Friday, January 27, 2012

Christianity did it better- 7 Quicktakes

Compare Mozart's Requiem to Tupac's Life Goes On
Compare Chartres Cathedral and the Hagia Sofia to the UN headquarters
Compare the protest song of Michael Card to Bob Dylan's.
Compare Frida Khalo's icon-like Double-Self Portrait to Morley's street art.

Priest's wife- why are you getting down on Tupac, the UN, Bob Dylan of all people and a humble LA-based street artist (who happens to be a first-cousin), you ask? Well, there is a lot to like with the non-Christianity-inspired (my label) art that is in my examples. The street art is optimistic. The UN headquarters is glossy and practical. Bob Dylan and Tupac (as timeless as Mozart- I'm not so sure) are genius in their style of music. But I will offer that these examples are not informed by a Christian/Catholic/Orthodox view of creation. They are post-Christian works of art.

Art doesn't need to be old (Michael Card is a modern singer). Art doesn't need to be Western (overwhelm yourself with the beauty of Coptic, Indian and Byzantine icons, music and architecture). The artist doesn't need to be a good Christian (Frida had her problems), but it can help (once again, icon writers usually fast and pray while working). Art is more 'successful' in its aims when it is a manifestation of God's creation. That doesn't mean it has to be pretty. 

Priest's wife- you haven't answered my question- you say. What's with the depressing quick takes? Well....this week my husband was informed that his hospital's parent company has decided to shake off those pesky Catholic bishops and no longer be a ministry of the Catholic Church. While his specific hospital will remain Catholic for now (about 2/3 of the network will remain Catholic), the network will no longer need to abide by catholic ethics and moral teaching. It is hard to do business in a post-Christian, now-Obama world. 

Compare and contrast: 100 years ago, seven sisters in full habits traveled from Ireland to the Western part of the United States to open a small hospital. The hospital became a center for hope for everyone- all colors and creeds. It was nothing fancy, but they worked hard to make a difference. Now, the sisters who were affiliated with this network have signed away their legacy because it is simply easier to not be Catholic and have all those rules.

I would contend that God (not just those bishops) isn't thrilled with sterilization, abortion, IVF and cardiac-death transplant harvesting . But by the smiles of some of the people going through this corporate-level change, you would think that God is rejoicing that some of these hospitals will be free to perform these 'procedures.' So this week has been one of melancholy and panic at 'casa priest's wife.'

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wisdom for all ages

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta

If I can bring myself to write, I might explain why I posted this quotation from Blessed Teresa. But for now, it is important for us all to take this to heart 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Babies are...(a replay)

So, if babies are not the enemy, why does the United States abort minimally 846,181 pregnancies (In 2006, 846,181 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). I chose this statistic because I am sure it minimizes the impact of abortion so I could not be accused of bias) a year? What are the causes for so many abortions- many sources putting the abortion number at 1.5 million per year. If babies are not the enemy, what is?
  • poverty
  • a promiscuous society and
  • general dehumanization are a few reasons why abortions are so common.

Although women can and must always choose good over evil, staring at an empty cupboard must make it more difficult to choose life. Living in a society where there are very few good jobs which don't require higher education (an education that is financially out of reach for much of the U.S. population) also contributes to this poverty. Times have changed. When I was a young child, there were four kids, only my dad worked (at a job which did not require a college degree), and we had a house and a half acre to play around in. Now, living in the same area, my four kids have a townhouse with a cement patio even though they have a mom with a Master's degree who works part-time and a dad with two Master's who has a good full-time job. We are by no means poor, but it seems to be harder to earn a good living nowadays. 

I was picking up my big girls from choir when there was a debate over music perferences. My girls said they enjoy classical music along with Elton John and the Beach Boys. A few of the kids made fun of them; I tried to be a cool mom and suggested to them that they go to youtube and find the 'backing up song.' Basically, it shows how talking can be turned into a pop song with a computer and autotune. A cute little boy- the one who still sings the soprano parts- mentioned that Katy Perry uses auto-tune more than Lady Gaga. Says he: Gaga is the true artist whose meat dress will soon be in a museum. It is a promiscuous society that allows an eight-year old boy to listen to and watch the videos of these two so-called artists. When a good boy with an intact family finds their music and videos to be acceptable, we are setting ourselves up for acceptance of evil- one of those evils being abortion. 

A 6-pound baby was found in the garbage today, just another news item on the radio. My last baby was 4 pounds, and her neighbor in the NICU was born just under 2 pounds. So, this is personal; I admit it. When a society condones the dehumanization of the smallest, weakest and oldest, it is a sick society. Yes, the ancient Spartans would expose an imperfect child to the elements, but aren't we supposed to be better than that now? For believers, we are all sanctified by Christ. We are made in God's image, so all life is sacred. For others, science shows us that humans develop from a fertilized egg and are always human. The fetus, no matter how small, never was something other than human. But in the early months, the baby looks strange, so we can destroy the life? Analyze a two-year old's face. His proportions are different than a teenager's. Then, compare the teenager with a middle-aged adult. They will also look different from each other, but they look the way they do because of the stage of development they are in.

My theme needs to be developed much more- Red Cardigan's blog is a good pro-life blog to peruse. I just find it sad and ironic every year that Roe v Wade and Martin Luther King Day are so close to one another. Would Dr King be pleased (as Obama celebrated Roe V Wade so his daughters will have choices) that so many African-Americans, a disproportionate number, do not exist because of abortion? He had to know the work of Margaret Sanger, founder of the eugenic Birth Control League, later named Planned Parenthood. King's niece now makes it her life's mission to speak out against abortion, perhaps to heal from the pain of having had two abortions herself. The mercy of God is so great! One last thing...

"There are currently 15,000 mentions of Jared Loughner [shot down 6 in Arizona 2 weeks ago] in the news recently, according to Google. But as of Sunday night there are less than 1,400 mentions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell [soon to be on trial for the murder of two women and for murdering seven babies who survived abortions]. That’s 10 percent. Truly, silence is the deadliest bias." (Creative Minority Report)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Owls Everywhere- 7 QuickTakes

I am loving all the owl fun out there lately. Personally, my favorite animal to use design-wise is still the hedgehog, but lately owls have been calling my name. Here are some favorites of the favorites:

1. from The Freckled Hen- first of all, the blog's name is just the cutest. She explains in her blog post that she added the cowboy boots to cover up a mistake. I say, great save!

2 & 3. from Like Mother, Like Daughter- Auntie Leila posted some handmade goodies from her mother and her daughter- they didn't coordinate the gifts! Just a small Christmas miracle...

I am also tempted to copy their fabric memory game-such an easy and creative way to use really small scraps of fabric. I'm getting out my pinking shears- I'm going to try a few with 'stitchwitchery' to see if that saves time. I think it is the prefect little gift for a 2 to 5 year old.

4. from Lizbethdesigns on Etsy- I just love the fact that this owl is sleeping- I have got to get Baby Girl an owl hat before she is too big...

5. Owl crafts remind me of a childhood friend- right after Smokey the Bear

6. from owl + top hat + St Valentine pun = love

7. If you haven't seen the newest Winnie the Pooh movie, I promise you will enjoy it even with its vaguely hipster musical stylings of Zooey Deschanel. It is true to the 'Winnie' canon, and Owl is the one to set the conflict in motion when he insists that Christopher Robin's note saying he "will be back soon" (misspelled, of course) is actually warning the group of the horrid monster called the 'Backson.' Hilarity ensues. 
many more QuickTakes at Jen's

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New American

After fifteen years of being a resident of the USA, today Father is finally a citizen

God Bless America

Words and music by Irving Berlin
"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, 
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free, 
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, 
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. " 

God Bless America, 
Land that I love. 
Stand beside her, and guide her 
Thru the night with a light from above. 
From the mountains, to the prairies, 
To the oceans, white with foam 
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

7 QuickTakes- "Keeping it Real" edition

It's been a while since I have really gotten real about the not-so-perfect aspects of being a priest's wife on this blog, so here we go!...

1. Sunday mornings, we have Divine Liturgy at 11:30 after the main parish celebrates their Liturgy. They leave us any leftover donuts. So we are confronted with donuts at 1:00 PM. It's usually up to me to decide the donuts' fate. I remember the face of the starving child's photo that my parents posted in the dining room table when I was young as I throw away the leftovers. Do homeless men want or need day-old donuts? 

2. Heaven forbid if I give priest-husband a tea while he skypes with the old country early Sunday morning. It doesn't matter that Divine Liturgy will be finished at one o'clock; he is expected to fast from everything from midnight on. 

3. I need to be prepared to be insulted for my less-than-stellar old country language skills when on the phone with an unknown person. Everyone here is amazed that I speak the language at all and that I dress the children, named very old country-ish at my insistence, in traditional clothes for holidays. Luckily, I have escaped most ethnic-difference problems with our own parishioners. 

4. Yes, it is true that his cell phone is always on and he will almost always answer it immediately. There is no secretary-gate keeper here.

5. Just to let you know- when you so kindly ask my husband to perform your baptism/wedding/funeral/house blessing, it really makes life difficult when you insist on a certain day and time with no regard to his schedule. Yes, I know that you reserved the party hall months before you informed him that he would be the chief celebrant, but we are trying to build a mission on Saturday nights. It really destroys any community we are building when he has to cancel. Also, my husband's ministry cannot be bought for a $50 stipend, so no, he cannot overlook a previous marriage or excuse you from actually meeting with him. Please don't put me in the middle. I might look like I am in charge because I lead singing and wash the dishes, but in terms of sacraments, I have nothing to do with it!

6. The hardest part of being a priest's wife is trying to find a balance for my kids. I want them to leave our house as believing and happy Christians. Being in the thick of things and seeing the humanity and sinfulness of God's people can make that difficult. We expect a lot out of our children, and I hope it isn't too much. But then some people say we have made too many compromises to worldly pleasures (for example, the older two have read the first three Harry Potter books, they don't wear a veil in church, they sometimes wear jeans- though never in church). 

Is it enough that the big girls get an ice cream after yet another church service? It can be difficult when they aren't seen as real Catholics by friends even though they assist at a Saturday vigil, early Sunday morning and late Sunday morning Masses every weekend. Will they rebel when they realize that their father is taking on another Mass- this time in Spanish? He tries to sell the Mass as a way to learn Spanish. True, but I dread the day that they refuse to tag along. At this point, the big girls are very helpful with cantoring and other church-related activities. The little ones don't do as much (just Saturday and Sunday services plus the occasional Wednesday Bible study and hospital Mass); I stay with them. 

Perhaps we should pick a 'side' instead of trying to find an impossible balance between the world and heavenly perfection. Some of my choices for my children might seem rather arbitrary (or hypocritical). We homeschool, but we use a public charter school to pay for our outside activities. They have read the first three Potter books (yes, we might lose friends over this), but I'll never let them read something like Twilight. I sometimes listen to 'adult contemporary' music in my car, though it is always sacred music before Liturgy. I encourage my children to be charitable, but I try not to force the issue (for example, they are expected to say hello to a elderly disabled person, but I don't force them to embrace him).

They might grow up to say that I was a hypocrite, but if they are honest, they will know my intentions are good. There is a pressure that we put on ourselves because we are about the only young priest's family we know. We don't want to be a source of scandal for others. What if someones sees my family not working perfectly? Perhaps that fit my two-year old had will be the reason why a person left the church. The fact that we don't veil might be scandalous to some, but if I started to veil that would be a scandal for others. So, we will just attempt to please ourselves and God. At this point, I can say that we have found the perfect balance for us. We don't fit in anywhere. Hopefully, we are fitting in with God's plan. 

7.  This morning I got a phone call from a person I don't know in the old country, wanting money because she doesn't have electricity. We get these kinds of calls a lot, usually not Byzantine Catholic or from my husband's region, so I don't know why we have been chosen. I always feel a pit in my stomach when I realize what the call is about. I know that they think we are very wealthy. In the old country, the priest and his family (when the political situation isn't killing them or sending them to Siberia) are one of the wealthiest families in the village. While he might not make much money, the people take care of this family well with produce, meat and stipends. And if the priest is doing well in her village, shouldn't we be as rich as Brad Pitt? 

It doesn't matter that we don't have the use of our furnace or dryer or that I have been unemployed with no unemployment insurance paid for eight months. Yes, I could be working at McDonald's to raise money to send to them except my closest family is nine hundred miles away (which would be countries away in Europe). We don't receive a stipend for having children like European countries.  I just don't know what to do. I know family and friends right next door that could use financial help. We give financial help to some people and we tithe. But must we respond to random people we don't know? But when I don't give, I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge saying, "Are there no prisons?!"

This past Christmas morning, we had family visiting (yes, from far far away) and my husband had just got home from celebrating a 6:30 AM Mass as a 'supply' priest for the Roman-rite parish. We were in the midst of opening stockings and preparing to leave for our Christmas Divine Liturgy an hour away when the phone rang. I picked up the phone, assuming it was family. Who else would call a priest's home on one of the busiest mornings of the year? I was wrong, so wrong. The caller was a man who had written my husband a letter, asking for money. he wanted to know if my husband had received the letter. I said yes and then tried to explain to him that my husband was between Liturgies on Christmas morning and he would have to talk later. Does he have an email address where they can communicate? No- no email address (it always intrigues me- they all found my husband on the internet yet none of them have opened a free email account). he insults my language abilities and then calls me 'lady.' He is angry. I am able to get off the phone politely (I asked my husband and family- they agree I wasn't rude).

In my husband's home country, politeness is an art form. A lady wears heels to take out the trash. Like in French with its tu/vous forms, you can tell right away when someone is acting too familiar in his language. My husband still uses the formal 'you' with most people older than he. One greeting is "I kiss your hand"- this can be said from a man to any woman. I can use it as a sign of respect to someone older than I. In his language, one uses the proper title like Dr. Engineer or Madame Dentist.  If someone doesn't use a title, it is a not-so-subtle way to show disrespect. So, am I really supposed to send money to a man I don't know who doesn't call me Matusha and doesn't call my husband Father? Even in my husband's country where Catholic/Orthodox relations are very strained, each church gives the other the proper title.

The phone rings again a minute later, and my brother-in-law picks up. He says "hello," and the caller unleashes a barrage of four-letter words in English. So my Christmas started with a bad feeling and a bad headache. Of course, the men are better at laughing it off, but I know that my husband is being slandered in his home country. It isn't easy, but I am still blessed to be living this life. 

find many more quick takes at

Hymn to the Theotokos- series on Divine Liturgy

after the consecration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest continues...

PRIEST: (silent prayers then-) Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary.

PEOPLE: It is truly proper to glorify you, who have borne God, the ever-blessed and immaculate and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who, a Virgin, gave birth to God the Word, you, truly the Mother of God, we magnify.

Truly proper (or 'fitting'), glorify, magnify; I like the words here. It is fitting that we give respect to the Theotokos, the Mother of God. She who gave birth to God the Word is above the angels. We don't worship her, but we praise her for her YES to God. We don't ignore her as some religious traditions do, but we sing this song directly to Mary (notice that we sing "you" twice during this song) during every Divine Liturgy because of her vital role in salvation history. By the way, that title of Theotokos (Mother of God) is important not to make Mary a demi-God. It emphasizes the dogma that Jesus was, is and always will be God and man. Being born of a woman did not diminish His divinity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

for your edification

what is the Divine Liturgy
is Theophany Epiphany
can I go to Byzantine Catholics

priest's wife
wife of priest
priest's wife exists

Christmas lights not made in China
lights not made in China
China food delicious

can a Catholic priest eat at a parishioner's home
what does Bill Clinton fear
if you really needed it

fear not
why fear

james thurber
smile and wave

inspired by Simcha Fisher- yes, this search word poetry knows it's bad

Monday, January 9, 2012

Once more, with feeling...

Epiphany/Theophany has come and gone, so the highest holidays of the Christmas season are over. Most of us have been busy with cleaning and decluttering and organizing after the decadent (whether or not we feel well-off- if one lives in the West and has computer access, one is richer than most of the world) past weeks. We have had a lot of fun and opened a lot of presents from family and friends. I don't look at labels or countries of origin when we receive a gift- but this little gift gave me pause.

I must admit, when we got four of these 'stockings' I first thought to myself- Does Soulemama get these kinds of gifts? No, she probably receives only intentional gifts of organic, hand-dyed, local somethings (I kid- she is a favorite even though I will never live the life on her blog). But then I got mad.

I'm not mad at the lovely person who probably thought to herself on the way to Christmas Liturgy that she just had to have a treat to give to the kids. I really appreciate that, for the most part, my children are loved  by those who join us at church.  I'm just at mad at the situation that we seem to be in the West. In our lust for cheap goods, we have sold so much of our manufacturing backbone to China. We expect everything to be 99 cents. We consider it a triumph when candy canes are made in Mexico instead of China. 

I remember learning in high school that the two important industries of Oregon were being sent to China- lumber and salmon would be harvested in Oregon but processed in China, then sent back to the States with Made in America tags. But who wants to pay $20 a pound for processed in America salmon? Just a bit of food for thought...

click on the 'China' label below for other posts of mine on the subject

Friday, January 6, 2012

Random QuickTakes for a New Year

1. I didn't make many resolutions this year- I'm just trying to accomplish the goals I've blogged about in the past year! But I have been successful in not blogging much. 

2. Extreme pet peeve- those people who equate married priests with woman priests, actively homosexual priests, self-consecration of the Eucharist, etc, etc. This past week, a bishop has fallen from grace (well, he did that a long time ago) and has admitted he has two children. Allowing him to have been married wouldn't have solved this specific problem. Most likely, he is the kind of man who didn't take to keeping vows of any sort. We are praying for his soul; the scandal is serious as is the fact that he fathered two children and then wasn't present for them in their needs. Sins all around for the bishop...

3. We had a real New Year's party at the 'big mission' and the parish priest of the actual parish (they rent us the space- they are Byzantine Catholic, too- different ethnicity) let us sleep in the classroom connected to the big hall so we didn't have to drive an hour towards home in the middle of the night.  The last people left the party at 3:45 or so. We slept until eight, cleaned some more and then had Divine Liturgy as usual at 11:30. Yes, the little ones yawned, but we made it through.  So balance is possible. Work all day Friday and Saturday to set up and cook for the party- have Liturgy at the small mission- drive an hour to get to the big mission- have a party from 8 to 3:45- clean for an hour-go to sleep- clean some more- go to Liturgy at 11:30- have a leftover lunch with parishioners until about 3- finish cleaning- get home at about 6- get the little ones in bed because the sun is down anyway and they don't read clocks- watch an episode of Dick van Dyke with the big girls- plan for next year's party

4. Speaking of balance- my sister got an organizing book for Christmas. Not surprisingly, some of the advice was a bit too minimalist for my taste. It says to have only 4 pots in the kitchen. Um, no. But it did inspire me to Goodwill the set of pots I had before I got a different set about 6 years ago. I also decluttered some utensils and old plastic containers. I'm trying for balanced baby steps. The book also says that the goal for photos should be two photos per event and to retire with about 800 photos total. Um, no. But it did inspire me to delete some frankly lousy photos and to pick the best of a set of the same pose. I also have three bags of clutter to drop off at Goodwill.

5. Why my brother-in-law rocks- he fixed the circuit in the kitchen, thus giving me back three outlets. No more extension cord! He also narrowed down my problem with the dryer- now, I just have to tell the problem to the repairmen. On the downside, he-who-listens-to-Greek-on-his-Ipod-and-is-writing-a-book-about theology/art/etc introduced my kids to the annoying orange (warning- do NOT youtube that).
6. Life with 12 1/2 and 11 1/2 year olds- we got to run to see the new Mission Impossible movie. The theater is very close to the house, so they watched the little ones and saved us $10+ per hour for babysitting. The girls said to deduct it from their ballet costs. Will do, girls. 

7. Just a little thought from Father's homily from last Sunday (I think- remember our readings will be different than Roman-rite)- Mary losing Jesus for three days and finding him at 12 in the temple was a foreshadowing of the three days in the tomb. She kept all these things in her heart, and Jesus was always about His Father's business.

find more quick takes at conversion

Wednesday, January 4, 2012