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a tale of two churches...

In the 2nd grade my parents moved me to a different parochial school. This wasn't because they had anything against the previous school--Jefferson Methodist only went to the 1st grade, so I couldn't stay even if I wanted to (and I really DID). After some searching they decided on a small school down the road by the name of Henry de Osso, run by the Teresian Sisters (who also ran St. Teresa's Academy). At the same time, I was attending Catechism classes at St. Dominic's.  As such it was more than a slight problem once I started Religion classes at the school.

Because I was attending  two different classes I was, effectively, a year ahead in my education. So while everyone else was learning about the joys of transubstantiation (look it up, it's actually kind of gross), I was pretty bored. Eventually one of the nuns took pity on me and told me I could just read whatever I wanted while they were working it out. It's probably not surprising I discovered Stephen King around this time. 

The sisters were an entertaining lot. Up to this point my only reference for nuns were the ones featured in movies and books like Madeline. I did not know there were different types of nuns (and there are a LOT of orders, you guys).  These gals were on the whole pretty cool--vow of poverty, communal living, up at the crack of dawn, etc. This turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. With both parents working, my parents were dropping me off quite early in the morning so they could make it to work on time. Unfortunately school didn't start quite as early as I needed to be dropped off. Fortunately for my mom, however, the nuns were up at the crack of dawn for devotionals--so my mom would just drop me off at the convent first thing in the morning, and I would sit quietly in their living room while they prayed, and once they were done, they would move me with the other "morning care kids" and eventually we would be herded towards the school.

I had lots of time to think about stuff while I waited to be taken to the other children. The gentle sounds of the women praying quietly to themselves was very calming even if I couldn't understand what they were saying. This was partially because they were being so quiet, and partially because they were praying in Spanish. Catholicism is comforting in its rituals and its regularity. I once read in an Agatha Christie novel where she referred to mass as "smells and bells."  And that's certainly true of high mass, when you have the incense and bells signaling when to bow your head, etc. But what I found comforting was not the spectacle of high mass (which we only saw maybe twice a year for Easter/Christmas)--but the mundane everyday smells of candles softly burning as  I said a quiet prayer and the bells signaling the end of classes.

Of all the Catechism classes I took, I found the Religion classes during the week to be the most entertaining and fun. For at least two of my grades I had a novice for a teacher, and she was sweet and lovely and seemed to care that we understood about Jesus' love.  There wasn't any of the later condemnation and guilt I would find in Middle School. She just wanted us to feel the same love for Christ in our hearts that had led her to make her vows and that showed. Eventually, though, economic problems forced the nuns to have to sell the school to developers.  Just a few years ago they finally tore down the old buildings and put in a strip mall. It's very surreal for me to look at the buildings that stand in the place where I learned to play Chinese jacks and listened to the Police on a tinny transistor radio. It's almost like a false front in my eyes--a painted set that could be easily pushed over to reveal what once was.

But it would seem you can never go back.
I spent my entire adolescence in church -- at least twice a week.  From pre-school through eighth grade I went to parochial schools, and the thing about that kind of education is you have to go to church during the week.  Towards the end of my parochial school career I began to envy my brother who was attending public school, and therefore only had to attend one round of mass. He had been removed from the Catholic school I was still attending after his teacher had a nervous breakdown in the middle of class—Sister Angela found her crying under her desk while the children ran wild and free in the classroom. They tried to get another teacher, but by then it was too late, the kids knew who had the upper hand, and there was no hope. My parents decided that it was as good a time as any for my brother to become acquainted with the joys of public schooling in suburban neighborhoods, and yanked him out (which saved me trips to the principal's office on his behalf, let me tell you). But I digress.

I divided my spiritual tutelage into two categories: school church and weekend church. Sometimes their messages would tie in (usually around holidays like Easter and Christmas), but most often they were as different as night and day. 

From pre-school through First grade I went to Jefferson Methodist. I liked those weekday services the best. At the time for weekend church my parents were taking me to a Catholic church just down the street from our neighborhood, and although I loved to go and sing, the masses were long and I found myself flipping through the missals looking for interesting prayers or readings more often than I was actually paying attention. The thing I remember most about our weekend church were the dust motes that would float lazily around in the light of the stained glass windows, the huge size of the pews, and how I could almost sleep on the kneelers.  But school church, that was a MUCH different story. Jefferson Methodist was fun. We had a kid's mass, and we sang fun bible songs, and sometimes (gasp) secular songs, too. For the longest time I didn't realize that Jesus Loves the Little Children and Everything is Beautiful were two different songs... we always sung them together.  

I have heard my family refer to this time as the "sowing of the seed of doubt," since I am now a Methodist. "It's where we went wrong!" they lament....but honestly, I loved it back then. I could feel the difference in the tone and timbre of the service. School church was about love (and though I didn't understand the concept at the time, I know now it was also about grace) and fellowship. Weekend church was about the rules and ritual. Both are comforting to a child, in their own fashion, but I preferred the joy of school church to the boredom of weekend church.  My mother used to try to placate me during weekend church with books and drawing materials, but even I noticed I didn't have the same problems with school church. It was engaging. It was all encompassing. It was (in a word) fun. I have called Catholic mass a LOT of things throughout my almost 40 years on this planet, and I can honestly say I have NEVER referred to it as "fun."

(next: a tale of two Masses)

My father said something very interesting to my husband this weekend. Motioning to my youngest (who is overweight) he told him, "yeah, Jennifer was fat at that age, too." now, I would like to point out that I was (in fact) anorexic for my last two treads of high school. Neither he nor my mother noticed. At the height of my illness I was eating about 300 calories a day, and weighed 88 lb with clothes on. You could see my collarbones clearly, outlined like I was drawn. And yet.. All the pictures from high school on display at their house are from these two years.

It's a big deal for me to be overweight ( which I am), because I still have lingering body issues. When I look at myself in the mirror I seldom see what I really look like. More often there's a hideously obese girl looking back at me. And it doesn't matter if I have validation, somewhere in there my mind is broken. That girl is why I don't stress eat, I stress STARVE. That girl is why I don't throw out fat clothes. That girl is the one who tries to convince me to binge now because I can take the calories off later. She's pretty evil.

Which is all to say that I let someone measure me today. They used calipers to measure my fat rolls, and a tape measure around the skinniest part of my waist and biggest part of my butt. I want to say that I was nonchalant about it, but the truth is I was a mess inside. What if I was worse than just "a little overweight." what if I was OBESE? What if I got depressed over the results and went into another hibernation period (all eating and sleeping)? What if the yoga instructor was crap? What if this was all a big mistake?

But in the end, it was ok. The girl who did the assessment was very kind, and understanding. She told me that I was overweight, but on the lighter end of overweight. And after many calculations, we figured out I just had to lose 15 lb. which would put me in the "lean muscle category." and.. I'm ok with that. We worked out how often I need to do cardio, and how often to tone. And we talked about eating habits and stress. And I think it's going to be ok.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

can't read my..poker face

youngest chld learned a valuable lesson these past couple of weeks--when you lie about censorship to your parents (both of which worked in book stores and libraries) they will come up with new and interesting ways to make your life miserable.

concisely: he's started doing this thing where just as he's leaving the house for school he suddenly needs something: a book, a signature, money... something.  a couple of weeks ago, it was a book--something for him to read during language arts time. so we gave him a Star Wars book (one of the newer ones, as I recall) and sent him on the way. Later that night, when we asked him about it, he said his teacher told him not to read it because it was "inappropriate for children."  When we pressed him about it, he further elaborated that Han Solo used "salty language," and there was too much violence.  So I asked him what he was to read instead. His answer? the 6th Harry Potter book.  

So I called shennanigans. I emailed his LA teacher, and asked her for some guidelines on books. After all, we don't want to cause issues with the other children, but we did want to ensure if he wanted to read a book, he should be allowed to read it.  Her answer was what I expected rom a progressive teacher, she was okay with what we were okay with. She preferred we not give him anyting that would cause too many questions, but she had had kids reading the twilight series--and that was crap. (have I mentioned how much I love her?)

This lead to a discussion with youngest on his lying. We explained that we knew what he had done, and talked to his teacher. this caused a VERY nice draining of color from his face.  And then we explained that we had two problems with this little incident:
1) he lied--which is the ONLY corporal offense in our house
2) he accused his teacher of censorship, which we take VERY seriously

So after some crying, some explaining, some pleading we explained what we were going to do. He was going to be grounded. But he was going to be grounded in such a way that he would understand censorship and WHY we don't mess around with it. Thus:
  • he could only read books we gave him : no library books / no class books
  • he was only going to read banned or challenged books
  • he was going to write a one page report on the book summarizing the plot, and speculating on WHY it might have been challenged or banned
And now he's on the tail end of the grounding, and he's understanding why we were so upset. He's read a lot of books that some college kids have not even read: Fahrenheit 451, the entire Narnia series, and 1984.  And he's not without a sense of humor about the whole thing. You see, I didn't tell him the format for his report, so he's decided to use powerpoint--because he knows how much I hate powerpoint.

That's my boy.

Z is too young to remember the towers coming down. I doubt he ever saw it on the television, unless they were watching the TVs at the day care facility. He was just two. And I had another couple of months before V would be something more than a sleepless night and pain in my kidneys.

I was up early because Z had to be at the daycare facility before 7:45. On the way to drop him off, we listened to a kid's CD I had gotten free from work (one of the perks of working for a "entertainment superstore"), and he happily sang along. It was a normal day. The teacher took him into the class, reminded me that there was a lice infestation going around, and to watch his precious little curly head, and I got in the car to drive home and get ready for work.

As a rule, I seldom listen to the radio. My taste in music is so eccletic even hipsters wonder, "wtf is that?"  But this morning I decided to listen to the radio instead of switch CDs.  The DJ was crying. Not just little sniffles either, it was the kind of crying that made you sore the next day, because your whole body seemed to be trying to dispel the grief. A man came on the radio. I don't know if he was another DJ or the newsguy or what, but his voice was shaking. He talked about a plane crash in New York. Some sort of accident, but there were a lot of people injured and dead. And then another accident, this time in Washington--the Pentagon. Now they were thinking it was some sort of attack, it was too coordinated... I rushed home and ran in the door.

"TURN ON THE TV!" I yelled up the stairs
"wha?" my husband responded groggily, he had gone back to sleep, evidently.
"TURN ON THE FUCKING TV NOW. PUT ON THE NEWS!" I was running up the stairs--which was no small feat for a 7 months pregnant woman.
"Jen, what the hell?!"
"it's an ATTACK. People, people are dead, the Pentagon, and New York."

We turned on the TV.  And as we watched the live feed, we saw the other plane hit. I had never had a bit of morning sickness with V. Not a single morning where I had to brush my teeth twice, but this morning, I ran to the bathroom and just wretched. As the monring unfolded, we watched people jump from the building, 100 stories to certain death, but even more certain death to stay inside and perhaps never be found. I thought of all the children who would grow up without a parent or parents, I thought of the little boy in my belly, and what kind of world he was going to inherit, because it was never going to be the same as the one that existed just hours before.

Eventually, I had to go to work. As a function of our store, we had TVs in the front of the store by the checkouts to run tapes from corporate advertising various products, or movies, or whatever we felt like ,really.  But they were pretty much incapable of showing anything but what we threw in the VCR.  As people drifted into the store, they would look up at the TVs expectantly and then turn away in disappointment. People would yell at us, demand that we turn the TVs on the news, but we couldn't do it. They were angry, not at us really, just angry about the situation and frustrated that they had no one concrete to take it out on.  Eventually I went home early, since business was slow, and they really didn't need all the people there.

The news was still going over the footage. Now they also had news of the crash in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of people were missing, feared to be dead. I would have to pick up Z in a few hours.  And that's when I actually started feeling the sadness. Knowing that he would never remember a time before all this happened. He would never have the emotional connection that I had with the Challenger accident, or my parents did when JFK was assasinated. I felt bad for him, because I knew what was coming. I knew that people were going to respond to this with a fear of the "other," as our nation seemed to do. I wondered how long it would be before someone just shot one of "them" (as it turned out, not long at all). When it was time, I went to pick up Z, and I buckled him into his carseat, and I looked at the radio.... and I pushed his CD in.

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Well, another instance of my traitor mouth going off before the mind can kick in. And for once, I'm not that sorry about it.
Honestly.
I'm not.


Ok... maybe a tiny bit.


But here's the deal, when I see an ego that needs popping, it's a hard fought battle not to do it. And when I see someone getting offended for the sake of being offended, the battle is not going well in self-control's favor. And when I see someone basically twisting words around so that they CAN get offended because their ego can't take the idea that they might be wrong... oh HELL to the NO. It's ON.


But here's the thing. I know that it's not my place to police what people do, or say, or even think. I'm well versed in the verses, and I know about the motes and the beams, and the judging and all that. I do. And I try really hard to follow through on it... but it is always more difficult to see the selfishness of others and not do something. I look at it as taking care of my fellow human. And the fact that I get to put someone in their place is just gravy.


Haters are going to hate. Selfish people will always see misery as it applies to them, and in no other way. Drama will create more drama, and angry people will only sow more anger and discord. And yes, most of the time they will plead ignorance, or try to assert that it is not their fault that they do what they do, but that is because they have so much invested in being a victim. Like the professional mourner, their tears may look genuine, but they are calculated and cold. And I have precious little patience for that kind of nonsense. 


Is it something about our generation? Is it something about our location in the world that produces so much selfishness? How is it that So many people seem to be only focused on themselves? It's not just in everyday life, it's crept into our churches, into our workplaces. I know of people that have gone "church shopping," to find not a church that suited their needs* in a corporeal sense, but so that they could select a church that matched what they already believed. As if they were shopping for a car. Imagine, choosing a place of worship not based on the tenants of faith, but on how their church stands on social issues. As if it was the church's job to conform to THEIR ideas. Maybe I don't understand protestantism that well, but I was pretty sure that's not how it went.


Maybe I'm old fashioned. Maybe I'm not understanding how Christianity is SUPPOSED to work. I don't know. But I do know I'm getting really tired of people who can only think of themselves no matter the situation. And I think I'm just going to have to call bullshit when I see it. I think that's who I am. And maybe it is a bit selfish of me (because I enjoy it), but I think I'm serving a higher purpose. I'm making the world a better place.  Because it's so hard to see where you're going when there are inflated egos everywhere.



*And yes, I'll be the first ot admit that we had to church-shop, but not because we were looking ot match our beliefs to a church, but rather because other faiths would not have us.  It's hard to believe in churches who have policies of exclusion. 

Wouldn't it be nice...

There are days when I could care less what people think of me. When I can go about my business without a f*ck to give about anyone concerned with me [and my appearance, my accent, my family, etc]. but there is something about taking young girls shopping that makes you feel more vulnerable. Suddenly I am more aware of not only my own age, but the age of people around me-- and the appropriateness of thing like hemlines and necklines.

So maybe going to the pool so soon after that was a bad idea. Too late now, as at the poolside I sit. And even from here I can hear the sniggering of the gaggle of soccer-moms gathered at the "Good spot" under the awning. as the look over , whisper, and then giggle conspiratorially. I mean seriously? How effing mean-girls can you get? And while my kids are doing laps, theirs are being disruptive in the shallow end of the pool. And do they so much as lift a lacquered nail off their mimosas (in a plastic cup, naturally) to tell their little darlings to stop? I'll give you two guesses, and the first two don't count.

But that's life here. One of them just shouted across tbs pool to "behave, Tyler. [she doesn't] want to go home." the lifeguard rolls his eyes. I think they've been here awhile. More sniggering now. A mixed race couple just walked in. Their children are moving across the pool. I wonder if they're even conscious what they're doing. They're still being disruptive.

In a few moments I will have to gather up my kids to take them home. Mean- girls' hubby just brought pizza. They must really not want to go home. And I'll have to walk by them again, and endure the stupid laughing and hold my head high. Sometimes I hate this place. But then I remember that sometimes people never grow up.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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Bullies. When I was but a wee slip of a girl, bullies were rampant at our school. I have no reason to believe that this is any different in my children's school because I know that those maladjusted little twits that bullied me in elementary school, middle-school and even high-school have likely passed on their unique approach to getting the most from life to their idiotic offspring. Allow me to  supplement my suppositions with some anecdotal proof. I am not without my foibles, and will be the first to admit that sometimes I will jump to a conclusion unsupported by careful reasoning. Occasionally, I cannot unwind my conjoined emotions and intellect, and it is for that reason I will elaborate on my reasoning thusly.

 (I'm using big words to weed out the jocks, don't worry, it will return to normal in a bit)

Point 1: Often children who have a bullying personality type will seek out activities that allow them to have power over other people, and will therefore continue to bolster their self-esteem through violence or intimidation.  This is why many bullies find their way into things like:

 
  • alpha-male centered team sports (here I mean a team with a clear captain and lots of hitting. baseball and soccer do not qualify under this definition)
  • individual violence centered activities (hunting, some martial-arts styles, boxing, etc)
  • hobbies gathering other bullies together for bonding (paintball, drinking, attending sports venues, etc). 
  • the military (no explaination needed here)
Point 2: Unless there is an intervening factor, children who bully will become adults that bully; they will in turn raise children who believe that the way to get what they want is force or coercion.  Children learn from experience, either from their parents bullying them or from seeing how people react to their parents. These are the people who push their kids to be in sports because it will make them a "man" (or in some cases, " a woman") and then intimidate the coaches until their kid is a star. The kids learn from this. And while sometimes they turn against it, most of the time, they see it as a way to succeed.

And that's because we as a society reward that behavior. We pay sports figures multi-millions and scientists little to nothing (except maybe tenure).  Teachers are considered crap, while trust-fund babies who inherit their daddy's companies gain political power and go nuts.  People with the craziest ideas and loudest voices get their own shows on Fox. It's the way of this country, and it's dumb.

So here is what I am asking. The next time someone tries to bully you, put a stop to it.  Let them know that kind of behavior is not only NOT ok, it's stupid. Don't let someone take credit for your work; call them on it. Don't let someone try and comment on how you raise your children; tell them it's none of their fucking business and has nothing to do with your job. Don't let them win.

Maybe... just maybe, if enough of us finally stand up to this bullshit, people will start to realize that football players don't deserve the kind of recognition that someone who develops a life-saving vaccine should get.  I can't get rid of the talking heads, or call out every person I see (mostly because I would get tired from fighting all the time), but I can make my own little stand, and hope that others will stand with me, and raise their children to do the same.

Don't let them win. Fuck bullies.
 One of the things that Brad and I have tried to impress on the kids is the need to pass it on—or as they say in our church, "that whole Golden Rule thing."  It's important that they know about things like empathy and sympathy (for sure), but I want them to have their heart in the right place. In other words, doing Good for Goodness' sake.

Jesus said that people who do good things (like giving money to the poor) and then announce it loudly are hypocrites. They do good, but they do it for the wrong reason. They're not doing it to help others, or even glorify God, they're doing it simply to be noticed and reassured that they're good people. And that's selfish.  But... if you do the right thing, and don't say anything about it, so that just you (and maybe someone you helped) know, you're doing the right thing.  There's all kinds of variations on this in non-Judeo-Christian religions (Rule of Three, Ahimsa, etc), so it follows that this is probably a good idea. Heck, I'll bet even Atheists will agree that not harming other people is a good idea, if nothing else but to keep you out of jail on assault charges.

I hope that we lead by example in this respect. Whether it's helping a friend or stranger change a tire, or grab some lunch.. or something more profound.  I make sure the kids know that I'm an organ donor and the nation bone marrow registry not to get praise but to make sure 1) my wishes are respected and 2) they see that we can give of ourselves even in death.  I think they're getting the message, although it's hard to tell. They're children, after all, and respond in the way that children are want to do.  They're going to have moments of selfishness and temptation—hell, we all do—but they don't have the experience to tell them why to do the right thing.  Sometimes it's not easy.  Sometimes it's really hard to do the right thing.  But I hope they'll do it anyway.
I tend to have a liberal stance on just about everything, really. I don't know if it's a function of my upbringing (more of my rebellion, I dare say), or just my live and let live kind of nature.  Sometimes I'm VERY liberal, but I'm afraid my days out hugging trees are pretty well done.... for the most part.

Perhaps that's why I have such a "Jesus loves everyone, EVEN you" outlook on life. I just can't stand the idea that there would be anyone that is so foul that even Christ couldn't find that spark of divinity that God places in each one of us. Methodists call it previenent grace, I think of it as the opposite of Original Sin.  Instead of just being stuck with Adam and Eve's issues, we have a bit of the divine placed in us from our first breath.  I think that's SO much more hopeful and optimistic, don't you?

I also happen to believe that homosexuality as a sin is a lot of hogwash. The bible has been translated, re-translated, interpreted and rewritten that it practically impossible to know what was really intended outside of the portions that coincide with the Torah and can be cross-verified.  Maybe it's the technical writer in me... maybe it's just that I have a belief in the goodness of human nature, but I tend to err on the side of love.  I think that's a pretty good philosophy. 

And that's caused a bit of confusion amongst my friends. I can't really explain adequately when we get into these kinds of discussions because it's such an emotional issue, really.  I understand that they come from different backgrounds, and have different interpretations of scripture, but I just can't shake the feeling that when Jesus told us to love everyone, he meant it. For someone to say, well, I'm okay with gays, just not when they're xxx, is not really to be OK with them. You know? I tend to frame it as a civil rights issue and not a unrepentant sinner issue, because I think that on some level we are ALL unrepentant about some way we're sinning, or we would never sin again (regardless of how he tells us to do that).

But it's difficult to say that without it seeming like I'm alienating my friends. I still love them, you see. I may not agree with them, but I do love them, and I wish they could see the world as I do. So instead, I keep my mouth shut. Ah. The things I do for love.

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