Monday, April 30, 2012

DIY May Day Baskets

Spring looks like it is finally here! The trees are green, there are flowers everywhere and my garden is starting to bloom at last. It was a lovely weekend again, and we enjoyed the outdoors a whole bunch.
Our Lilac bush is finally ready to bloom this week.
Vibrant clusters of flowers on my Bleeding Heart.
The first pink tulip made its appearance this week.

May Day is tomorrow, and I'm excited for the chance to celebrate springtime. May Day isn't a very big holiday in the United States, but I love it nonetheless. It is a holiday which stems from ancient pagan festivals of springtime, and it's full of dancing, singing, flowers and fun. May Day festivals in Europe are much more prevalent than in the United States, but some of the traditions did make it stateside. Dancing and singing around the maypole, leaving May Day baskets on neighbors doorknobs and choosing the May queen are a few of the traditions that prevailed in American celebrations of the holiday.

How bright and fun is this maypole?

When I was a kid my small school used to celebrate May Day by decorating berry baskets and filling them with treats or flowers and taking them to our "neighbors" in the other classrooms. We would hang long lengths of ribbon from the tether-ball poles to make maypoles and we would make crowns out of greenery (we were all May royalty). It is a lovely little memory. It made me want to celebrate May Day with Lucas, so I decided to make my own May Day baskets for him and the daycare kids.

I attached some old holiday ribbon to a small green paper cup and filled it with faux flowers. Then I made the paper flower, glued a cut out photo in the middle and attached that to a Popsicle stick. The result was super cute and super easy. I'm going to let the kids decorate their cups with stickers, but here is the prototype:

Lucas loves carrying his May Day basket around the house.
Pretty cute, huh? If you are looking for some more elaborate May Day crafts Design Mom has posted a lovely DIY with three sweet basket designs. You could always make your own maypole too. I just might try to make one myself if the hubby has any spare maypoles lying around the garage. With such nice weather, a dance around the maypole would be a great way to start out the week.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hope Will Prevail

 There are plenty of issues in the news to dampen the optimism of even the most cheerful souls. There are countless stories that show how corrupt and hateful our church is, how inept and pervasive our government is and, all too often, an unsavory mixture of the two. Some days it's just too much for me. The news stories have been building in rapid succession upon one another these past few weeks. Nuns being challenged for their lack of hatred and a girl banned from her high school prom because she was ditched by her date. Yet another law that attacks women's reproductive rights. Politics in general is just depressing as all hell, let's not even go there right now.

When I saw this article come up in the news this morning about a woman who was fired from a Catholic school for undergoing IVF, it truly broke my heart. Not just as a mother, or a woman, but as a human being. When will we stop denying the human experience to those who don't fit the perfect mold of Catholicism? When will we stop reciting ancient laws that have no place in this world? I would love to hear some answers to the question, "What would Jesus do?" right about now.

 Mahatma Gandhi
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
  --  Mahatma Gandhi

It was another stone on the wall building between myself and the leadership of the church. It made me question my motives all over again. It made me feel powerless, because the quiet voices of the reasonable majority are lost amidst the yelling. There are so many of us saying the same things, feeling the same alienation, crying out for love and acceptance to come the forefront where it belongs.

Our words fall on deaf ears.

Many of the church leaders seem to have lost touch with the beating heart of Christianity. They do not understand the love that we speak of. They do not recognize the Jesus we worship. They are too busy catcalling politicians and backpedaling towards ancient times to take a moment to listen to those of us who want to see the church create a kinder world. 

People leave the church because their moral compass is pointing in a different direction. I am disappointed but not surprised. It's a hard road to follow; you need a lot of hope.

And hope? I can do hope.

It's hard not to feel hopeless when your voice is ignored, but I try not to let myself go to that place. Because hope is really all we have right now. I cannot change the hierarchy of the church, I cannot make them listen, but I can still see a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I have abundant hope.

Because someday in my lifetime, my generation will be at the helm of Christianity.

Those of us who are sticking it out in hope will have our day. I believe in my generation. I believe we are kinder and braver than our predecessors. I believe we have come a long way. I believe, in time, we can change the church. I believe our collective voice will be heard. Not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

I have hope that when that day comes, I will see the world changed. I will see the love we have longed for our whole lives.

And in the meantime, hope will not be lost on me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Wonderland

This weekend...

 A day at the park. 
A day at the beach.
The loveliest weather April's ever had to offer.

Aren't some things just beyond words?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons

I was zesting up some lemons today to make lemon poppy seed muffins (I'll be sharing the recipe tomorrow on my food blog, Sweet Life), and it reminded me of this sweet video of Lucas. Unfortunately, he doesn't find lemon zesting uncontrollably hilarious anymore. It was one of those brief whims of fancy that babies often have. Even so, lemon zesting will always make me smile because it makes me think of this.

The littlest girl I have in daycare right now is about the age Lucas is in this video. It makes me so nostalgic for those sweet baby snuggles and giggles and coos. And being able to take a photograph of him when he actually stayed still for more than a millisecond. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Words We Don't Say

Words matter. As a writer this has always held true for me. As a mother, it holds a whole new threshold of truth.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the words I put out into the universe. Not about what my words say about me, but rather what my words say to my son. What do my words teach him about the world, about our family, about himself? How will my words, whether spoken or written, shape who he becomes?

I have long been enchanted with the concept Sarah Bessey outlines in her post about speaking life into her children. She talks about how she actively seeks to notice and mention the good in her children not through "effusive praise but good, true words of life given with intention." Not only to point them in the right direction or build their self-esteem (though surely this is a part of it), but also to "cement how [she sees] them."

The words I say to Lucas have a power that frightens me. The things I say to him don't just shape how he sees me or how he sees the world; they shape how he views himself, and how he thinks I view him. He is a methodical little one, a quiet and watchful soul. Whenever I react to him, I can see him absorbing my words, calculating the meaning of my response, measuring, in his own way, the extent of my love for him. 

He understands language well enough now to know that it can be used as an expression of love. When I say "I love you" he gives me a kiss or snuggles against me to show me his love. He does it without being prompted, without ever being taught, and it blows my mind every time. Sometimes, I think perhaps he sees all language as an expression of love. Somewhere in his soul he's catching all my words and fitting them together like puzzle pieces to determine where we stand on the grounds of love.

 (I hope we stand on a rock, my dear, as big and sturdy a rock as the world's ever known.)

So, I am careful to give him deserving praise, to speak life into his soul, to give him the love he yearns after. I let him know he is my world, my sunshine, my own heart beating outside my body.

But this is not my struggle with words.

Because motherhood is not all sunshine and happiness, even if it is always love. Some days are rough and these are the days when my words matter most. It is so hard to put the frustration aside and speak words of life when tantrums and whining and food throwing ensues. It is hard to keep discipline separate from words of negativity. It is hard to speak the language of love when I don't feel that love coming back.

This is why the words we don't say matter.

Even though I still slip up sometimes, I am trying my best to let my love show through the difficult moments. I am learning to focus on the words I don't say. It doesn't just mean changing the way I talk to Lucas, but also the way I talk about him to others. It means not giving in to the impulse to complain about him after a difficult day. It is so easy to fall into the "pig pen" (as Sarah describes it) of complaining about our children, but even if the words are not spoken to Lucas, they still undercut him. If Rob comes home and I say in front of Lucas, "Oh man, Lucas has been so (difficult, whiny, etc.) today," you can be sure he's taking that into his heart, judging himself over my words. I don't ever want anything I say to make him think twice about how good of a person he is.

Even if he isn't around, the words I don't say matter. I am his mother, and I should be the one to stand up for him not tear him down. He is mine, and I love him, and that should shine through, always. It's not about trying to look like I have the perfect child (I don't) or trying to look like the perfect mother (ha!). It's about having his back, because I'm his mom.

It's about speaking the language of love. Always.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Small Scale Catholicism

My decision to convert to Catholicism came as a shock to many of my peers and family members, and I can see why. While most people my age were turning their backs on their respective religious upbringings, here I was turning towards a church that seemed riddled with nothing but evil and scandal and close-mindedness.

One young woman in my writing class told me after spending all her formative years in Catholic school and going to church and being a "model Catholic," she had to finally turn away. The molestations, the cover-ups, these unbelievable crimes being committed by church leaders was too much for her.

"I just can't justify being Catholic anymore."

I understand.

It is seriously difficult to justify being a member of the Catholic church nowadays. There is a constant stream of news concerning all the horrible things that Catholic leaders are doing. Denying rights to women, turning their backs on the LGBT community and denying them rights, and sexual abuse by clergy members; just to name a few atrocities. Stories about nuns promoting fiscal responsibility and the plight of normal Christians gets lost in all that negative noise. Obviously, and for good reason.

While I feel that most of my peers understand that the "Church" doesn't speak for all Catholics, that doesn't solve any problems. When friends post news stories about the next big Catholic mess-up, I can't stand up for the church. Even though I believe that some of the bad things church leaders do and say begin as good intentions, it's not enough to excuse them. Being a jerk, even though you don't mean to be, doesn't make you any less of a jerk. It makes you an ignorant jerk. Throwing what you believe is "the will of God" into the mix, really isn't helping matters. Trust me.

So why be Catholic? That's the big question, isn't it? That's what I feel non-Catholics don't understand about me. If you can't stand behind the Catholic church, why bother?

It was difficult for me to leave behind nondenominational Christianity for Catholicism. Protestant Christianity has a multitude churches, so whenever one crazy church does something horrifying like screaming obscenities and waving "God Hates Fags" signs at military funerals, you can simply say "that's not my church." You don't have to bear the personal responsibility, because the Protestant churches are so separated from one another. Catholic churches don't have that luxury. We're all connected. There's a system, a hierarchy and sometimes that leads to all of us bearing the shame of a select few. 

We're all connected. It's my catch-22. It is the best and worst part of Catholicism for me. I stay because we are connected, and we need to stay that way if we're ever going to get anything done. I love that we all get to be part of this big community; that I can go into any church and know the words will be the same, the songs will be familiar, the routine will be familiar. I take comfort in knowing we are all worshiping the same God.

I got tired of searching for a Christian church that suited me. I got really tired of trying to find a church that didn't have a God rock band blasting electric guitar at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.(Let's be honest, in my perfect world we'd be singing old fashioned hymns and Gregorian chants, because I'm weird like that.) It's the separation of Protestant churches that drove me away in the first place.

However, the connectedness and routine of the Catholic church still doesn't fully explain why I stay. It's nice, but the bad probably outweighs the good in that particular respect. The reason I stay is because I believe that below the higher-ups who make us all look like jerks there are a whole lot of decent people; people who want to make the world a better place and want to model love for the world and want to stay here and fight it out, because they, like me, believe our faith worth it.

It's small scale Catholicism that keeps me strong in my faith. It's the good priests at small churches who say "all are welcome" and truly mean it. It's the nuns who work quietly and humbly to make our city a better place. It's the laypeople who devote their time to help the poor and homeless and hopeless through volunteer work. It's seeing an open-minded young man enter the priesthood who just might change the face of Catholicism as we know it.

It is the beauty of being connected with these sorts of people that keeps me here.

Strong in faith and hope and love.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Very Superstitious

When I was younger, I was never really superstitious. I walked under ladders all the time. I had a black cat. I stepped on cracks in the sidewalk (I mean that one was kind of unavoidable where we lived). I opened umbrellas indoors. I didn't forward those "FORWARD THIS OR DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH AND HAVE NO LOVE IN YOUR LIFE EVER AND YOUR CRUSH IS TOTALLY GONNA DIE TOO OMG!" chain e-mails. And as much as I wanted to connect to the great beyond with ouji boards, I was usually the one moving it around.

Friday the 13th never scared me. I actually missed the message that 13 was an unlucky number. I always remember thinking of it as my lucky number. And I still do. Not because I have made tons of connections with the number in my life (I haven't). It's just my lucky number because it always has been.

Then I made the connection on December 13th, 2010.
I guess you've always been my lucky star.

So, Happy Friday the 13th everyone! 
I hope yours involved a sleepy dog, a happy baby and a pile of books.
Or, you know, whatever makes you undeniably happy.
Lucky me.

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