Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Which I Learn Another Lesson (And Speak Parenthetically A Lot)

I switched churches late last summer and am in love with the parish I now attend. St. John's has two priests who handle the Masses, the resident pastor, Fr. Steve, and an assistant retired priest, Fr. George (although, you'd never know he was retired given how much he does). Before I began going to St. John's, someone warned me that Father Steve was a little "too outgoing" and often required congregation participation and that that was a major turnoff for them. I didn't know what to expect, but I wanted to give it a try.

Father Steve is amazing. It turns out that "congregation participation" just means that he asks, albeit exuberantly, how everyone's doing or whether or not we're going to take the bulletin home or some other similar question, and he actually expects a response (and he'll ask again, until he gets one). I can imagine that a lot of people think Mass is a time for quiet reflection and don't feel comfortable "talking back" to the priest (also, I think there's an attitude against this in a lot of Catholic churches because it can tend to be a little too "call and response" and that may seem a little, uhm, protestant maybe...or maybe that's just me?). For me, Father Steve is outrageously funny and I adore the Masses that he leads. I think his most endearing quality is that he is human (and accessible in his humanity) and isn't afraid to show it to his parishioners; he doesn't appear to inhabit an untouchable, holier-than-thou realm (oh, the irony!), as a lot of priests can (at least, most of the ones I knew growing up were like that). For the record, Father George also comes across this way and is a rather delightful little man in his own right.

I had the schedule nailed down. Fr. Steve would do the 8:30 Mass one Sunday and the 11 o'clock the next. I tried my best to follow the routine because I find Father Steve's homilies to be very thought provoking (and good for a few great laughs) and, usually, just what I need to hear - without even realizing that I needed to hear anything.

Last month, we had a couple of big storms that made it difficult for me to get out of the driveway on Sunday, so I ended up missing Mass. No worries, right? I went the next Sunday and it ended up being Father George. Now, don't get me wrong, Father George is a very lovely man who knows his religion. I tend to think of him more as a little professor who gives a history lesson within his homily (for instance, I now know more than I once did (read: nothing) about basilicas and can even tell you that there's now one in Maine (who knew, right?). Don't get me wrong, Father George delivers a beautiful Mass, but I just look forward to Father Steve more because I'm selfish like that.

Well, no matter which Mass I've attended for the past three weeks, the celebrant has been Father George. I felt a little twinge of disappointment (and, yes, immediately felt guilty for feeling that way) when I realized that it wasn't going to be Father Steve that morning. It turns out, though, that when I put aside my silly little expectations and just sit there and listen - truly listen - the experience is just as fulfilling and I also hear what I need from Father George.

Just another example of how good it can be to be wrong.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Can't Even Begin To Imagine

I was going to post about Ash Wednesday, but this is more important.

I only recently came across their blog, but my heart and prayers go out to the Scheck family tonight.

God rest your soul, Henry, and may your family and friends be comforted by the memory of your love and spirit.

Tonight, when I check on Liam and Ella before I go to sleep, I will crawl into bed with them, rub their backs and tell them that I love them. I'll kiss them as I always do, and I will lay silently with them and be more mindful of how deeply blessed I am.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quick Takes

  • I loved El Presidente's address to Congress. He breathed some life, and truth, into that chamber.
  • Nancy Pelosi does look a bit like the cat who got the canary, though.
  • Man, I love Michelle Obama.
  • Wow, given his reputation for being such a hardass, I would have thought that Rahm Emanuel would have a more commanding voice.
  • My niece is going to be traveling to Africa late next week to spend most of March working with an organization that helps orphans whose parents died of HIV/AIDS. That's pretty damn awesome.
  • After nearly two months, there's finally a new trainer at the gym. I met him yesterday and I think his goal is really to be a gym teacher, so I'm not too sure how well he's going to work out (no pun intended), but I'm going to make sure that I get all of my appointments in with him. I'm conflicted about the gym at the moment and have a lot of thinking to do.
  • I've decided that my long-term goal for the year is to finish the basement. It'll mean organizing the unfinished side better so that I can facilitate the massive undertaking that will be clearing out the finished side. Then, we need to settle on a heat source, strip the wallpaper, paint, and get new carpeting in there. It'll be a huge, huge job but I really would like to have it done by the time it gets cold again. Finishing the space up the way I want it would give me space for a quilting corner, more play room for the kids, a dedicated area to workout at home and it would just be awesome to utilize a third floor of living space.
  • I went out to very nice dinner last Friday night with some ladies that I knew from middle school. I'm loving facebook - it's totally giving me a life! I've really enjoyed reconnecting with people, but am most enjoying getting back in touch with the middle school crowd.
  • We had to have our DVR replaced. J had noticed that the reception was choppy, especially if we paused something and then tried to watch it later. Over the past couple of weeks, the signal just became awful and I couldn't take it anymore. I could almost live with the choppiness, but the sound would go out too and I was about to lose my mind. I called comcast last Thursday night (actually, it was 12:30 in the morning and would you believe I was on hold for over 20 minutes?!) to complain and they were going to send someone out yesterday, but ended up having a tech in the area on Friday. J was hesitant and thought maybe I was being too picky (he tends to expect the negative and doesn't ever rock the boat). Within 3 minutes of his arrival, the tech declared that the box was indeed defective and he replaced it. I was bummed to lose all of the stuff we'd recorded (mostly, I was bummed to lose the Imagination Movers were the kids), but I'm thrilled to have clear service now. We're re-recording the Movers as quickly as we can :)
  • I'm simulataneously craving peanut butter and chocolate dipped strawberries. Instead, I'll be good and head to bed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just Wondering

If you run a television station in the hopes of dispelling negative perceptions of Muslims in America and then you allegedly decapitate your wife after she filed for divorce, aren't you just maybe working against your interests?

Monday, February 16, 2009

What I Should Have Done

Tonight, at the grocery store, I witnessed a scene straight out of Terms of Endearment. You may not be familiar with the film, so I'll fill you in: it's the scene where Debra Winger's character, Emma, is trying to check-out at the grocery store with her boys and she doesn't have enough money to pay for it all. It's uncomfortable and heartbreaking and makes you want to reach through the screen and offer her the money to make up the difference.

I tend to space out when I'm in line at the grocery store and, since there was a woman in front of me who, for whatever reason, laid out her 15 items over the entire length of the conveyor belt, I had more time to space out before I could put my bags and groceries up. I slowly became aware of a situation that was stalling the progress of our line and realized that the woman who was being rung up was unable to pay for all of her groceries. At first the cashier asked the woman to try running her card through again. I immediately felt embarrassed for the customer and thought about what a sign of the times it is that I'm hearing more and more cashiers, usually discreetly, ask a customer to try their method of payment a second time. Well, it didn't work. The cashier then kept saying "$40.30." Over and over and over again. The customer was speaking quietly and not losing her cool as the cashier became increasingly more annoyed with the situation and just kept repeating "$40.30."

Turns out the customer was paying with food stamps, which are on a debit card, and had gone over her remaining balance of $ $5.55. She, along with her young son (I guesstimated his age to be 8 or 9) had purchased $45.85 worth of groceries. The cashier just kept sniping at the woman, reminding her what the balance on her card was and the woman, who remained calm and dignified, reached into her grocery bags and began pulling out items - including her son's breakfast cereal - to remove from the bill. The cashier, all huffy, took items off until she got the bill down below the balance. To add insult to injury, the woman had pulled out far more items than needed to be removed from her bill, but the cashier did not bother telling the bagger, who began taking all of the items back and placing them in bins to be reshelved. The customer had to explain to him several times that he didn't need to take any more items, as the issue had been settled and he'd already taken back the items which had been removed. Finally, after much confusion on the bagger's part, the cashier stepped in and told him that the customer was correct and that she "could take her food home now."

Fortunately, the woman was able to keep her son's cereal. My heart broke for this woman and her son and I just wanted to give her the money to make up the difference, but was afraid she may be embarrassed if I offered. All I could think was, "the month is barely half over and she's already out of money for food." The saddest part of all, to me anyway, was that just about everything in her cart was processed and/or canned food. I didn't see any fresh vegetables or meat for her and her son. The tragic irony for people who need food stamps is that it doesn't allow them enough money to buy food that's actually good for them. In order to stretch their allotment, they are made to choose between cheap foods that are filled with chemicals and highly processed, which can get them through the month, or fresh foods that are expensive and won't last as long.

Another irony, in this case at least, is that the introduction of the food stamp debit card system was supposed to imbue the process with some sense of dignity. As the NH Department of Health and Human Services information page about the food stamp program states, "only you and the store clerk know you are using food stamps to pay for your items." Someone should tell tonight's cashier that's how it's supposed to be.

I know I'll never not be accused of being a bleeding heart liberal. After all, I'm the same chick who, at 16 and on a school trip to Washington DC, gave money to a homeless man living on one of the streets that I was walking down, with the strict caveat that he not spend the money on alcohol while the group I was with walked on and shook their heads in disbelief at me.

I know that there are people who abuse the system and I know that there are people who think that Obama is going to be the Messiah of the Masses (don't get me started, that's another blog post brewing in my head), but the woman tonight was just a mother trying to feed herself and her child and being treated like crap.

I should've offered her the money.


On a somewhat related note, check out the generosity of this story.

This Entry Brought To You By The Magic Of DVR

Now that we have DVR, I can finally keep up with the race!

And, perhaps I'm being too critical...but, if you apply to be on a show called The Amazing Race, doesn't it follow then that some actual physical activity - perhaps even oh, I don't know, RACING - might be involved? And, if you can't really run well, why would you even apply?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

Just a quickie...

Does anyone else find it amusing that Pizza Hut is marketing its new lasagna as "restaurant quality?" Doesn't that kind of imply that the Hut isn't really a restaurant?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Check It Out

Electrolux is holding a virtual bake sale and offering the chance to win a washer and dryer set, while also raising money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Go! Register! Make cupcakes and be entered to win!

Who wouldn't like to be able to do an entire load of laundry in 36 minutes?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Which I Make A Statement

I came across this story on today. Similar in many aspects to the Terri Schiavo case, it got me to thinking - again - about what we mean when we talk about "quality of life." Cases like these, I'm sure, have opened up a dialogue for the rest of us and, therefore, we may be more aware of how to make our wishes known in advance - God forbid the need for such wishes to be carried out - but spending years in a vegetative state and wasting away physically is not "living."

I understand, I truly do, the desire to preserve life, but at what cost? For those who would deny someone the chance to end their loved one's state of being, when said state of being requires the use of machinery just to keep their body functioning at a bare minimum, the argument just doesn't make sense. In regards to this case, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, "I will do everything I can to save [Englaro's] life. We have to do everything possible to stop a person from dying." When it is clear that a patient will never recover, will never have any quality of life, will never be able to function apart from the very machines that make "life" possible, why must we prevent death? How, really, will death be any different from the "life" she had?

I'm certainly not advocating arbitrary euthanasia, neither am I disregarding that people have miraculously come out of years-long comatose states, but the rights of the patients and the patient's loved ones must be considered. Even in heavily-Catholic, anti-euthanasia Italy, a patient can refuse treatment. Neither Terri Schiavo nor Eluana Englaro was ever going to be able to refuse treatment and others had to speak for them.

We must listen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Love

Backstory: Liam and Ella have commented on several occasions about how "big" my sister, M, is. Given that M is rather, shall we say, not petite, we just kind of assumed that they were commenting on her size. Oddly enough, though, they'd never said anything about me being big. From time to time, they'd say that Nana or Daddy was big, too (Daddy is most definitely not big), so I wasn't quite sure what they were cuing into when they used "big" to describe someone.

Today, I found out.

While we were out for a drive, Ella was chattering away and telling me that J was going to eat her Elmo book. I told her that that would be very silly. She agreed. Then, I told her that Daddy loved her and Liam very much.

The following conversation ensued:

H: Daddy loves you and brother so much.

E: Yeah, he does.

L: Yeah.

E: Daddy is big, like Nana.

H: What does it mean to be big?

E: Daddy and Nana are big, Mumma. They are big with my love. They love Liam and me and they are big with love.

H: Oh! That's what it means to be big?

L: Yeah.

E: And you, Mumma. You are big, too. You love Liam and me, too.

H: I sure do!

She then went on to list pretty much everyone in our family that she sees on a regular basis and tell me how much they love her. Liam agreed with her list and my heart? It continues to melt.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Heart. It's Melting.

Ella has not been into sleeping much lately. Mind you, she crashes harder than a lead balloon when she finally does give into sleep, but she will not nap and, as she climbs the stairs at night and crawls into bed (both kids have given up their beds are now sleeping on the futon in their room...that's an entirely different post) she proclaims over and over and over that she "can't do this." It's pathetic, really, and breaks my Mumma heart, but the kid needs her sleep!

Cut to tonight. She's on the nutty side, due, naturally, to the lack of yet another nap, and is insisting that she won't sleep, she doesn't need sleep, just "can't won't sleep, Mumma!" God help me, in a moment of maternal weakness and trying to play up something that she's shown the teensiest bit of interest in lately, I've even stooped to telling her that "princesses need sleep to grow strong and smart and beautiful"...I loathe princesses and would love it if she skipped that whole part of being a girl.

I sang to the kids, kissed and hugged them, tucked them in and promised that I would send J up to kiss them goodnight. Little did I know that J was taking out the garbage and recycling and wasn't readily available to run up and kiss them. When he came back in the house, I told him to go up. The Muffins were quiet and he thought maybe he shouldn't disturb them. Not wanting to be made out to be a liar, I pushed him to go up.

Stupid me!

Ella, who I'm sure was on the verge of sleep, freaked the hell out and became hysterical when J kissed them and told them he loved them, but wouldn't kiss and hug her five trillion lovies (that may be a slight exaggeration). J did an "I told you so" to me when he came downstairs and I waited, hoping that she was so exhausted that she'd pass out in a few minutes.

She didn't.

I went upstairs to calm her down and love her up. As I sat on the edge of the futon, cradling my sweet girl in her arms, my half-asleep little zombie of a son came and sat by my side and started rubbing his sister's back and telling her that he loved her. I cannot begin to describe the amazing sweetness of the moment.

Some days I feel as though I've had my ass handed to me on a sliver platter by motherhood but moments like this put it all in perspective.

This is all a really long way of saying that I think I must be doing something least some of the time.

And, damnit, my kids are wonderful.


Sunday is generally my busiest day of the week. Between going to church, going grocery shopping (even though I always swear that I'm going to go on a weeknight, b/c it's always more quiet then), trying to make a nice family dinner and hitting the gym, I'm out of the house a lot and the day tends to fly by.

This morning, Katie and I went to early Mass and then went out for a nice breakfast. After I dropped her off, I hit the grocery store and the produce section was mobbed. While I was waiting patiently to grab some tomatoes (making soup again this week!), a kind looking woman smiled at me and I thought she looked familiar, but couldn't place her. As I was bagging up my tomatoes, the woman turned to me again and said, "it's Heather, right?" I nodded my head and my mind began racing to try and place her. Finally, I got it. She's an aesthetist at the fancy schmancy salon I used to go to in Manchester. I love her and have only been in maybe twice in the past 18 months for a facial and brow wax, but felt instantly guilty because I'm not going there anymore. We made small talk and she asked when the last time was that I had been in to my stylist. I answered honestly, that it had been a very long time, and then she asked when the last time was that she had seen me (it'll be a year in late-June). She looked me over, told me I looked great, and I told her that I'd drop hints to J about getting me a gift certificate for Valentine's Day.

It was beyond obvious that she could tell my hair had been cut recently (hello, I have bangs that grow quickly!) and my brows, having been done ~ 3 weeks ago, are still rather sculpted...oh I am so totally busted!

That said, she does do a great facial and is very sweet. Maybe I'll drop that hint to J anyway.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like Being Able To Postpone Your Together Time

For years, I've been quietly hounding J about getting TiVo. He just wasn't that into it. For a long time, we didn't need such a service. We could watch what we wanted when we wanted. Then Liam and Ella were born and we spent the better part of the first few months with the tv permanently on one of the classical digital music channels, partially to soothe the babes and partially because our brains were so fried that we couldn't take in anything more stimulating than the lilting tones of violins, cello and the occasional harpsichord.

Then, the kids grew and we started to get a little more sleep. Cait and JP got DVR when they moved into their apartment last year and I developed a little case of DVR envy. We started to get more sleep and I was able to actually pay attention to the television shows that I cared about in my pre-kid life. So...I started up again with the whole "we should get DVR" thing. I gave up on TiVo. Everyone who was anyone had DVR, or so I heard.

Last week, after discovering a new show that I'd like to be able to stay up on, missing another of my shows, and giving up entirely on this season of 24 (I just can't sit in front of my computer to catch up on the episodes I've missed), I turned to J and said, "I love you and we need to do something. On Demand is great, but not everything we watch is there. So, for Valentine's Day, we're getting DVR. Because nothing says "I love you" more than an electronic device that allows you to delay spending time together...although it's nice, quiet time once we can sit down to catch up!"

He agreed.

We're still learning the ropes, but last night when I was ~ 8 minutes late for the beginning of Top Chef, I was able to rewind the episode because J had already set the tv to the right channel. Woohoo!

Don't worry. The requisite chocolate and card exchange will still happen for the big day 'o love. The DVR was just a bonus.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Figured It Out

Everyone always talks about how there need to be more hours in the day. That's not necessarily the solution to getting done what needs to be accomplished, however.

The solution is having more hours in the day when my children are sleeping (and, during which, I am not also asleep). Then I could get to maybe half of the stuff I'd like to tackle.

I can dream, can't I?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Battery Recharged

I was almost late for church this morning, but squeaked in just in time. For some reason, even though I know perfectly well what time Mass is, I thought I had an extra half an hour and J had to remind me to leave.

I love the peaceful feeling I have when I leave church. On the Sundays when I can't make it, I end up feeling very much like I do on the days when I don't make it into the gym. Both "reset" me in a way, I guess, and I feel off when I don't have the chance to recenter myself with either a physical or spiritual workout.

I met an old acquaintance for lunch today and it was so fabulous catching up. We'd always known each other growing up and our mothers are church friends. Lately, Katie and have reconnected recently on Facebook. She lives here in Concord, so I suggested that we meet up for a meal sometime. We talked for nearly 4 hours! I really enjoyed seeing her again and we have plans to meet up next weekend. Looking forward to it!

When I got home, I played with the kids for a while and then hit the gym. Superbowl Sunday is pretty much the only day that you can guarantee that the gym'll be dead. Last night, I started in on a new weight routine that I devised and oh God am I feeling it today. I pushed it pretty hard, but the soreness feels good.

The kids had a great day with J and, although I feel a twinge of guilt for having some days where I'm not around much, I know that it's good for all of us to have a change of pace.

Life is good.