Tuesday, May 31, 2011

a simple wedding- a perfect MARRIAGE

Thirteen years ago today, husband and I got married. And we still are.

Oh- you want details!

Even the simplest of weddings can get complicated. I was almost late (not because I was getting hair and nails done- no money for that) because I was searching the town for lady finger cookies to go with the honey that represents the sweetness of life. Husband was almost late because brother-in-law was cutting his hair. The bishop made the wedding almost late because of all his vestments. But I think we started on time.

We got married on Pentecost Sunday, so our wedding was about two and a half hours long. Most Byzantine weddings are simply the wedding; there is no actual Divine Liturgy. Even so, the crowning is about an hour long. Ours was longer because of the bishop and it being Sunday and just me insisting that there would be a Divine Liturgy. The complication? Our cantor was unable to be there, so husband and I cantored our own wedding- except for some singing from a couple from the old country and the bishop singing the epistle (no- that is not a Byzantine tradition- just him saving the day).

Although we had the wedding at my parents' Roman Catholic parish (a very pretty country church with its original statuary), the ceremony and Divine Liturgy was 100% Byzantine. About half of the wedding party was Roman-rite, so there was a lot to learn. So, the night before, we had a rehearsal and then went to the local bowling alley for fun, along with a pot of old country cabbage rolls I had made.

The 'simple' part of the wedding was the party afterward (because a Byzantine ceremony is never simple). When you are young and after four years in Europe making a $100 stipend per month (memory fades; I think that is right), there is no money for all that a wedding can be. So, we had a little party in the church basement. There was no alcohol even though- if husband had been married in the old country- there is a barrel of hard liquor made when he was a small boy in preparation of his wedding. Food was buffet style; I hear it was good. I did have a pretty pinata for the children in remembrance of my Southern Californian childhood. The cake was from the local grocery store, and the topper never made it to the hall. I stuck a rose on the top of the cake instead.

We saved money- but not our sanity- by having my brother be in charge of the music. Unfortunately, our wedding was his first date with his future wife. I'll get over it someday, but I think he was distracted and in a silly mood. First, he played the nine-minute version of the "Blue Danube Waltz." People got bored, and we were sweating. Then, he played "Let's Get It On" by Barry White. And we had to dance to that on front of our bishop. Haha, very funny, brother. We tried to get our revenge the next year at his wedding, but they didn't care.

But for all the simplicity, the only true regret is that husband's family was not there. At the time, entry visas to the United States from the old country were very hard to come by. And we didn't have the money for the airplane tickets in any case. Visas are still required, so my in-laws have never been here. A wedding, four births and baptisms- they have never been here. We have been 4 or 5 times since the children have been born (imagine me alone and four kids on a 14-hour flight...my husband at home, working). We imagine our fifteenth anniversary in two years with a big party and all four grandparents. We hope and pray that can happen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

memento mori

Remember your death- this is the manner in which Carthusians monks would greet a fellow brother. They weren't being morbid; they were reminding their brother to live his life in the prism of the final things- death judgement, Heaven, hell. Today, this Memorial Day & with tragic stories of families destroyed coming from the ornado-wracked south east. All I have to offer is prayer....

Give rest, O our Savior, with the Just, to Your servants, and set them in Your courts, as it is written. And overlook in Your goodness their sins, voluntary and involuntary, and all they committed knowingly and unknowingly, O Lover of men. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. Christ our God, Who did shine on the world from the Virgin, through her making us children of light, have mercy on us.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Your servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting. You alone are immortal, who did make and mold man. But we mortals were formed from earth, and to the earth we return, as You who created me did command and say to me, "You are dust, and to the dust shall you return," where all we mortals are going, and for a funeral dirge we make the song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Praying for all the fallen this memorial day in the United States

Friday, May 27, 2011

Have yourself a made-in-China-free Christmas

Someday, I am going to be a radically perfect woman who eats all organic from my personal farm, makes most clothes from hand-woven cloth and buys only fair trade goods. That day is not today. I believe in small changes for the betterment of my immediate family and can simply hope that other families are doing even more and believing in the 'let peace begin with me' way of life.

I have been pretty successful with not buying Christmas and Easter decor from anti-Christian China for the past few years, and I am going to continue. Yes, other countries are also not-so-perfect, but I am starting somewhere. And China is such a giant of  industry, it makes other anti-Christian countries' seem like ants in their efforts to compete. In any case, if I don't start somewhere, I will be paralyzed and do nothing.  Here are some ideas I am going to use that you also might find helpful

1. If you want to join me in reducing your purchases from Chinese manufacturers for Christmas time, we have to start planning now! Make a budget & decide with immediate and extended family about gifts, special meals and travel.

2. Go handmade or thrifted- start with ebay, etsy, and maybe craigslist for ideas for gifts. Buy as you go along. Etsy is a treasure trove of endless handmade delights. So be careful with the pocketbook. You can even have something created only for you with artists competing for your project. You can't do this in December, so start now.

3. Once again, organization is key. Keep a box in your closet for the presents you have already bought (perhaps one box for presents to be mailed and one box for presents that will stay in the house). Duct tape the shopping bag closed for each gift and maybe use a sharpie pen to label it in secret code. I don't wrap until December. Keep a list in your wallet of the people that you have gotten a gift for so you don't forget (ask me how I know)

4. It's hard to feel creative now- school is wrapping up & summer can be the busiest season of all, but start planning and making handmade gifts now. I'm going through all my wayward crafting and sewing items and starting from there. My extended family doesn't 'need' anything, so they will be getting either consumable items or sentimental stuff that they can't get rid of! My family isn't the type that exchanges the latest electronic gadget so there isn't pressure to spend a lot- but I have to get packages in the mail early to save money and stress. My goal is to finish all the gifts before November15th- the beginning of St Phillip's Fast (Advent)

5. Buy less, reuse more, fix what is broken, take care of what you have, find ideas for Advent & Christmas now in blog archives and start now, tell kids they will have an experience (riding lessons, skating party with friends after Christmas day, picnic & movie with dad, visit to grandma's, tea with auntie, etc, etc) rather than an I-Pad 2 like their next-door neighbors, choose a good charity and donate with the children, make some simple quilts for the local crisis pregnancy center, choose a family on the giving tree (but still steer clear of junkish toys) decorate with less and it will be more elegant, clean out the pantry and bake with the entire family- everyone cleans up, bring back bringing plates of cookies to neighbors and co-workers (find a good sugar cookie recipe and then sprinkle in different color-easy), plan to find your place in church & volunteer your time & talents

6. Click on the 'China' topic at the bottom of this post for older posts on this topic. I am probably repeating myself, but I feel strongly about this issue.

7. Just to let readers know, I do not look a gift horse in the mouth and inspect things given to me to see if it was made in China. Not everyone is concerned with this issue, and I am not where I want to be yet- I'm going to try to take the plank out of my eye first. It is a challenge to not buy from China. It is basically impossible when one is on a budget. But I believe we should attempt to reduce our dependence on Chinese manufactured goods as we should reduce dependence on foreign oil. So maybe all we can do right now is walk more and thrift more.

Reasons to Boycott Chinese Made Goods  

with permission from deltaflute.blogspot.com

1) Safety- there have been toys testing positive for lead paint and tainted dog food

2) China frequently imprisons political dissidents who want democracy in China

3) China has hacked into Google and continues to pose a threat to security in the Pentagon

4) China is placing long range missiles to target Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam

5) China dominates the Yellow Sea

6) China sends spies to the United States

7) China invaded and continues to occupy Tibet destroying its culture.

8) China lays claim to Taiwan despite the Taiwanese having an independent government.

9) China is a Communist country with only one political party.

10) China heavily restricts religious freedom.

11) China heavily restricts freedom of speech and information.

12) Many American companies have set up shop in China leaving the US factory worker without a job.

13) China has a one-child only policy. This forces Chinese to make the painful decision to abort or have to support another child on their own.

14) Unfair labor conditions for the average Chinese worker

Thursday, May 26, 2011


a pretty baby being baptised
happy times with some of the cousins
fake tarantulas are always funny, right?
at a museum remembering life under communism

find many more PrettyHappyFunnyReal links at like mother like daughter

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strong Cheesy Opinions

I'm 'in' a wedding in less than two weeks! I'm not really certain how I can be since I have been unsuccessful in finding a babysitter to wrangle my two little ones during the nuptial Mass, but it is what it is. No matter what, it will be a very joyous, sacramental occasion celebrating the union of a lovely, committed couple.

Planning a wedding brings out the opinions in people, don't they? I got what I wanted- modest, pretty dresses for my two big girls who are junior bridesmaids. After that, the bride can do whatever she pleases! Well, others have not been as easy to please as I...(please read a bit of humor & self-deprecation into my egoism...)

Half of the guests are from the old country, and they will need substantial food to get them through the half hour necessary for photo taking between the Divine Liturgy and the dinner (actually, if they fasted in preparation for the Liturgy, they will be objectively hungry). The bride & groom are paying for the food, and some volunteers are helping with the church hall reception.

Discussing the menu, the bride told the man in charge of the kitchen her plans for the appetizers. This is how the conversation went- word for word:

Bride: For appetizers, we'll have salami and this ham I got on sale along with vegetables like roasted peppers and homemade pickled vegetables and some dips my mom is making to go with bread. And we'll have-- various ethnic foods that I don't know the English for-- on the buffet table for people to eat while we take pictures. And we will have feta cheese and swiss cheese.

John: I don't like swiss cheese.

Bride: Well, the swiss cheese is on sale and money is tight.

John: I don't know anyone who likes swiss cheese.

Bride: (laughing) Well, Groom and I like swiss cheese!

John: Swiss cheese is just too strong.

Bride: (trying to smile) Well, we already bought it because it was on sale.

John: Ugh. Swiss cheese.

Me: (smiling & waving & changing the subject) What's your favorite cheese, John?

John: I don't eat cheese. I'm lactose-intolerant.  

(Swiss cheese isn't my favorite- but I will be eating lots of it at the wedding!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

to be Samaritan & find Jesus

Having come to the well by faith, the Samaritan woman beheld Thee, the Water of Wisdom, of which she drank lavishly, and inherited the kingdom on high, where her praises are sung eternally.
source: archangelsbooks.com
We are still singing Christ is Risen throughout the Divine Liturgy, and last Sunday was the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman. It is a long Gospel, and Father sings it in two languages. I pray that those who do not speak both languages will use the time to meditate on the Gospel's meaning when Father is singing in the language they don't understand.

Read the passage I added below- what do you focus on? Do you focus on Christ's boldness and compassion, talking to a woman and speaking truth to her? Do you focus on her isolation, coming to the well when she knows that no other women will be about? Do you focus on the concepts of living water? Do you focus on Christ's relationships with His disciples? Do you focus in the woman's conversion and her later evangelization of her townspeople? Do you remember the story of Joseph and Jacob in the Old Testament?

I think about all these things and more, but last Sunday, I reflected primarily on the 'it is never too late' aspect of this Gospel. Because the woman was open to listening to Christ, she got over the isolating (as a Samaritan) and sinful (as a five times married woman now living with a man not her husband) life and is now remembered as a woman who brought many to Christ. Tradition says that she died a martyr along with her children. Heroic virtue is possible even after a life that is not so virtuous.  
 4 Now Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)
 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
   Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
   21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”  27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”   34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. ---Gospel of St John the Evangelist Chapter 4
 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

no rapture, not smug

It is a rare occurrence when 'conservative' Catholics are on the same page as atheists and cynical, secular talk show hosts. But it happened this weekend when the 'Rapture' did not happen this Saturday- taking good evangelicals up to Heaven, leaving Catholics, Jews and others behind. Saturday night, some people had 'left behind parties' to get drunk and snicker at those silly Bible Christians who would actually believe in Christ and hope for His second coming.

Now, I can get as frustrated as any Catholic with the selective nature of evangelical belief- the biggest example being that God created the world in six 24-hour days but the Eucharist isn't the Body and Blood of Christ (even though Jesus is literal- "Many people found it a hard teaching and left Him"). And it seems a bit tiring that a large group of evangelicals demonize the Catholic faith for using sacred tradition in addition to the Bible when they are using the very new words of a minister like Camping.

Why are people so interested in doomsday theology? We can guess that people are uneducated and easy to manipulate (did Camping give away all the money his ministry collected?). A lot of spirituality comes with fear attached to it. I want to get to heaven and see my Savior's face as much as the Camping crowd. But I must cling to the hope that living a life of virtue and using the Sacraments as help to achieve a life of virtue will prepare me for my death and God's judgement of my life.

Obsession with the rapture is a way to shield oneself from the reality of ones death. If God has chosen me and the rapture comes, then I don't need to worry about the isolation of death and that lonely walk that all must do alone. We Byzantine Catholics believe that Mary, the Mother of God was shielded from the power of death and simply 'fell asleep' before she was assumed into heaven- body and soul. She is the only one with this singular privilege because she was conceived without sin and is the Theotokos. The rest of us must do our duty and pray to be prepared for our death, whenever that might come.

for a post with more 'meat'- click here to read deltaflute's take on the 'rapture'

Saturday, May 21, 2011

FirstWorld Problems- 7 QuickTakes

After a week-long break from the computer...

1. Why is it that googling "Saint Dominic Savio" and clinking on a supposedly reputable website caused my laptop to crash? I am now in safe mode...trying to patch up this machine

2. Why didn't the computer nerd at 'Computer Nerds' suggest that I start the computer in safe mode and work from there? Oh yes! He saw my desperation and two little kids hanging from my skirt and the possible $200 he would make. Luckily, I called my brother-in-law who reminded me of safe mode. I might still need to pay for help, but at least I am doing something

3. In non-problem news, we got a very nice, new-to-us van. So then we proceeded to drive six hours to a conference for father. And I insisted that the little kids drink only water in the car. You would have thought I had told the children that they would be going without food for a week. Oh, the humanity!

4. When we were talking money at the dealership, father had a small ding on his credit- a $30 bill for the second year of a domain name for a website that he had never started. He forgot to cancel the cyberspace deal and they told the credit reporting agency. Let me just say.....ARGH.

5. Packing for our vacation/father's conference, we brought four tomatoes that we didn't want to spoil at home. Did we remember to eat them in the hotel? No- but they made their way back home and we ate them Thursday night. We needed fresh veggies after all that traveling food.

6. I think I threw out the system restore discs to this computer when I recycled the box. It is a 'first world problem'- nothing like what many people in the world deal with every day, but our house is too small to keep random stuff 

7. Last 'problem' of the day- I really hope that Person of Interest (with Michael Emerson & Jim Cavizel!) is a success come Fall and that it will be available on the internet (assuming that I get my computer woes fixed by then)...I haven't had a TV show to be excited about since Lost

Is there a patron saint of computer fixing? This is getting frustrating...or  maybe I'll stay in safe mode forever

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blog Break

Blogger swallowed some posts...I'll get over it, but I'll be taking a short break from blogging---see you Friday for Quick Takes!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

smiling & waving

This priest's wife has deeply saddened and disappointed a beloved parishioner. She can't bring herself to talk to me and so she must turn to the president of the parish council for counsel. What have I done?

During Bright Week, I sent out this email invite for an after-Liturgy lunch celebrating Father's birthday the next Sunday:

Christ is Risen! Cristos a inviat!
You are invited to:
Divine Liturgy & Dinner celebrating Fr---'s 37th birthday

April 30th 5:30 Divine Liturgy & 7:00 Dinner
--- Chapel at the corner of  ---
May 1st 11:30 Divine Liturgy & 1:00 Lunch
--- Church

Your presence is your gift- Bring a dish to share and a guest

Just a bit of harmless fun (so I thought) and an excuse to invite semi-regular parishioners back to church (yes- there is church outside of Easter and Christmas). The saddened parishioner in question was disappointed that I didn't BCC all the names to whom I emailed the invite (in 15 years of emailing, I have never BCCed and I never received a complaint- but I suppose I was wrong all along). I made a huge error in that I just emailed the invite and people could see the other email addresses. She shared her concerns with the president of the council who shared it with my husband who talked to me. 

So officially, I still don't know. But now I know why she wouldn't speak to me last Sunday. I assumed that she was upset on Mother's Day because she has lost her mother in the past year. That is probably still a big part of it, but when a woman barely says 'hi' when she normally kisses and hugs you and fawns over your children, you know something is up.

Seeing this written down, it seems so silly. But this is my life. I try so hard to be friendly and helpful, but things like this can still come back and bite. I know when I have been sinful, but this wasn't one of those times. The Bible states that if someone sins against you, you go directly to that person and confront them. If the person doesn't apologize and doesn't try to make amends, then you go to the elders. I wish I had the chance to apologize before this became a wedge in our relationship. I don't know how far it has gone- so do I just 'smile and wave?' 

Monday, May 9, 2011

in the mommyhood

If you give a mom a muffin, she'll want some coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
The coffee will get spilled by her three year old.
She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she'll find some dirty socks.
She'll remember that she has to do some laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer, she'll trip over some shoes and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her that she has to plan a supper for tonight.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook (101 Things with Hamburger)
The cookbook is under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill that is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook
The checkbook is in her purse that is getting dumped out by her two year old.
Mom will smell something funny.
While she is changing the two year old, the phone will ring.
Her five year old will pick up and hang up the phone.
She will remember that she wants to phone a friend to come over for coffee on Friday.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some more.
And chances are,
if she has a cup of coffee, 
her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

Last Friday, Boy's preschool held a "Mommies and Muffins" party.  I received a wonderfully handpainted flower pot from my son; we sat and ate muffins and juice before his class began. The school gave us cards with the above poem, inspired by the funny book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. A great half hour was had by all! He is growing up- but Boy is sweetness and light  right now at four years old. We are still working on the whining.

Friday, May 6, 2011

random stuff Mom did right- 7 QuickTakes

It's not easy being a mom. We second-guess ourselves and then our kids have to deal with us not being perfect. In celebration of Mother's Day- I wanted to write a bit about what my mom did right. This is random, quick (hence "Quick Takes") and I am probably missing the most important things...

1. She stayed home- Not all moms can or want to stay home, but it was good for us five children for mom to be there for us all the time...we should have helped more with laundry and such, though.

2. She listened to her gut- In 9th grade, I was attending a public high school with over 2,000 students. Mom decided to walk the halls & look in my locker. Well- the next year, I went to Catholic school (she didn't find anything bad in my locker; she just couldn't imagine me staying in that place).

3. She is always happy when another kid comes- She had 5 and she is up to 20 grandchildren and hopes for more. The world sighs when another child comes, but she rejoices.

4. She waited in lines for us- For four summers, I got to participate in a great theater program because she waited in line in the early, early morning to reserve a space. 

5. She makes stuff- She's not as crafty as some, but I remember making strawberry jam, canning peaches, and other yummy stuff. She made me two quilts that I use all the time. And her cooking is splendid.

6. She is adventurous- Once upon a time, she took a husband, 4 kids and 2 dogs on a road trip to find a better life. Dad drove the little Ford truck, and she drove the wagon with an 8 foot trailer. And we found a better life.

7. She (and Dad) are open to the Holy Spirit- we all became Catholic when I was 12...it is a long story for another day and another post, but all 5 children, 5 spouses and all the grandkids are grateful to Mom especially for saying yes to God and the Church and being a wonderful example of a Godly woman.
I love you, Mom!

 find many more quick takes at conversiondiary.com!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

PrettyHappyFunnyReal WORDS

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.(A Prayer in Spring- R. Burns)

All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united. (Blessed Margaret d'Youville)

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater's been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or--
Huh? You say it's mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar! (Messy Room- Silverstein)

"How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." (Gilbert, of course)

round button chicken

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to be Perfectly Okay with Self-Care on Sundays

Are you ready to say "Priest's Wife- quit it with all the advice! We go to Auntie Leila for the good stuff!" What I say to that is: She is supreme at advice and inspiration, and I just aspire to someday be worthy of wiping her counters with her thrifted vintage linens. In the meantime: I have advice on how to be perfectly okay at some level with self-care on Sundays! Again, some of this advice will work for any mom, some I failed at and have learned my lesson, some I never really had a problem with, and some I still fail miserably at- here we go again...

Get some sleep in preparation of a church day- You might be tempted to stay up late with the latest episode of Downtown Abbey, but studies show it is good to be unplugged for an hour before sleep. How about some chamomile tea and backgammon instead (I'm talking to you, Priest's Wife)?

Wake up before the kids on a church day- this will give you time to take a shower if you prefer a morning one. Put in your earrings; you will forget otherwise. You might even enjoy a quiet cup of coffee listening to non-angry birds! I prefer not to read the paper until after we get back from church- too negative.

Listen to calm music on the way to church- We have been getting in the habit of praying a rosary for our bishop on the way back from church. It makes the drive more peaceful.

Pack some toiletries and a change of clothes-  We drive a long way to church and we tend to stay there once we get there. There is no going back home to change if we decide to play soccer or if the baby has an accident all over. I am thinking of investing in some non-wrinkling travel skirts to save ironing (or non-ironing) chaos. 

Make sure the sink is shining & food is waiting at home-  Depending on the age of your children, maybe you didn't shine the sink or cook. Delegate! But maybe you did do the dishes and threw a chicken in the crockpot. This is your treat to yourself when you get home after a busy day. Kim commented that her husband likes to invite guests over after Liturgy and she has two really small children. Be prepared with easy things to fix (how to prepare for surprise guests  in an hour on Good Friday {!!!}- hummus and rye crisps for appetizers, black beans and rice, fresh cabbage and carrot salad, red peppers and pickles from jars-- with big girls quickly straightening up the house)

In order for a Mom's personal prayer life to exist-
  • Make an effort to read the assigned readings for the day (and Troparions if you are Byzantine)- sometimes (always) it is difficult to focus in church while the babies are squirming.
  • Consider having the bigger kids take the littlest kids out of church when the Divine Liturgy is over and have five minutes of prayer time to yourself. Then, go in a socialize at coffee hour.
  • Go to confession as often as you can. For Catholic clergy wives, it is helpful to confess to a priest who understands the Eastern rites even though you will probably be meeting with a Western-rite priest. For other Christian clergy wives, I bet it would be helpful to meet with other pastor's wives or maybe a pastor who is not your husband to decompress and get a bit of counseling (wrong word- but you know what I mean).
  • Offer up any duties lovingly performed for the greater glory of God. But you knew that already!...a Byzantine-style prayer rope is also a great way to get snippets of prayer into daily life...with the Jesus Prayer, it just keeps going, you never finish it...so it is okay when a mom is interrupted by her duties.
Please put your fabulous ideas on being a spiritually okay mom in the comment box!

How to be a Perfect Mom (& Priest's Wife)

Are you still here? Good- because I have more advice on how to be perfect! Again, some of this advice will work for any mom, some I failed at and have learned my lesson, some I never really had a problem with, and some I still fail miserably at- here we go again...

Your attitude determines your kids' attitudes (gulp.)- If you are glum and bitter about being flexible on holidays, your children will be, too. If you gossip about a parishioner, they will have negative words to say, too. If you complain about fasting, of course the children are going to have bad attitudes! It is difficult and sometimes embarrassing; children are mirrors of their parents- especially in the early years. Try to make life an adventure and they will be more likely to keep the faith when they are adults.

Don't expect your kids to be more organized than you (gulp again.)- Do you expect your children to make their beds while your own bedroom is messy? I am guilty of this. I am working on this. I definitely feel more peaceful and satisfied with our little house when it is clean and organized. And it is much easier to help with parish life when we can find the bulletins or music books or stationary supplies.

Little pitchers have big ears-This is where the chamomile tea with husband comes in- really try to shield your children against the harsh realities of life while you can. Do they need to know that their father baptized yet another child at the hospital who wouldn't make it through the night? Will they benefit if they know that a parishioner said something negative to me? I try to be charitable in my speech in general- and especially when the children are listening.

Model respect for differences- My kids know that I wish everyone were Christian and Catholic and more were of the Byzantine variety. They also know that there are bits of truth everywhere and we as a family are not going to condemn anyone. I might judge someone's behavior but I cannot (thank God) judge a  person's soul. I hope my kids are getting the idea that God really loves everyone. A practical way of modeling respect for differences is not allowing our children to ridicule other cultures. My girls are singing a song in Hebrew for choir, and the boys in the group (of course) were exaggerating the 'ch' sound and pretending to spit. My girls just sang the song beautifully- I was proud of them

Help them cultivate friendships with other priest's kids- We are a rare breed. Use email, Skype and snail mail so that your kids are not the only ones.

Help them cultivate friendships with kids from the parish and not from the parish- My big girls go to Little Flowers with friends from our Catholic homeschooling group. None of these girls have been to our missions, so my daughters conform to the Western-rite ways when they are there. They have a great time with these solidly Catholic pre-teens, but it is also nice to be with friends who are of the same rite and whose parents come from the same old country where it is strange when a priest isn't married with kids. I think having friends from both groups is important to my children's tolerance of diversity and their future in America that is not Eastern-rite. They need to be able to respond and deal with the comment- "Your Dad's a PRIEST?!" But they also need a break from the Western way of looking at things.

Help them find their niche at church-  As your children get older, they will (hopefully) be willing and able to serve in different capacities at church. Encourage them and remind them that just because their father is in a position of greatest influence does not mean that they can be a 'mini'- boss. And just like you, their obligation as they get older is to participate (my mother insisted that we sing at Mass even when we were semi-sullen teenagers- we obeyed and survived) in the Liturgy. Every other task is a gift to the parish and should be their choice to make.

Pray with them & Pray for them- PKs should be guided in their relationship with God. Yes, they are always in church and they participate in the life of the church.  This leads parents to have a false sense of security. Parents- don't relax. Satan just loves scandal and is trying to trip us up- be vigilant. Help your children have a personal relationship with God.

A few random ideas on making church days run smoothly-
  • Buy a van- I suppose SUVs are 'cooler,' but there is nothing worse than having to tell a parishioner that your child smashed their car while opening a car door. Sliding doors, je t'aime.
  • Figure out how you can refrain from buying stuff on Sundays- it is just more peaceful staying out of the Temple of Stuff on Sundays. Have dinner waiting in a crockpot, freeze yogurt overnight and bring to church (it will be yummily semi-frozen for a quick snack when services are over), get gas the night before, & pretend you live in rural Europe where stores are closed on Sundays and people prepare for it- Sunday comes every week!
  • Lay everyone's clothes (socks, undies and shoes as well!) out the night before. My mother did this; it probably helped her sanity with five children. My sister with all those boys is quite organized- the boys always wear khakis. Their wardrobe is limited, but they always look respectful and put together.
  • Yesterday I wrote that you might have a box ready and waiting for church days, filling it with things along the way. If you have really young ones, make sure the box has a tight fitting lid or they will undo your work and bulletins and linens will be scattered throughout the house.
  • ANY MOM- Please write YOUR go-to tips on getting out of the house Sunday morning peacefully in the comments below.
& yes- sometimes even the priest's kids just need to "smile and wave."

source: dreamworks

One aspect of being a good priest's wife has been missing yesterday and today- self care (it isn't selfishness!). So I guess I am not finished with this series...more to come...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to be the Perfect Priest's Wife

This weekend, I got an email from a future priest's wife who said she likes my blog (who knew?!), and it got me to thinking: 

What do I wish I knew then that I know now after two years of diaconate and almost 10 years of sharing this life with my priest-husband? Some of this advice will work for any mom, some I failed at and learned my lesson, some I never really had a problem with, and some I still fail miserably at- here goes...

Make peace with 'octaves' - Christmas & Easter are his (and your) busiest times. Find a way to make it work. He might have to minister to the sick on your anniversary; be accepting and celebrate before the octave of the holiday is over.This might be the most important advice I can give. Mother's day won't be 'all yours'- you might be busy in the kitchen making a luncheon for the other women in the parish. But you can be smart about it. The parish men can plan something for the women for Mother's Day, and the women can reciprocate on Father's Day. There is no point to being gloomy and bitter because your husband has to minister to a believer on a day that is important to you. Just make a 'deal' that you two will celebrate before the octave is over. I also find chamomile tea on the balcony is a good way to unwind without being far away from the kids and spending money.

Find your niche- One of the hardest things about being a priest's wife is that you might be expected to fulfill duties that you have neither the time nor the talent for. Tread lightly, but do what you are good at. If you sing, sing. If you are an amazing cook, then cook. Maybe you can be the new party planner. If your believers are a bit 'prickly' at first because they are afraid they will lose their 'jobs,' then start slowly by working behind the scenes on the webpage and bulletins. Let's say that your parish is well-formed and all of the lay people are happy with how they contribute. You might get into a lot of trouble if you replace someone- so start something totally new. Maybe there hasn't been a Vacation Bible School in years and you could work on that- or maybe you speak the old world language and could teach a 'culture' class or perhaps you could organize a knitting/sewing ministry. The choices are endless, and the choice is yours. The only obligation you have is to participate in the Divine Liturgy like every lay person in the parish.

Help your husband- Is your husband a bit absent-minded (not mine)? Take his cellphone from him before the Divine Liturgy starts! It is always a good idea to have a box that gets filled with things to bring to church; it's impossible to remember everything when one is running around in the morning. Depending on timing, have a very simple breakfast waiting for him- some people do a very strict fast, but our Sunday Liturgy is finished at 1:00 in the afternoon at the earliest. I drive the way to Liturgy (it's a hour one way) so he can relax, read or take phone calls.  It is up to you and your husband to balance out responsibilities as parents and spouses (yes, he can do the dishes)- but church days won't seem very balanced. He will be very busy fulfilling his duties as a deacon or priest, and you might feel 'alone,' but you aren't. Fulfill your specific duties as wife and mother, and you will feel accomplished. After a busy day, help your husband decompress. Sometimes we play a bit of soccer in the church parking lot with a small group of parishioners who stay after the meal and the clean-up and the after clean-up talking.

Pray with your husband- more prayer?! You might feel like you are always praying, but that is public prayer. It is a great idea to have a prayer life with your husband.

Pray with your family- Tomorrow I will write more about the mom-side of being the 'perfect' priest's wife, but one needs to be reminded to help children towards a good prayer life. Having the kids be in Mass with the family is not enough. It can lull one into a false sense of security.

Never discuss money, ever- A few years back, a parishioner heard me complaining about the price of gas (over $3! little did I know...) to another parishioner. The person who overheard assumed that I was complaining about the amount of the stipend that they gave my priest-husband. No, I was simply complaining about the price of gas. She never looked at me the same way since, and she talked badly to other churchgoers about me and my kids. I learned my lesson after that kerfuffle. I was always careful to never touch the money basket or to participate in stewardship council meetings. But now, I don't even comment on how much the chicken cost. It is what it is.

Use emergency hand signals- You have a kid with a blown-out diaper and you must leave the Liturgy. He is on the phone- is it important that you should tolerate this interruption or does he want your help in getting off the phone? He is talking to someone in the sacristy- does he need to go hear confession or is it just small talk? Semi-secret hand signals would be helpful in these situations so that you can do an immediate about-face if he is dealing with a confidential crisis.

Don't be your husband's secretary- Jen- a Lutheran pastor's wife- has a great post on this subject...maybe Jen can post a link in the comments! ;) But the important thing to remember is this- let's say someone comes up to you and says "tell Fr. my family will have a memorial service for John after Liturgy next week." Now, this is only 10 minutes long and they provide the bread and wine. It's not that big of a deal. But they should talk directly to their priest. There might be issues of scheduling, Liturgical propriety, confidentiality, but also- I might forget to relay the message! Maybe they told me to pass on the message as I was going to change that fore-mentioned blown-out diaper on the toddler with the four-year old whining at my feet. So- learn to say- "Please talk directly with Father"

Make an effort to be social with everyone- I wrote that Divine Liturgy ends at 1 PM or later on Sundays. My husband won't be eating anything until 2 because he is busy talking to every person in the coffee room. I can learn a lot from him. As an introvert, I might rather be busy in the kitchen or sit with a friend or two or be occupied with the children. I make an effort- which always ends up being pleasant- to greet everyone, starting with the older ladies.

Never gossip or be around gossipy discussions and quit it with the negative humor- this might go without saying, but run the other way if people start gossiping- maybe they will learn from you and change the subject.

Realize that you cannot please everyone all the time- sometimes you have to make like a Madagascar penguin and "smile and wave."

Tomorrow: How to be a perfect ClergyWifeMom and Preparing for Sunday & other busy days