Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spin Class and Catholic Mass

My sweet friend texted me this morning to ask how I was doing. (When my husband goes out of town on business, I whine so pathetically that my best buddies text each morning to make sure I haven't perished from despair in the night.)

In a rare moment of selflessness I asked her how she was doing and her enthusiasm fairly oozed out of my iPhone. Here is the text of her text: "I have spin today and that is where all my doubts of the week get squashed!!! It's where I feel empowered for the week." Wow. That's what I wrote back, too: "Wow." I meant it. And I thought, "Good for her!" All of us need a place where the doubts of our week "get squashed."

Her wording made me think, though - doubt squashing and empowering us to live our daily lives---that's "God stuff." Certainly He accomplishes these things in a multitude of venues: at a spin class; on a 5-mile run; during a killer cup of coffee; while blogging; at the piano; engrossed in a good book; deep in conversation with a friend... the list goes on and on. But the wheels in my head were turning. I found myself comparing spin class with Mass because I instantly wondered if I would ever find myself texting a friend about church using triple exclamation marks.

Spin class - an hour out of the week, (maybe more), focused on the goal of physical and emotional health and keeping off extra pounds, being driven by an almost freakishly energetic instructor whose job it is to keep you pedaling and push you to achieve something difficult, intoxicated with the music that pushes out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when your endorphin and dopamine levels have risen and the pain is past and you can do anything! Anything! Covered in sweat and accomplishment, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the indoor track at the gym.
Catholic Mass - an hour on Sunday, (maybe more), focused on the goal of getting to heaven and keeping close to Jesus in the meantime, being led by a devoted priest whose job it is to illuminate God's Word and - more than anything - bring you the sacrament of the Eucharist, moved by the music and the prayers that push out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when you've received Jesus and the pain of your difficult days isn't so overwhelming and God can do anything! Anything! Covered by the blood of His sacrifice and the humility that comes when you are reminded how greatly He loves us, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the rows of chairs and kneelers.
On a "good" Sunday, I am engrossed in the Mass. Maybe I read the readings ahead of time. I shut off the TV on Saturday and gave a little more attention to prayer. My hairstyle turned out okay and my kids didn't annoy the heck out of me as we piled in the van to drive to church. I arrive in my seat and lift my eyes to the crucifix and thank Jesus for His sacrifice and for His tremendous love and for getting me there in one piece. These are the Sundays I want to text a friend about!

Other Sundays, I arrive pouting and angry and flustered. I want to prepare my heart for Jesus, but my husband made me angry at breakfast and my sweater makes me look fat and some lady just gave me a dirty look because my five year-old sneezed on her. Not an experience I want to gush about to a friend. I'd rather hide in the restroom until everyone goes away.

So there's the thing: you show up for church the same way you show up for an exercise class: sometimes great, sometimes cruddy. And you get on the bike or you sit in the pew. Either place, Jesus meets you in every mood and worry and sin and He loves to be close to you --- most of all in the glorious gift of the Eucharist, but certainly also at spin class. You might leave the gym after class in much the same way you leave the church building - energized, recharged, or -- on a bad day, hopefully rare, -- kinda disappointed in yourself. The major difference I can think of is that although you've got the emotional, athletic, elevated-hormone benefits when you leave the gym - all that's left to do is take a shower and go about your day, albeit in a better frame of mind than if you hadn't exercised. But when you leave the church after receiving the Eucharist - you've received the Lord of the universe -- the God who made you and loves you and will carry you through every trial. That's worth three exclamation marks!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 2

Participating in this link-up at Fine Linen and Purple is a good exercise for me. I need to access my fashionista side. Anyone who knows me well is now laughing hysterically, but I DO have a fashionista side! Sadly, it is buried by my budget side and my buy-the-kids-their-clothes side AND my I-still-have-to-lose-30-pounds side. So it's good to have to access it. Thanks, Fine Linen and Purple!

Because I was sick last week, this is my first official "What I Wore Sunday" post.

(Below: The author posing in her backyard in Nevada in mid-January, right before going to Mass. In the background, her faithful Yellow Lab, Shyla. Not pictured in the background: her Australian neighbor who is often sans clothing on a weekend morning.)

Our family has a "no jeans in church" rule, but I'm a rule breaker. That's such a lie. I'm a total rule follower. Except for sometimes. And this is one of those times. Because these are not jean-y jeans. They're nice. Non-faded, non-ripped. And, truth be told, I have limited options.

Jeans-Related Side-bar: last week on a friend's "What I Wore Sunday" blog she modeled her new red skinny jeans. In the six days since, I've seen two more women in real life wearing red skinny jeans. I have been having uncomfortable flash-backs to sixth grade when I had red skinny jeans. I say "uncomfortable" because I was Teri then like I'm Teri now and Teri now would have a super hard time pulling off red skinny jeans. Even if I was skinny! Red jeans must take a certain personality element that I am missing. I can do a red Eddie Bauer vest; black fingernail polish; avocado-green jaunty knit cap; but not red skinny jeans. I bet I'll keep thinking about them, though. It's good to have our fashion thinking challenged, so thanks, Kate!

Back to my jeans. They are Coldwater Creek. Coldwater Creek is a nice store where old women shop. That's what I think every time I walk in and see all the old women shopping. Yet I keep finding things there I like! Which leads me to believe I must be an old woman. But if old women wear nice jeans, then maybe it's not so bad being an old woman. I purchased these jeans with a gift certificate given to me by my mother-in-law. I think it's a fantasy of hers that I am an old woman and will soon die so that she can have a new and better daughter-in-law. Did I just write that out loud? Okay, gosh, I promise not to do this with every article of clothing.

My shirt is also from Coldwater Creek. I'm seeing a pattern here.

My boots are from Kohl's, purchased last year or the year before. They're alright. The best part about them is the box they came in. On the side is written, "Life Is Beautiful, Dress Accordingly."

Cozy, happy, cocoa-brown quilted jacket from Costco.

Necklace from Coldwater Creek and earrings (extra-large fake pearls probably not visible in this photo) are from a wedding I was in. Now that would be a fashion post - photos of all the bridesmaids' dresses I've worn. Stay tuned.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1) I have survived "Flu 2013." It was a heckuva way to start the year, and I can think of about a trillion things I would have liked better in the way of kick-offs, (a formal ball; a trip to Italy; a 90-minute massage...) but there you have it. Other things I've done in the early days of this new year: dental visits for all four children; got the dog spayed; bought new underwear for half the members of my family, and started a lengthy Russian novel (I'm reading it, not writing it, in case there was any question).

2) I got to go to an 80s-themed party not too long ago. It was sheer joy just getting ready for the party! Check out my shopping list:
What a rush to tease my hair and lacquer it with Aqua Net! Here is a photo of the end result. If your first thought is: "Gee, Teri --- that doesn't look much different than the way you do it NOW!" --- keep it to yourself.
3) In an effort stay more informed about current events, we recently started buying a Sunday paper at 7-Eleven on the way home from church every week. I'm sorely disappointed. I don't know what I was expecting, but other than comics and editorials, it's no better than watching the "news" on TV. I will continue to look for a better source. In a related story, our diocese recently got our city hooked up with Immaculate Heart Radio on 970 AM. When we're in the car and I have been able to listen over the roar of my four passengers - I've heard good things!

4) Since Halloween, when I think a lot about candy, I've been wondering why Tootsie Rolls come in so many shapes and sizes. Visiting the Tootsie Roll website did nothing to provide a satisfactory explanation. Yes, they list the names of the sizes: Midgees, Mini-Midgees, 5-Cent, 10-Cent, 20-Cent, Giant Bar, Count Good Bag, and Snack Bar. But I was hoping they would explain what research went into the decision to offer such a variety. I know, this is where my curiosity deviates from yours. You couldn't care less, whereas I have lain awake nights.

5) Is that the proper use of "lain?" Will you explain past participles to me?

6) I have become a devoted fan of "Downton Abbey." We started watching about the time I came down with the flu, and have already breezed through the whole first season and most of the second. Only two episodes of the third season have aired so far and I can already feel a slight depression coming on when we're all caught up and I have to wait an entire week to see new developments.

7) Over the past couple weeks, it has been below freezing more days than not. We made the best of it. A neighbor hosed down his driveway and let it freeze. This provided two solid hours of sledding fun for all our kids right at the end of their Christmas break.
On the down side, those cold temperatures also caused some pipes to bust. While we examined the damage, we glanced over at our neighbor's matching pipe - it was expertly bundled in a cozy gray blankie. Oh, well, live and learn (and check out that icicle hanging off the end of the white pipe! You just don't see those around here every day!) I am newly aware that if we are ever called to relocate to a place like Michigan, or Siberia, we will need a lot of instruction to be able to survive.
For more Quick Takes, be sure to visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary, along with many others!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Our Dog-Fearing Family Came to Own A Labrador

Once upon a time our family was afraid of dogs. Kevin was afraid of their stink. I was afraid of how messy they are. And our four children have always been exceedingly afraid of everything about dogs. These fears (mainly those of the children) have cost us friendships. It is difficult to explain to someone that your child is afraid of their dog if they see their dog as a family member who cannot be relegated to a kennel, back room, or back yard in the presence of a fearful child. I often wanted to grumble, "Listen, if it was your grandpa who was terrifying the bejeezus out of my kid right now, I'd ask you to remove him, too!"

Each of our kids has been afraid, but we've seen that as they get older, the fear starts to subside. It helps that we know some rational folks with well-trained dogs who have been VERY patient with us and our fears. It was after a visit with one such friend that my heart started to be overtaken with all the good things I've heard about kids having dogs and I gave dog ownership some actual, intellectual consideration. Also, the kids wanted some red-eared slider turtles and I couldn't see spending lots of cash on a small amphibian who may or may not pass Salmonella to us and certainly would never snuggle or fetch or go for walks or be trained to do tricks.

I did my research and my cousin alerted me to a great breed, the Hungarian Vizsla, which sounded like a dream partly due to the fact that it is known for "low dog odor" and I was still trying to deal with Kevin's biggest concern. Every Vizsla lead I got dead-ended. Every trip to a dog adoption or a shelter led me to believe that the only dogs available were Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas. And so, unexpectedly, we found our Yellow Lab at a pet store one crisp Sunday evening in November. We got a significant discount because she had been at the pet store too long. She was still adorably cute, but no longer was she a teeny puppy, and therefore less sellable. After hours of deliberating, kids begging, and to my surprise, a look of joy on my husband's face (though he might deny it) - we loaded up the van with a crate, a bag of dog food, a box of supplies, and a nervous, almost four month-old puppy who had lived all her early life in a cage.

On the drive home, we named her. Recently, we had listened to a series of three books on CD about a sweet beagle named Shiloh. All of us loved the story and so the feminine version, Shyla, became the all-around favorite for our new dog.

Shyla was nervous about everything. On the drive home from the pet store, we dropped her, Kevin, and Joe off at the park at dusk so the rest of us could go home to cook dinner and assemble the crate. The guys said she was terrified to cross streets and Kevin ended up carrying her a good portion of the distance home. This is her first photo with us just inside our front door after her arrival.
It took over a week to break her of her fear of thresholds of our house, garage, and car. She had no initial desire even to look around the house. On our morning walks, I realized quickly that everything was new to her: airplanes, cars whizzing past, other people, leaves blowing in the street. Thankfully, it didn't take too long for her fear to change to curiosity.

Shyla was comfortable in our house well before John was comfortable with a dog around. For a while, he regarded her as a land shark. He only felt safe here:

This made for a stressful few weeks. We had to put John in safe places or make sure Shyla was tethered to our back door or our banister. Otherwise, there was a lot of blood-curdling screaming going on and my heart alternated between breaking and flip-flopping numerous times a day. For those in a similar situation, who might be wondering how long it takes a five year-old to quit an irrational fear, it was one month. I knew when enough days went by with no vicious attacks, John would start to grasp that he was safe and could be friends with Shyla. Don't think I'm cruel to introduce such a fear right into the home - John begged to have this dog, and he showed signs of affection toward her right away - as long as she was asleep and securely tied to something.
On having a dog, I am shocked (not too strong a word) at how much I enjoy it. I really like her! Yes, there is dog hair everywhere, but it does vacuum up. The kids are all over her. They run to share affection, feed her, let her out to pee, help with baths, etc. It should be noted that no one else but me has ever cleaned up her barf, but I knew certain jobs would fall to me. We do share the poop clean-up chore.

She is sweet, there's no denying it.
And if I've convinced you to get a dog, you should do two things. 1) Crate train. And 2) Familiarize yourself with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. Here is Shyla in her crate, where she happily spends her nights and the times when we are out of the house.
Shyla is our beloved pet. I think this family photo from Christmas about sums up her place.  She's part of us, but not one of us. She won't face the camera, or smile, or even stop playing with her frisbee - but the whole photo is more fun now that she is part of it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I Wore Sunday - Not My Normal Sunday

Today, while the Church celebrated The Baptism of the Lord, I sat home recovering from a pernicious, week-long flu that affected all four kids and me.

It may seem odd to begin this "What I Wore Sunday" link-up with the writers at Fine Linen and Purple on a day when I look anything but "fine." But today is a victory of sorts, so why not highlight the outfit of choice for having survived an entire week of the flu and all that goes with it?
I'm wearing my TekGear Fit & Flare pants, purchased several years ago at Kohl's; an oversized green sweatshirt that I've owned so long and washed so many times the seams are separating; and on my feet, a pair of heavenly heavy-cushion Smartwool crew socks. If you have a favorite comfort food, these are the socks you should wear while eating it!

Flu symptoms like high fevers, sore bodies, yucky coughs, and runny noses require dose after dose of children's Tylenol and Ibuprofen, days in pajamas, cough drops, and boxes and boxes of tissues. The constant demands of a sick brood and a sick self lead to exhaustion and a heightened awareness of responsibility, guilt, and my own selfishness. Example: I know that my babies need comfort and nurturing - but my nose is running, too!-- my body is aching! If I have to be sick at the same time as all four of my children, it would be much easier to have the heart and selflessness of Mother Teresa. I'm guessing she rarely snapped at those she cared for at her Home for Sick & Dying: "I know your throat hurts! Mine does too! Gimme a break here!" When I reached the end of each day, my eyes burned with fever, but my conscience smoldered from being so darn grouchy!

Next week, I pray that I will be back in nice clothes and my hair will be styled and makeup applied. But today is what it is - another day home, resting and recuperating, and thankful that I must not have done too much damage or John wouldn't be willing to rest on my lap. In his fashionable Batman jammies.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy (Sad) News in the World of Books, Journals, and Technology

Four of the five gifts I gave Kevin for Christmas had to be exchanged. But that fifth gift was a success. It was a nine dollar "invisible book shelf" I picked up at Barnes & Noble. He installed it right beside his bed and we both admired it.

In fact, I admired it so much I went out the other day and got one for myself.
(Despite the fact that these iPhone photos make it look like Kevin sleeps in a beige room and I sleep in a lavender room - I assure you, it's just the poor photo and we haven't moved to separate bedrooms.)

Now my nightstand can be kept clear for things like Kleenex, dust, and the odd assortment of Legos and art projects and, this week, since we're all sick - the digital ear thermometer.

Take a look at that red book about fourth from the top on my shelf. That was an impulse buy off a Target clearance endcap the other day. It's a journal. I have a compulsion to buy journals of all shapes and sizes, every time I see one, and although I really have no use for them, part of the fun of the compulsion is inventing the need for the journal. I already keep a regular journal, along with a diary (that blue book at the top of the book stack) - so you can imagine how creative I have to be to come up with purposes for a steady influx of new journals. I decided the red journal would serve as a book list for all the books I've ever read. I told a good friend and fellow reader about my shiny new journal and my proposed use for it and she mentioned how she uses Goodreads for that. Well, this was a bit of a slap in the face for the red journal, but since this friend was the forty-third person in my life to recommend Goodreads, I finally took a moment and visited the site. At this point you should clearly hear the death knell sounding for my collection of empty journals.

Goodreads keeps three valuable lists for me: 1)Books I've read. I happily copied the list I had of all the books I read in 2012 to my Goodreads "shelf". That list was originally on my iPhone, so no journal had to die in this case. 2)Books I'm currently reading. I am keeping this list at one title, even if it kills me. 3)Books I want to read. Geez Louise, this list will probably grow pretty quickly. In addition, I can see what my friends have read, are reading, and want to read. It's fantastic! Where I used to walk into a person's house (not strangers, I promise) and peruse their bookshelves - now I can obtain this information from the comfort of my own desk chair. So I've eliminated not just the need for my precious journals, but the need to ever visit anyone's home again. What a relief! More time to read!