Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Pink House

Here is the house I came home to when I was born, in 1970. This photo was taken near Christmas-time, judging from the lights still hanging around the roof.

Can you tell from the photo that the house was pale pink? I wonder if the color of one's childhood home contributes to her personality in any way.

Strain your eyes a little and behold the red-carpeted front step, and the cactus beside the door. Who puts a cactus right by the front door? Welcome mat, no... cactus, yes.

It was 1970, as I said, so stepping inside, you would see the white carpet, gold sofas, and dark wood wall paneling. Not to mention my mom's five-foot high painting of a Spanish bullfighter in blues and greens.

The backyard was huge by Vegas standards. My dad built a two-story playhouse back there for my brother and I, complete with a balcony. Through the years, we had three dogs, three cats, a rabbit and a couple tortoises back there. Additionally, my father found the skulls of cattle on desert hikes and wired them to the back fence for decoration. There was also a tire swing. And a pool table, at one point. And morning glories. And a patio table with Dad's arrowhead collection displayed on the top. My tenth birthday singing telegram came to that backyard. Most of my ballet recital photos were posed there. And our doberman, Tia, once cornered me in the sideyard. (All the good memories blend in with the not-so-good.)

Inside, once the white living room carpet was replaced with dark brown, Dad and I would watch NOVA on PBS while eating ice cream out of glasses. The macrame plant holders that Mom made still hung nearby, but Mom lived elsewhere. Not until halfway through tenth grade did I walk out of that house for the last time. As an adolescent, I wasn't sad to leave behind my bright blue room, the cockroach problem, or memories that balanced precariously between good and bad. I had always wanted a front window in the living room, where we could set up the Christmas tree, and we had that in the next house.

All these years later, I still drive by my old house from time to time. I want to make sure it's still there, and see how it's doing. I can't get away with staring for long, but it only takes a second for the memories to rush in anyway.

I was shocked to see the pink house painted yellow on my most recent visit. There is also a broken window, an unfamiliar car in the driveway, trash and junk furniture near the driveway, and a different front door. Plus no cactus on the front step. But I can tour the floorplan in my imagination. I can see the red and pink carpet in the bathroom. Remember the new kitchen phone with its ten-foot cord. Help a couple of Dad's girlfriends move in, then out. Celebrate another birthday, another Christmas, another Easter. Then I drive away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reading Ambition

It's already mid-March, and I've only just finished the first of the eleven books on my "to-read" list for 2011.

Yesterday I finished Great Expectations, by Dickens. WAY easier read than A Tale of Two Cities, but lacking the huge payoff at the end. Don't get me wrong, it still had a nice ending, but not one that lingers in your heart and mind for days and weeks afterward.

Last night I started Robinson Crusoe. I have my fears about this book, but I chose it next because Joe just had to read an abridged version for school and I want to share it with him to some extent. Like Great Expectations, I am reading it on my iPhone. I am reasonably sure that I will be legally blind by age 42 if this phone-reading keeps up, but I don't feel the strain, so I can't forego the convenience.

In addition, for some Lent reading, I have chosen "The Way," By St. Josemaria Escriva. It's more of a booklet, really, and after I complete it during Lent, I imagine keeping it in my purse, or with my Bible. Here's a sample of today's reading: "May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ." (Yes, the gender-neutral patrol would have a heyday with this booklet, and two notes later, Escriva writes, "Be a man!" - I'm translating that one myself.)

Along with "The Way," the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska is on my "bedside patch of floor" (my nightstand is rendered useless since it's across the room and I'm not using my bed, remember). St. Faustina had a remarkable relationship with Jesus and was the "apostle" for the Divine Mercy, which has become more and more captivating for me lately. So I want to know more. (And I always think it's really cool to read diaries.)

Finally, I read of one or two or three saints a day from my "Treasury of Women Saints." Typically, the phrase that runs through my mind after I read about saints is, "These people are crazy!" So how can I be more like them? How can I be crazier for Jesus?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Well Rested

I don't think I'll be reaching any amazing heights of asceticism... I made it through my first bedless night with only some achy hips.

Kevin set up a floor-bed of sorts himself. I admit I was feeling more than a little sorry for not having discussed this sacrifice with him beforehand, so it's nice he is joining me.

The kids asked all kinds of questions. I think this Lenten decision will be among the more benign of their therapy recollections, and it made the explanation of "sacrifice" all the more tangible.

I found this website through a favorite blog of mine, The Ironic Catholic. It's called Busted Halo, and if you're looking for a really unique Lenten calendar, check there. It also links to a video - "Ash Wednesday in Two Minutes." Ash Wednesday is past, but the teaching is present and relevant.

On with Lent!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Worries

After blogging about my Lenten sacrifice, I asked Kevin if it was a bad idea to blog about it, in light of scripture that talks about NOT praying for others to see, or making fasting obvious, etc. He didn't say much, he might have still been reeling from the news that I'd be sleeping on the floor for over a month. He did wryly offer to buy me a hair-shirt, which made me laugh, and for the millionth time I chuckled to myself about all the strange things I've learned since becoming Catholic. (Read about hair shirts HERE.)

This morning, I open my nifty "Not by Bread Alone" Lenten app and this was the first scripture: Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father." (Matthew 6:1)

I have no defense, unless those two little words "in order" can be highlighted. I am not making my sacrifice to show people. I really do hope that it will make a difference in my relationship with Jesus. But I will still ask God to help me with humility and I will consider my motives carefully.

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday. (In keeping with the Word - Matthew 6:16 - I will not become gloomy as I fast today. However, in telling you I'm fasting, I've already messed up. Oh, dear.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'll Be Sleeping on the Floor

The idea of a Lenten sacrifice has deepened the longer I've been Catholic. Two years ago, I gave up sweets, because I know how much I looooooove them, and it was a real sacrifice. But last year, I decided to try a sacrifice that was also designed to bring me closer to Jesus. Giving up sweets doesn't inherently bring me closer to Jesus unless I stop to pray every time I would otherwise be grabbing a cookie. So last year I thought about OTHER things I really love (after sweets, I mean, because I do really, really, really love sweets). Sleep was next on the list. So I gave up some sleep. I started setting my alarm an hour earlier to make time in the morning to read scripture, pray, journal, and do other spiritual reading. It was so good for me that it has continued ever since. It has become a regular discipline.

Which brings us to this year. What is next on the list after sweets and sleep? Friends? My iPhone? What? Languishing in my wonderful bed one Saturday morning, looking over the stripes on my luscious plaid flannel sheets, I pledged undying love for my cozy bed. It is a sleep number bed, and I would be willing to do a commercial for it. It is like sleeping on a cloud. Ever since we bought it, all my back pain has been eradicated. I could go on and on but the point is, it is one of my favorite places to be. So this year, I'm giving my bed up for Lent.

I've read a lot of stories of the lives of saints over the past few years. And I am always intrigued by the "mortifications" that some of them performed. In my limited understanding, a mortification is something you do to voluntarily suffer. For Jesus, no other reason. To be like Him. To be closer to Him. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Maybe penance is involved, or maybe it's just a desire to know Him better. I expect I'll figure out a lot about this as the days of Lent go by.

My plan is to set an eggcrate bedroll on the floor with a sheet and a blanket. And my pillow. (I'm not ready to give up my pillow - that'll happen when I am MUCH more serious!) And before bed, instead of checking facebook or playing Words With Friends, I will read more of my "Treasury of Women Saints" compiled by Ronda De Sola Chervin and my newest app: "Not By Bread Alone - A Lenten App" which includes scriptural readings and a short devotional. Sounds great, huh? But then I have to go to sleep on that tiny thin layer between me and the hard floor. I am positive that many parts of my body will be numb every morning. So that's when I'll pray. I'll pray that Jesus will make me more like him, more willing to suffer. And I will SURELY pray for the countless men and women who sleep in much harsher conditions than I. I will still have climate control, pajamas, a pillow, and food in my tummy. So hopefully this will also compel me to give more during this season and into the future. Like I said, these Lenten sacrifices, when taken seriously, tend to extend well beyond Easter.

I will be journalling. And blogging. I hope you'll be reading, and praying, with me!

Here is the scripture I'm holding on to: "Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." - Philippians 3:8-11 ......I can hardly align my little sacrifice with that of Paul or Jesus, obviously. But I look forward to seeing what meaning it will have.

Blessings to you this Lenten season. I pray you will draw closer to Jesus who suffered for you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Put on your boots and hop in my pickup!

Kevin took the kids to the park for a couple hours this afternoon/evening and I spent the whole time they were gone in the kitchen. There was cheesecake to prepare (read: thaw) for Kevin's birthday celebration; Bethanie's birthday cake and cupcakes to bake. It is a strange but welcome sensation to have the house quiet and deserted now and then.

When you remove an animal from its normal habitat and transplant it somewhere entirely unfamiliar, the animal will exhibit odd behavior. It's only natural. Same goes for housewives, apparently, because when I found myself in a quiet, kid-free dwelling - I grabbed a beer from the frig and started blaring country music on Pandora.

The kooky-ness didn't end there. A song by Trace Adkins called "You're Gonna Miss This" came on and THAT made me get weepy! Seriously! I became the subject of a sullen country music song myself! If there are any budding lyric writers out there, here's your subject: 40 year-old housewife with blonde hair, jeans, a beer, and standing in her socks leaning on the pantry door CRYING.

It's not time for my period. I'm not medicated, so my dosages can't be off. And nothing particularly mournful happened today. But check out the song for yourself and tell me how it makes YOU feel. (This will be more effective, granted, if you are ALSO a wife and mother and have just downed half a beer.) Full lyrics and a sample of the song, along with a photo of Trace Adkins can be found HERE. The best explanation I can offer for my behavior is that this song comes right on the heels of my day yesterday, (see my most recent blog post) in which I became newly aware of my kids growing up too fast. Mr. Adkins is preying on this tendency in us mothers to get all sentimental and nostalgic about not only our children, but also all the other meaningful parts of our lives. (It worked! I bought the song off iTunes.)

I haven't been a big country music fan in the past. And I'm not sure whether tonight's incident will make me one now. But I will conclude with these related facts:
1) Men in cowboy hats are not totally unattractive.
2) I stopped drinking after one beer.
3) Despite the tears and distraction of my mom emotions, all my baking turned out well.
4) My family reappeared at 6:30 p.m. and the sibling rivalry, yelling, complaining, whining, hugging, goofing off, singing, dancing, and tripping over each other commenced. Above all the noise, I could still hear the voice of Trace Adkins: "You're Gonna Miss This."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Three Big Signs They're Growing Up - All in One Day

Bethanie woke up first this morning. That is normal, but it was fun to give her a "happy birthday" kiss in the quiet before everyone else got out of bed. In minutes, she was literally running around downstairs and she came to me and said in a breathless whisper, and with a little grin, "I think I'm faster now." Soon afterward, "I do seem bigger." My favorite moment of all was hours later at the mall, of all places, standing by the fountains hurling pennies in the water. I asked if she was making any wishes and she nodded, "I want to learn to fly!" I gave each of the kids three pennies, after taking stock of the quantity in my coin purse - but Bethanie got six. She turned six years old today, and that was the first milestone of the day.

Since we were already out, and getting out in the middle of the day is a big deal (I will refrain from saying "fiasco") with four homeschooled kids - I threw all caution to the wind and extended an already long shopping trip in order to hit one more store where I'd heard there were reasonably-priced First Communion dresses. Because, you see, Cayna is preparing to receive communion for the first time in May! This is exciting, yes. And a tremendous joy. It is also, in the heart of this relatively new-Catholic mother, completely bizarre to shop for an all-white dress and a veil for your seven year-old daughter. We are helping prepare Cayna to draw closer to Jesus in an all-new way. And Jesus is helping prepare ME to rely on Him in new ways as my daughter grows up. (He is also, thankfully, flooding our hearts with forgiveness because Cayna had a tantrum in the mall parking lot and I wasn't too nice to her in response.)

Joseph needed dress shoes. And he was such a patient, even-tempered companion through the throes of maniacal shopping-with-younger-siblings that I probably would have bought him his own convertible sports car just to thank him for being good. But I kept quiet about the sports car. Our shoe shopping, meanwhile, led us to the men's department. My firstborn now wears a man's shoe size. If that ain't a HUGE indicator that your kid is growing up, I don't know what is. (Well, yes I do, I guess. There was the first purchase of deodorant. And the extension of bedtime. And so on and so forth.) But really, men's shoes??? (Little economic sidenote here: black slip-on dress shoes in the kids' section cost $19.99 at the store we first tried. Same style in men's? A cool $60.00.)

Once safely home from the three-hour shopping bonanza, I marveled at how I could experience three major parenting milestones in ONE day. And then John needed a diaper change. Nothing like a wet diaper to remind me they're not quite off to college yet.