Posts in My Head

I know I have been absent from my regular posting for a while.  It’s not for lack of ideas…it’s just because life has gotten in the way a bit.  I have book reviews lined up for the next few months – the reviews are written and scheduled, but you all can’t see what’s coming.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.   I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve been doing a lot of “doing” lately.  All of these will end up in blog posts that are coming. 

If you want to see something I’ve been working on, go to www.muscatinecatholiccommunity.com.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s mostly done.

If you want to see what a friend of mine has been writing, go to http://ctsteinbach.wordpress.com.

I promise, I’m coming back.  It’s just taking some time.

 

“At Last. At Last. I’m Home At Last.”

At church on Sunday, one of the points in the homily was an exercise Fr. Joseph had completed in college.  It was what each individual wanted to have written on their tombstone.  He said that one classmate wanted “Found a cure for cancer”; another wanted “Visited all the countries in the world”; and a third wanted “At Last. At Last. I’m Home At Last”.  The ensuing homily centered around the notion of “home”.

I got to thinking about my home.  I have had several in my life.  Homes that I lived in with my parents, homes I shared with my husband, places that felt like home, even though I didn’t live there.  When you are away from home, it is a struggle to to feel centered – to have a place that you can go to and be accepted, a place that is a refuge.

Lately I have been thinking that (re)finding my faith is like finding a home.  The Church has always been a constant in my life – even when I was away from it.  It was always in the back of my mind and heart.  Even though I came back a few years ago, I wasn’t really back.  I had issues that I needed to address.  But through the combination of various people I have met, the priests in my parish, and the reflection I have been doing, I think I have begun to find my way home….home to the faith community that means so much to me; that has meant so much to my family; that has allowed me to experience the beauty of the Mass again.

I had a priest tell me yesterday that “God is easy, it’s the people that make things difficult”.  I think that helped solidify my notion of home.  I know that I have a home in my faith, in my belief of God.  I also know that I have a home on earth with those who love me and with those who support me.  My home isn’t necessarily limited by the four walls holding up my house, but it is built by the hearts and hands that are there to hold me up when I am struggling.  To those people, I say thank you.

My “Farewell to Fat” Tour Continues…

Maid Rite (from the Marion, IA restaurant)

I’m a fan of cheap, kitschy restaurants that serve greasy food.  Yep, I know it’s not good for my heart, but they are still good.  There’s just something about a local greasy spoon restaurant that makes me happy.  And if I can get fried vegetables there and eat outside, even better.

 

If you know me, you know that I can be found about once a week at a local restaurant called El Allende.  They have the best Mexican food in town (really – no lie).  The problem is that their tacos, while delicious and filling, can be sooo greasy.  So invariably, while I enjoy my meal while I eat it, I spend the rest of the afternoon in a taco-induced coma regretting that last bite because I am so full.

As part of my “Farewell to Fat Tour”, I am visiting my favorite local restaurants one last time over lunch.  I am also allowing myself to eat whatever snacks I want.  But I am paying the price.  I can literally feel my body screaming out in protest.  Have you ever gone to a really restaurant, had a good meal, and later you could feel your arteries hardening or your liver screaming at you?  That’s me right now.

Why am I allowing myself to do this?  Here’s part of my thinking….if I can eat my fill of the stuff I know I will crave once the diet starts, then I won’t want it later.  I had a friend who decided to quit smoking once.  She decided she was going to smoke until she couldn’t smoke anymore.  Basically, she was going to chain smoke until her body rebelled and even the thought of smoking turned her stomach.  In a way, I am doing the same thing.  Yeah, it probably doesn’t make much sense, but I have burned myself out on restaurants and foods before (Mac & Cheese, I’m talking to you), and I’m hoping for the same thing now.

I’m not being completely stupid about it.  It’s not like I am on a 3 week binge where I am eating every waking moment.  I’m just eating those things I want and those things I know I will miss. 

I know that this weight loss program is only going to work if I give things up.  If that means no more El Allende tacos, then that’s the way it has to be.  If that means that I allow myself Cheri-Top drive-in once over the course of the summer, then so be it.  If it means I can’t darken Maid-Rite’s door, then farewell to a Muscatine institution.  Will I miss them?  Probably.  But this has gone on too long and my body is paying for it, my sanity is paying for it, my wallet is paying for it, and IT IS GOING TO STOP.

So I am asking for my body’s forgiveness as I go through my own mourning process.  Mourning the loss of foods that I like, but that I know are not healthy;  mourning the lack of grease; mourning the loss of atmosphere.

So long……

Taking Time During Advent to Prepare

During Advent, not only are we called to be watchful, but we are called to be prepared.  We should be prepared to not only receive Christ, but to receive Him with Joy.

While waiting for the birth of Christ, we are asked to meditate on the gifts we are given.  There are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of life and liberty, and the gift of those around us.

Too often, we are in a rush to get to Christmas.  Each year, the holiday decorations come out earlier and earlier.  Those same people who grumble about the stores having Christmas items up are rushing to put up their Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s not Christmas yet…it’s Advent – WAIT!

Unless we take the time to wait – to watch and prepare – to be appreciative for the great gifts we have been given, we won’t know the true meaning of Christmas.  The joy of Christ’s birth will be lost amid the rush, lost amid the day-to-day struggles we all face, and lost to time once again.

In my family, we wait to put up our tree until after my birthday in the beginning of December.  This year, as I have been listening to the homilies at church and really trying to refocus myself, I’ve come to realize that to my girls, Christmas isn’t so much about Christ.  That makes me sad, but when I think about it, Christmas wasn’t about Christ when I was growing up either.  Christmas was about family and gifts.  I think I’d like to make a change in how my family looks at Christmas.  I don’t want my girls to be so focused on Santa and the gifts he brings that they miss the true meaning of the season.  I want them to think about the gifts they have been given, and the gift of Christ.  I know it will be difficult – there’s so much focused on the commercialization and they are only 4 and 7, but I think it’s important for them to understand. While they are joyous about the season, it’s for the Santa aspect, not the gift of Christ.

Are you taking the time to prepare to receive Christ with joy?

My Pants are Going to Stage a Walk-out

A few weeks ago, I decided to put together a team for a local weight loss competition. I found 3 other people who are all motivated to lose weight. A few of us decided that during December, we weren’t really going to worry about watching what we eat, working out, etc. We were just going to live and eat what we wanted. It’s not like I am going on an eating binge and eating all of my favorite foods that I know I won’t be able to eat once the competition starts, but I kind of am.

I haven’t been too worried about my health. Sure, my family has a history of heart disease, blood pressure issues, strokes, heart attacks, and cancer. (Ok, so that list sounds REALLY BAD.) But I wasn’t going to let myself stress over it – December is stressful enough.

But here’s the thing. As I go on my “farewell tour” of my favorite foods and restaurants, I have begun to realize that they don’t all taste as good as I want them to. I know this is a good thing, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like I can hear my body say “Enough is ENOUGH!….Fix us already!!” (Ok, and I also hear my pants saying that they can’t take it anymore….one of these days, they are going to stage a walk-out and I will be stuck wearing track pants to work.)

So on January 3, I start a new journey. One I have tried before. One I have failed before. What will be different this time? Me. It comes down to me. It doesn’t matter that my husband is super supportive. It doesn’t matter that I will be cheering my other team members on (because I will). It matters that I want to do it. That I am tired of being out of breath. That I am tired of not fitting into clothes. That I am tired of seeing large numbers on the tags of my clothes. That I am tired of not wearing the clothes I think are cute because they don’t look right on me.

By the time I go to Tennessee in May, I want to have run a 5K and be signed up for another. I want to be in a smaller size of clothes. I want to crave healthy food, not crap. I want to know that I can eat things I like (popcorn, chocolate, and Pepsi – I’m talking to you!) in moderation and without feeling guilty about it later. I want my sister-in-law and her family to ask my husband when he got a new wife. I want my daughters to be proud of me.

I want to live. I want to be me.

Being Watchful During Advent

In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, we were admonished to “be watchful”.

  • Be watchful for Jesus. 
  • Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. 
  • Be watchful for others ministering to us. 
  • Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit

Be watchful for Jesus.  To Christians, we are in a perpetual season of Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. This is amplified annually during the Christmas season as we wait for the birth of the Christ-child. Our readings, our reflections are about watching…watching those around us for the joy of the season.

I am seeing this daily in our home. This is the first Christmas that our youngest actually understands that there’s something going on. She is sooo excited about Christmas – sure, it’s the excitement of Santa and of getting gifts, but she is enthralled by everything Christmas-related. She was so happy to help me set up our small Nativity scene the other night. We talked about each piece and what they were. Now whenever she walks by it, she says that it’s her “special thing” that she did with Mommy. For her, Advent is taking “too long”; but for us, it’s not long enough.

Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. The holidays are a time that donations spike. People are in a giving spirit and they are called upon, whether by others or by their conscience, to give of their time, money, or talents. Ministering to others doesn’t have to be formal affair…maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for someone who is burdened with items, or a kind smile when you see someone who is frazzled. It may be volunteering for a task at work, your church, or other organization that would stretch your comfort level. It’s amazing how ministering to others can influence your everyday life.

Be watchful for others ministering to us. I tend to rush through my day always playing catch-up. I don’t always notice others as I go about my tasks. I tend to want to do things on my own, and I will struggle through a task even though someone else may have offered to help. My challenge in the coming years is to learn to accept others who are ministering to me. To accept that smile, to accept that offer to babysit, to accept that little girl’s hand in mine and not to rush through my day. Accept each person ministering to you as a gift and say “Thank you” with a spirit of thankfulness and grace in your heart.

Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways. Stories of people who made a serendipitous connection with a stranger abound, or how the non-answer to a prayer was really the answer to the deeper prayer. Be watchful for how the Holy Spirit moves in your life and the lives of those around you. For us, we struggled for years with wanting to have a child. We decided to become foster parents so that we could help others, but we still wanted to have a child of our own. We were finally blessed with the gift of two little girls who fit perfectly into our lives and our family. God heard our cries and even though we weren’t blessed with a child of our bodies, we were blessed with children of our heart. The Holy Spirit moved in mysterious ways.

How have you been watchful this Advent season?

What I am Thankful For – Day 14

Today I am thankful for music.  Music has always been a part of my life – listening and performing.

  • I thank my Grandma for my education in classic musicals and 40s Big Band music.
  • I thank my parents for buying a piano and paying for lessons for a number of years.
  • I thank them for my clarinet, clarinet lessons, and coming to my various band concerts.
  • I thank my two jazz band teachers in college – Jay Hauenstein and Joe Mailhot for two completely different approaches to jazz and music in general.
  • I thank my choir director in college who, even though we were a small choir, accepted everyone and taught us to stretch our comfort levels.  From that choir I began my love affair with Vivaldi’s Gloria.
  • I thank the two church choir directors with which I am currently involved.  I love how I can go to choir practices and I know that I am going to learn something different each night.  One director teaches chant and I learn little tidbits about the history of the music of the Church.  The other director shows us how current music (or more contemporary than 1850, in some cases) can be incorporated in our beautiful Mass.  She stretches us to look beyond the notes to the words of the songs we sing so that our parish will feel the meaning and so that we can enrich the Mass.
  • I thank Pandora for going back to unlimited listening, and Apple for inventing the iPod and iTunes.

Without music, my life would be a lot quieter, a lot less vibrant, and a lot poorer.  Music allows people to speak beyond words.  Music is that final expression of beauty that makes life worthwhile.  To everyone who has impacted my life through music, I thank you.

What I am Thankful For – Days 11, 12, & 13

Here is what I have been thankful for the last few days…..

Day 11: My husband who served in the Army for four years.  He spent a year in Korea, serving at Camp Casey.  The remaining three years were spent at Fort Lewis, Washington.  He came hope from Korea, we were married a week later (on a Friday), and then moved to Washington on Sunday.  Those three years we spend in Washington weren’t always easy, but I was proud of him for his service.

I have a lot of family members who have served in the Armed Forces, both in war and peace.  It’s not always easy being the person at home, but it’s our way to serve.  I’m reminded of a paragraph in the Patriotism lecture in Rainbow:

Hers is the first battle, and hers is the first victory. It is the sister that kisses the brother good-bye, placing her sweet benediction upon his lips. He marches away under flying colors to the sound of martial strains; but she, in the silence that follows, fights the first battle. Womanhood stands back of the ranks and holds up the Flag at home, for if it were not for Womanhood and the love that is centered in her realm, there would be nothing to incite him to deeds of bravery on the field of battle.

That paragraph didn’t have the same meaning until I was that person at home, even though he wasn’t going into battle.

Day 12: I am thankful for my family – immediate and extended.  It is family that gathers around for special occasions – birthdays, holidays, weddings, funerals – that makes life worth living.  Family gives you something to look forward to, people who love you no matter what happens, and people who rally around when things aren’t so wonderful (most of the time).  In the end, it is all that matters.

Day 13: Today I am thankful for naps!  Yesterday, we had two little girls who didn’t want to rest and take a nap.  That led to a very frustrating evening.  They got up too early this morning, so naps it was for the afternoon.  They must have been tired – they slept for over 3 hours!  Now, we have two little girls who want to snuggle and are well rested.

What I am Thankful For – Day 10

I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time quietly in adoration today.  I took an early lunch and spent an hour at church this morning sitting quietly in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist.  I don’t usually sit in adoration, and although I like doing adoration at night, it was nice to be able to take time out of my day and relax.

It allows me the opportunity to refocus.  Today, I read The Lucado Inspirational Reader while sitting in adoration.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my relationship with God and prayer in general.  There were lots of times I just sat and thought about particular passages.  I know that the other people at adoration tend to sit and pray the rosary, but I am not comfortable doing that, especially since I haven’t prayed the rosary in such a long time.

I am trying to learn and trying to re-evaluate certain things in my life.  This is not a fast process by any means, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to explore my faith.

What I am Thankful For – Day 9

Today, I am thankful for the variety of Iowa weather.  This morning, it was cold and rainy (after a night of wind and rain).  Then the snow started.  That lasted all morning.  By afternoon, the sun was shining and the rain had stopped.  Of course, it wasn’t all that warm, but the snow didn’t stick around long.

It gave us a taste of what this winter could be…….and that doesn’t look good!