reading me from Conversion Diary whether you clicked the link from Jen’s post yesterday on weight loss OR you searched down to two hundred thirty something and found me. Welcome. I am honored you would light the doorway of my little corner of the interwebs. I try not to be totally morose all the time.

My mom drove down last night to help us out today because yeah moms! She put my older son on the bus and then spent the morning taking the younger son to the grocery store, coffee shop and Wal-Mart. Yes, he is the luckiest four-year-old on the planet.

Jeff took the day off to help me at the hospital. It gave him lots of time to lesson plan/grade. I was glad to have his company because although I had a great book to read (Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Feast) it is better to be worried/nervous with someone than alone.

I am so tired today physically and emotionally but my heart is full seeing my kids loving each other and praying for one another like they did last night knowing one would be doing something new and scary. I promise you a better and not so sleepy post tomorrow.

Link-Up #Fail

So apparently I was supposed to TELL YOU GUYS that I am participating in Jennifer Fulwiler’s 7 posts in 7 days

7-day-blog-challenge

 

So, um yeah. Subtle failure has been a life-motif of late. Allow me to illustrate: on Saturday I showed up to work 30 minutes early because apparently I forgot how to read my schedule last week and that the :30 means thirty minutes after the hour. Unfortunately I wasn’t needed that early so I couldn’t clock in and work. Oh, well, I had 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence in the breakroom. That was a little bit of heaven right there.

Yesterday I forgot to send Shelby’s school notebook with her. And I’ll tell you right now, it’s not integral to her day so I did not drive it to school. Yes, I am THAT mom.

And I am also detoxing from my Olympics binge. Because I am super obsessed with the Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics. There is something to love about snow culture and sports thrown together. Seriously. But through the withdrawals are posts like this and this. And pics like this that haunt but somehow also make me feel peaceful, if that makes any sense (I know, it doesn’t).

Reuters Sarajevo Bobsled

Photo credit Reuters

Yes that was the bobsled track as it was in 1984 in Sarajevo and as it is now (check out the first link for more pics specifically of Sarajevo which are even more haunting and much more tragic than this one). And if you’re like me and just like to cry a lot you should watch this profile of Paralympic swimmer Jessica Tatiana Long: Jessica Long: Long Way Home

and this one of the late Sarah Burke and her quest to get Ski half-pipe added to the Olympics: Sarah Burke Profile,

and this one of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv Hockey team and the tragedy that befell them: Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

I spent a lot of this weekend watching these and crying. Crying a lot. Good crying, but still, crying.

So, yeah, the Olympics have bowled me over again.

And I still have no idea what I can/should/will give up for Lent.

And then there also is this little matter of my daughter. Tomorrow she will have dental surgery that she will have to go under general anesthesia for, so prayers please for her and Mama and Daddy.

What else: I’ve embraced my inner-twitterer and that’s where all the fun is now. Well, there and instagram. And here. So much more here now too. What with the link-up and all.

So, is your brain jumbled enough? Good come back tomorrow. Hopefully something of substance will appear.

 

 

RIP Harold Ramis

The contrast of Katherine Heigl’s mother and Seth Rogen’s dad, played by Ramis, is striking.

“I love you totally and completely. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Thank you Harold Ramis. May you rest in peace.

What Kind of Liturgical Person are You? or Lent is HARD and I’m a whiner

I love it when I see someone say Lent is the best part of the liturgical calendar or that it is their favorite liturgical season. I think that is so awesomey-awesome.

I have tried to love Lent. I have tried eliminating less and adding more. Or eliminating a small, but suprisingly difficult thing. I have tried all kinds of pump-myself-up activities. But it all comes down to the Lent is HARD and I’m a whiner. And when I whine I feel like even more of a Lenten failure and then I whine some more. I’m just never going to be one of those people who enjoy suffering or growth. I’ll do them, sure, but I can’t make myself enjoy them. And God, you know I’ve tried.

I’ve heard people say that they are a Lent person or an Advent person or even as Kathleen Basi has said, an “Ordinary Time” person. Of those three I’m definitely an Advent person. I like preparation and like how festive the preparation is. Although Lent is also a time of preparation, it always feels so solemn to me, as it should but it is also supposed to be considered a time of joy. But I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I equate the two seasons to experiences I have had in my own life this way: Advent is like pregnancy, a build up to something spectacular and joyous with little reason to think it will not be. Lent is like watching a loved one go into hospice, although we knew the ultimate goal is heaven and the eternal reward, it still hurts to help usher a soul into it and know we will never again feel their embrace nor hear their voice in this life.

I think another issue I have with Lent is the time…six weeks. See, here’s how I stack up in terms of my favorite liturgical seasons: Advent, Triduum (I KNOW, I KNOW, I’M GOING TO ADDRESS THAT!), Easter, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent. Okay, Advent, we’ve covered now why is Triduum second? Well, it packs the most emotional punch and it does it in just three days. THREE DAYS PEOPLE! For me anything painful or hard, be it childbirth/ripping off a band-aid/or undergoing some other test I can’t think of right now, I always take the quick/more intense pain route. Perhaps that’s why one of the crosses God has given me to bear is migraines which tend to be rather drawn out affairs. You know, to teach me how to bear suffering that can sometimes be a dull stabbing over a long period of time. And I still suck at it but, life goes on and I’m still trying. Those three days of intense prayer, fasting and mass, mass, mass those are some of my most beautiful memories and some of the times I’ve physically felt my faith. But for me, with Lent, it’s not so much the sacrifice that gets to me but the fact that by the end of the six weeks, it hasn’t felt like a sacrifice for at least 2 weeks. Give up sugar in my coffee (that I don’t drink, but we’ll use it as an example) I can’t take sugar in my coffee EVER AGAIN afterward. And so it goes because I feel like I’m not giving up enough and not truly experiencing a repentant moment. And thus the reason I like adding a spiritual exercise in because when it’s all over, I have this new grace to go along with my new spiritual outlook. Or something like that.

And then, there’s what to give up. Beer and chocolate, SO overdone. And lately, so is social media, although for many it is still a worthy and noble sacrifice. As are the first two. And many moms I know are pregnant or breastfeeding so they will go with something like no sugar in the tea or something, something smaller because they need the calories and being pregnant and/or breastfeeding is difficult too. I’ve changed what I’ve given up half-way during Lent because suddenly I’ve realized there was a bigger sacrifice that  needed to be made right.this.second. And some years I’ve felt like Jen Fulwiler’s husband Joe did last year:

 “There’s nothing left to give up. My life is Lent.”

And usually it wasn’t really something so big or dramatic but hey, it felt that way in the moment. And there are years when a family member is in the hospital or there is job loss or some major catastrophe where all the sudden you take a breath and think, “wait? What? wasn’t I supposed to be giving something up?” It happens. We’re human, we get distracted. And then there is always the danger of making an idol out of our sacrifice.

So, yeah Lent is hard. It’s hard to give stuff up. It’s hard to sustain the momentum through six weeks. It’s hard to be polite about refusing something you gave up from someone who is not Catholic or just doesn’t get it. And maybe some of us NEED it to be hard and need to complain little to get through it. Because we’re human. And we need to fail sometimes. We need to be reminded as Peter was in Matthew 18 of just how sinful we really are.

So, sigh, I’m not a Lent person…I’m just not. But it’s coming whether I am mentally prepared or not. Whether I want it or not because I need it. All of it.