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I sure hope you all have Genesis in your head now.  If not, your 80’s musical education was deficient.

If you live around Raleigh, NC, go have Elina snap your family pics.  She's awesome. http://pelikanportraits.com/Pelikan_Portraits/Pelikan_Portraits.html

If you live around Raleigh, NC, go have Elina snap your family pics. She’s awesome. 

I have a confession to make.  I really, really, really don’t want to home school this year.  Lots of other things have drained my energy reserves, and raising children is hard even on full batteries.  I’m not a generally consistent person. I don’t even view strict consistency as a moral good. So I’m not consistent… except when I am.  (Ha!)  Once in a while I put my inner determination to a task and I set to it, and almost nothing or no one can dissuade me. All obstacles seem to melt away as I run head long into whatever it is.  Spending time in Lebanon was that way.  Becoming Orthodox. Getting married.  Having children.  Buying a house.  Home schooling the kids.

Here we are giving it a go even under less than ideal spiritual circumstances.  A friend pointed out to me that if I’m going to make a mess of it this year, at least it’s just second grade.  We really don’t have to do anything more than what the public schools do, which is way less than a classical education anyhow.  As long as the kid can read, write, do a little arithmetic, and learn to be a little more a child of God, we’re good.

That last one is the root of the trouble.

I don’t know what other women think about when they are stirring their soup, but I’m usually not thinking about the task at hand.  I practice a foreign language in my head, or see how many digits I can mentally multiply out, or write my next post.  If something is truly puzzling, it will spill out to other tasks in the day.  Small people are naturally disruptive of my inner world and I often get grumpy.  This year, the mental puzzles are numerous and the luxury of space for inner reflection has disappeared. I feel hounded by The Other and what I would really like to do is to grab my BOB and march myself out into a forest for two weeks. I’m not a good model of a child of God. I’m the mother crab that walked sideways, telling her child to walk straight.

When I was a kid, one of my math teachers told me this: if you get stuck on a problem, move on to a different problem.  When you come back to the first one, you may have learned something that will let you see the solution for the first.  I find myself doing that often these days, but with my actual life.  This post is in the middle of that process.  Normally I write something when I find some sort of solution.  Quiet is this space is usually the result of me not finding solutions.  There weren’t very many posts this year.

************

I’ve been asked to join several book clubs recently.  I never liked the idea of them.  I envision an adult version of a literature class: only three people actually read the book and the rest skimmed it the morning of, and the questions we ask about the text rarely reflect anything approaching real experience.  I feel like the space between the book the author wrote and the way it touches someone’s soul is a place of solitude. Yet I still sometimes post pieces of what comes out of those revelations here, so I’m not unmindful of that contradiction.

The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers…I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.  – My Antonia, Willa Cather

Some words express something so well that it cheapens them in some way when you talk about them.  Why do I have to talk about them?  Aren’t there some times when it’s enough to just feel the warmth in silence and not look for answers?  I did a lot of that this year.  The soil of my heart needed a winter under a thick layer of snow for the flowers to rest quietly.  God should have been close because He’s always there in silence, but I had a hard time feeling Him in spite of that.  And this was a year when SP’s questions about such things have pierced us with the clarity of the innocence she brings with them. I want to be silent, but she needs answers.

“Before I go,” he said, and paused — “I may kiss her?”

It was remembered afterwards that when he bent down and touched her face with his lips, he murmured some words. The child, who was nearest to him, told them afterwards, and told her grandchildren when she was a handsome old lady, that she heard him say, “A life you love.” – A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Every time I read those last lines they pull the breath from me and my heart seizes.  Nothing I could say in a room of pastries and coffee would improve them, and I feel like they would lose something for me if I tried.  Or almost worse, someone would make me read The Old Man and the Sea again.

 

**************

Those two thoughts are related.  Or maybe they aren’t.  But both of these things roll around my head these days and I feel like they are two keys to an unusually difficult puzzle.

I run around in intellectual circles.  Somehow my husband and I stumbled into each other, and the combined population of Super Nerddom that is our group of friends is a poor reflection of general reality.  I know this, because I worked retail for many years.  Nerddom is less common than nerds tend to think.  You may think that everyone knows what it is you are referring to when you say “Necessity is the mother of invention”, but most people will hear their grandmother, not Plato.

The world of Orthodox theology is full of intellectuals, from my little corner of such things.  Not that any of them are doing something wrong.  It’s not surprising that people who like to think abstractly like to read theology.  But lately it has bothered me, not any single person, but as sort of a wall of intellect, that the amount going in and what’s getting brought back out for a gallop in real life… well, I don’t even know how to put it into words.

A friend of mine once chided me gently when I carelessly repeated a bit of slander that was making the rounds in seminarian wives’ living rooms.  I was raised better than that. My taita has always told me to base my judgments on people from my own direct experience, and not gossip.  This friend pointed out that the woman of ill-repute in the seminary community had a really lonely set of circumstances, and told me this story:

Every week, there was a coffee hour after Liturgy.  The seminarians would relax and the conversation was about important things like the writings of the Desert Fathers or what exactly was the relationship between Divine love and love for our neighbor and who is God.

It’s really easy to talk, even about abstract spiritual knowledge.  But who actually cleaned up after fellowship?  It wasn’t those guys, almost without exception they’d throw their cups out and go back to the dorms or homes they lived in.  No, it was this woman everyone disliked who washed down those tables, pushed in the chairs, tidied up the kitchen.

Who is a better model of Love, even with her imperfections?

Dammicks-26

***********

Not enough answers to too many questions.  And somehow, a second grader is sitting there sounding out Calvin and Hobbes, a four year old is building a boat out of blankets, a two year old is giving hugs, and we’re not eating too many take out meals.

Dammicks-25

2014-07-22 14.22.38

I can’t sleep, so I’ll hold a weird internet vigil for my mother-in-law.  This is not how I envisioned reviewing Rod Dreher’s book, but I maybe if I write down some of the words swirling around in my mind I can get some sleep.

A couple years back I met Julie Dreher at some random Orthodox home school park outing.  I have no idea what we talked about, but I liked her instantly.  She’s one of those high-energy, sharp-witted women who sees the obstacles in her way as challenges to overcome with a good sense of humor.  Or at least that’s my impression of her from our handful of encounters.  I imagine if she lived in my town we’d share a lot of cups of coffee while we laughed about Shenanigans.  Alas, she lives so very far away now, but that’s what Facebook was for.  So I private messaged her ages ago and offered her one of Fr. A’s books in exchange for her husband’s new book: The Little Way of Ruthie Leming.

In May, she sent it.

In June, I picked it up and started it.  A week later, my mother-in-law collapsed during a South African safari and received an emergency brain surgery to remove an enormous mass from her head.  I found myself in an odd place, reading the emotions that maybe I should be feeling… like an echo from the future.  

The news that month got better and she came home. In July in my own little life, I really felt like the sky was falling and I was just trying to hold a big enough piece of it up that it didn’t crush me and my children under the weight of it.  Like that feeling when you are digging a hole in the dry sand at the beach and no matter how fast and hard you try to move it out, the sand just rushes back in.  July is the month that archdiocesan thingies remove Fr. A from the team for ten days.  So it’s never a restful month, but this month my children flooded three floors of my house with poopy toilet water (we have to gut the basement), the Squishy outgrew his crib so Chaos has been unleashed in the early morning hours, bags of wallpaper had been removed from walls that could have kept it awhile longer, and we found toxic mold in our kitchen.  Sand people.  Lots of sand. 

I don’t even remember how we got the news, but Monday I was sitting around wondering what I was going to plant this fall, and Wednesday we were in a car driving like crazy with three small people stuffed in the back seat of a Prius to get out to Colorado Springs in time to say our goodbyes.  I brought that book with me and I finished it on the way.

I’m not even sure what to say about it.  I couldn’t put it down both times I picked it up.  It made me cry. I felt the stings of rootlessness and a family that doesn’t understand me and probably never will, but at the same time I was considerably uncomfortable.  To me, grief is something that you just don’t show and here was someone writing so intimately about it for thousands of strangers to read.  Maybe that’s what writing always is… but I felt like a peeping Tom.  The book was riveting and unsettling and beautiful, and Ruthie Leming sounds like she was a saint and I only hope one day I’m as a good a person as her brother said she was.

There was a lot of grit in that book.  Being a part of a place means actively placing limits on ourselves.  That’s a horse pill for most Americans, fed on stories of generations of people striking out to discover and conquer, eyes forever on that third star on the right.  What we don’t read? The stories of those left behind: families left missing us, neighborhoods full of grandmothers and mothers who watch other people’s kids roam their streets.  And who am I to talk?  I’m not from anywhere.  My mother did the same thing.  So did my father.  They took the ax to their own roots and realized too late that they had grown new ones.  What about us kids?  Where are our roots?  Can I put one foot in Wisconsin and another in Lebanon? What about Florida or North Carolina or California or West Virginia? Should I even wish for a way to grow those roots that aren’t even my parents any longer?  Honestly, I still do wish for it… but I won’t give that to my kids.  I hope my kids grow roots here.  I choose to put my own roots down so that I can give that to them.  I meet my neighbors. I learn the names of people who work in my town. The Bishop put us here. Let’s do this for keeps.

2014-07-23 18.57.38

My resolution can’t be returning home like Rod’s.  I will never be able to make that choice.  It was my parents who made that choice for me.  I’m with the Vulcans on this one: time travel is impossible.  

Anyhow, we made it out in time to say our goodbyes.  Or, at least, my kids and my husband said the things they needed to say.  When my time came… well, what was there to say?  I don’t know what went through her heart in the last few months… those kind of intimate thoughts weren’t, and shouldn’t, have been for me to hear.  But every time I went in to say hello, I was struck dumb.  A hug. A kiss on the cheek.  But what was there to say?  Don’t we all live our lives preparing for that journey Home?  My mother-in-law had been walking towards the cross her whole life and she was finally almost there.  One day, I’ll get there too, and I hope it’s with half the grace and love she showed her family those last few weeks.

There was one moment during the week when she joked that her sister should get her a Camelbak filled with chocolate syrup, because what did it matter what she ate now?  She was fully in the moment that week.  She had mastered the present.  And God brought her home this past weekend.

I know that most of her family is feeling right now what Ruthie’s family felt, and it’s probably Providence that I picked up that book when I did.  I realized when I said my last goodbye, before we got in the car to go back east knowing the next time my husband came out it would be for the funeral, that I was ok.  I didn’t say anything. I just gave her a big hug and a kiss… there was nothing to say.  She knew I loved her and I knew I’ll see her again because when we say, “May her memory be eternal!”, them’s fighting words.  Not just for our loved ones, but for ourselves.

2014-08-25 10.13.03

“Your children are your pro-life work.”

That was something Joan Fasanello (the director of Life Choices, a local ministry serving mothers in crisis) said to me when I lamented that I just couldn’t seem to find the time to get down there and volunteer.  That comment stopped me right in my tracks for a good minute.  After which I filed it away in the data banks and went back to my usual overclocked self.

I operate at maximum capacity seven days a week, 365 days a year.  It’s my personality, and as long as no one is getting in my way I’ll work like the Energizer Bunny and I’ll do All The Things. (Warning: that very funny post has some Language.)


all the things

I thrive on activity and interacting with groups of people.  I come back from conferences like I have a caffeine drip in my arm.  Homeschooling?  Sure, I got this.  I’ll just grab this nice polished Ages of Grace curriculum and use it to write one for the Ancients while I do it with my daughter. No problem. And let’s ramp up one business and start working on another to launch in late summer of this year.  And add a two year old to my wonderful little herd of mini-me’s (an adorable, funny, sweet two year old that was still… two.) Oh, and I am going to remodel my bathroom and living room and expand the garden.

So, all that?  I can pretty much handle if I was running around solo.

I’m not running around solo.

I started noticing that my kids were getting whiny and anxious and cranky.  I don’t think those characteristics are natural in childhood.  When I’m whiny or anxious or cranky, I don’t say “I was born that way” or “I’m just being a thirty-five year old”.  I say things like “I have a headache” or “I should have gone to bed on time” or “hey, maybe I should eat breakfast.”  So I went through the list of basic needs: food, sleep, schedule.  We’re good on those.  What’s their deal?

2014-05-14 09.37.14

Guess what?  My daughter is probably an introvert.  She seems to need some quiet downtime with just the family and in our home.  The four year old likes people, but he needs someone to really stop and listen often during the day and provide unlimited Interrupting Hugs.  The two year old needs me to sing “Let My Prayer Arise” semi-continuously. Four hours of structured curriculum?  What was I doing to us?  Who is this for?  Them… or me…?

Ah, Pride.  You do goeth before the fall.  Sigh.  You must learn ALL THE THINGS. and I must do ALL THE THINGS.  And we’ll be… very tired and grumpy.

I’m bailing this sinking ship, y’all.  I feel a little bad about not continuing all that curriculum writing, but not bad enough to keep neglecting the small people I’ve been given charge of.  AOT is a wonderful start.  It’s training wheels.  But, SP and me?  We can ride our bikes now, so we’re taking the training wheels off.  We’ve been much happier since I decided that she needed basic arithmetic and phonics and not much else.  She is still learning, and I spend the hours I used to stand over her nagging her instead just trying to be present for them.

2014-05-19 19.36.45

We want to home school to strengthen our bonds of love while we strengthen our minds.  I needed to re-prioritize.  Put my children before myself.  And put them before all those internet friends of mine.  Put the phone away when the kids are in the room.  Ignore the constant tweeting and ringing of it in my pocket.  Stop letting any Joe Smith’s comment about their latest restaurant experience or any Jane Doe’s fascinating article about breast feeding take precedent over MM’s immediate need for me to receive the wilted, squished dandelion that he so lovingly saved in his pocket all day.  Stop and give him a big hug. Ignore all those asking me to donate my time to them because my daughter wants to learn how to wash dishes with me, to feed her need to feel loved by doing something with and for me.

Children are like water.  Sometimes they soften us slowly, like a warm summer river, with their surprising insights about our world.  Sometimes they are like glaciers, tearing all the unnecessary things from us as we try to hold on to them at all costs because we are adults Who Are Right.   I’m trying to embrace the change.

All of this to say:  I’m leaving the AoG stuff up there.  And if you want to mess around with the Wiki, go for it.  But as we’re not using it in any documentable sense, I probably won’t be able to help.  This post is a half-hearted apology.  Half-hearted, because I don’t feel any real guilt about not doing it.  Just a vague sense of “mybad”. I’m working on being present for my children, and letting them take ownership of their own educations.

traditions

I watch a lot of kdrama.  I would say almost all my television watching happens in Korean these days, so much so that I have picked up a fair amount just from the shows.  I enjoy them when I have a few minutes to relax and don’t have much energy for something more productive.  They are generally speaking a lot more family-oriented than American shows, if only because Koreans seem to value family relationships dearly.

One thing that shows up a lot in the dramas is the traditional memorial meal.  Now, I’m pretty much just describing what I’ve seen on tv, and I don’t really know exactly what is going on, but the children get together on their parents’ death memorials and other people also show up to remember them.  They put out a big spread of the person’s favorite food, plus a few things that seem to have some cultural significance, by the commentary of the actors.  I probably sound pretty silly to any actual Korean, but that’s what I’ve picked up.  There is something very… Orthodox… about the Korean tradition of remembering the dead.

My daughter sometimes watches bits of them with me and she is fascinated by the memorial ceremonies. My daughter is good at seeing patterns and connecting things that at first glance don’t really seem to go together.   So when we had a Soul Saturday Liturgy last weekend at our church, I explained about giving Daddy a list of our departed loved ones for him to pray for during the service.  She said, “Like the Koreans?”

Well, yes, I suppose something like that.  So we got to talking about it and she thought it would be fun to celebrate with a special meal.  I decided to make mussakhkhan, mainly because I had all the ingredients, but also because it is a one of the few traditional Palestinian dishes my taita made for me.  As I was preparing it, it became even more appropriate to the occasion.  I found myself doing things I know she does, as well as doing things other loved ones do.  I have smart, thrifty women on both sides of the family, and most of my good friends are the same way.  Lots to learn from.

So this is how a tradition is born, I guess.  I think we’ll continue it.  Perhaps mussakhkhan on some, and Welsh pasty on others.

Anyhow, how’s about a recipe?

Mussakhkhan (for a family of 5) – I used the recipe from “From the Lands of Figs and Olives“, because my taita wasn’t around for consultation.  It tasted pretty close to authentic. (And that’s a great cookbook, by the way.  No photos, just great recipes.) I’m going to write this up as I made it, but I followed the directions more or less.

  • 4ish pound chicken, cleaned and cut
  • 6 cardamom seeds, crushed
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup sumac
  • pita bread (about four)

I cleaned the chicken.  My friend gave me a couple breasts that she had already removed from a carcass, so all I had to do with remove the fat and tendon/membranes that I saw.  Then I cut it into small pieces.  (The recipe doesn’t say to do this.) I put the scraps in the freezer for the next round of stock. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the chicken for about 45 minutes on medium with half the cardamom.

While that’s doing its thing, I placed half the oil in a saucepan and added the onions, salt, pepper, allspice, and the rest of the cardamom.  I set it over medium-low to cook and stirred it once in a while (the recipe says cook it for 1 1/2 hours, and I probably did.)

While that’s cooking, you fry the pine nuts in the rest of the oil. (This happens very quickly. When the pine nuts just start turning color, remove the pan from the heat.  They will continue to cook in the oil.) When the onions are almost done, add the nuts and the sumac and let it sit.

Open the pita bread and lay a layer in a greased baking pan (inside-side up) spoon a little of the onion mixture over everything and then place another layer and repeat.  Put the chicken on top, then add the remaining onion mixture over that.  Cover and bake 350 for 40 minutes.  Serve some bread with the chicken.

This is awesome with yogurt, as well as with an Arabic tomato/cucumber salad.

Sorry I posted this during cheese week, but maybe you’ll come back to it a couple months from now.  ;)

You can't pin this recipe unless I put a photo in here... and we ate this too fast so I didn't take one!  Here's a pretty snow covered tree instead.

You can’t pin this recipe unless I put a photo in here… and we ate this too fast so I didn’t take one! Here’s a pretty snow covered tree instead.

Goodness, but it took me forever to write this post. We’re remodeling the main bathroom and we have an older house so the surprises are proving to be quite the adventure!

What was the builder thinking when he did this?  What's holding up this wall?

What was the builder thinking when he did this? What’s holding up this wall?

Anyhow, this post is not about our work in progress.  This post is about the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference.  Last year, a change was made:  due to various circumstances, the conference planning was turned over to the participants.  An amazing, dedicated group of mothers took on the daunting task of organizing an entire conference for our kids this year.  Barli gave us guidance and helped with the transition and it looks like this year’s conference might be the best yet!

My family has only missed one of these conferences, and we look forward to it every year.  My daughter will declare loudly to anyone that she looks forward to events of the year in this order: “Pascha, St. Emmelia’s Conference, Christmas.”  She loves it that much.  She has connected to friends through this conference, and so have I.  I could write a lot about how thought-provoking and helpful the workshops and seminars are (they are great!), but what really brings us back is the community of families.  There is NO OTHER PLACE where I can go and worship with so many Orthodox Christian families who are choosing the challenging path of educating their children at home, and not just so they can add, but so they can raise saints.  The conference rejuvenates my homeschooling at just the time of year when we are ready to throw in the towel, and the worship and community edify my soul when the temptation to think I’m not doing the right thing might overwhelm me.  I come back like a lion from this conference.

Professor Christopher Veniamin is the keynote speaker.  Let me tell you something about him.  In seminary, they would have a lecture series every year and I attended them.  I don’t remember ANY of the talks, even Jaroslav Pelikan’s, except Dr. Christopher’s.  LOL.  His talk had me fully engaged, and I still remember what he said about the nous.  This is a great opportunity to hear him speak, and I bet he’ll come with his books (he is the man behind Mount Thabor Publishing).  He’s been releasing some wonderful translations of Saint Gregory Palamas’s writings.

If you haven’t been, this is the year to do it.  This is the year when we have to say, “It is important to me that my children and I have a retreat to somewhere we will be surrounded by understanding and support.  I have to put my money and time where my mouth is and go.”  This almost didn’t happen this year people.  If you’ve been saying to yourself, “One day, one day…” … Well stop that and say, “Today.”  The conference is March 27-30. Go over here and register.  (Scroll down to the links in March.)

Yes, we cooked this.  I can't even say this was the weirdest thing I've ever made.  Fr. A fortunately has an adventurous palate.

Yes, we cooked this. I can’t even say this was the weirdest thing I’ve ever made. Fr. A fortunately has an adventurous palate.

Seminary was hard.  Really hard.  The whole time I was there I hated it.   I wasn’t used to having people actively thwart the aspirations of the soul.  It was a jarring, dark glimpse into the human heart, which previously I had only read about.  Not everyone made it.  I’m not sure why we did.  My attitude certainly stunk and I definitely wanted to run away… but I didn’t.

A lot of it had to do with the good relationships we made during that time.  We were getting to know a bishop who took his calling very seriously.  We had it bad, but so did everyone else really… and we struck up a sort of camaraderie-in-arms with them.  The best of them showed me how to look at my situation in the best light, and for that I will always be grateful… Because there were others who sowed their discouragement around like the seeds of invasive weeds.

I had a job, I had responsibilities, and I stayed.  We pushed through, survived, moved on to a parish. And then I knew why seminary was hard:  Look, I told myself, this is harder.  They wouldn’t be doing the students any favors making it easy.  Even if the hearts were really dark… well there are dark hearts everywhere.  You can’t hack it?  Don’t sign those papers allowing your husband to be ordained.  Cuz it ain’t getting any easier, sister. We’re all sinners and we’re all in this together.  My attitude towards the seminary experience changed over the years since graduation.  Seminary wasn’t a mire barely escaped.  Seminary was a forge.

But there was one incident in seminary that sent my mind reeling… and I almost asked my husband to quit.  The seminary had a regular gathering of the seminary wives for education and fellowship purposes.  At one event, they brought in a veteran priest’s wife to talk to us.  And not just any priest’s wife: this one’s husband had particularly rough parish assignment, at least by the stories she told.  She had a positive attitude, but the deluge of her experiences (which included a tale of using an outhouse daily that lacked a front wall) overwhelmed me with discouragement.  How could I possibly survive that?  How could anyone expect that of me?  Am I supposed to be okay with my kids and I being treated as at best a free secretary and at worst free janitorial services?

Well, I know the answer now: No, actually, I don’t.  I was saved from my discouragement by a discussion with another, just as positive, priest’s wife.  She told me I will be treated however I allow myself to be treated, and so will the kids.  I should be myself and view myself first as a support for my husband, then my kids.  The parish comes after that.  I’m not the priest.  The bishop ordained my husband, not me.  I should strive to live a Christian life, but just like any other member of the parish struggling along the same path. I should volunteer for the things I feel called to with my talents, and turn down those that aren’t a good fit… no matter what the last priest’s wife was in charge of.  Don’t be an officer in the ladies’s group and don’t gossip.  Love everyone, not because you need to be political… but because you should “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

I came across something that a friend shared on Facebook and I know it was meant as a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek commentary… but I didn’t like some of it.  It reminded me of that incident.  Do I need to pray?  Of course, we all do. But to say I should “Shut up and pray”? Look, sometimes we all need to shut that door about our lips, I get that. But that statement says to me, “You are the priest’s wife… your real opinion is probably invalid.  Prayer is a way for you to gag yourself.”  It’s one thing to tell a new priest’s wife, “Learning discernment is important.  Learning how to let things go is a process.  Turn to God to help you with that.”  It’s another thing to tell her to “Shut up and pray.”

I’m not going to link to it, because I bear no ill will towards the (anonymous) author, but I am going to quote another of these:  “If you must cheat on a fast day, don’t get caught.”  You know what?  I have “cheated” the fast.  Who hasn’t failed at keeping the fast? Who hasn’t eaten a steak on a Friday because a non-Orthodox friend has offered them hospitality, or grabbed a bucket of chicken because they were driving through the middle of nowhere and their choices were KFC or a bag of convenience store peanuts? Who hasn’t carelessly eaten an egg sandwich because they forgot it was Wednesday, or even failed to resist that chocolate chip cookie at a non-Orthodox friend’s Christmas party? Do all of us do the full fast?  How many of you abstain from food completely every year from Monday morning to Wednesday evening during the first week of Lent?  The full fast is the Iron Man, people.  You don’t run the Iron Man if you’ve never run up and down your street!  You work up to it, and you might even have a coach helping give you advice.  Fasting is like that.  Small, consistent steps.  Failures have nothing to do with cheating.  A priest’s wife is a person just like anyone else in the parish, and she’s building the same muscles.   Don’t laugh the fast off, but it’s okay to acknowledge honest failures and struggles.  I work on my fasting with the advice of my confessor.  I’m not judging the fasting of others, so hopefully they aren’t judging me.

Most of the post was advice in the right direction, but I felt like it was intimating that us priest’s wives have to “hide” who we really are.  I don’t think that and I would never tell a new priest’s wife that.  I also wouldn’t parade out my war stories.  “This is a good life.  We’re doing the work God has handed our husband, and so to us as well in a way, and it does have its hard days.  But don’t fool yourself, honey, there isn’t a woman alive who doesn’t have hard days and plenty of them.  Don’t do anything immoral, don’t do anything blatantly un-Christian, look for the image of God in every person you meet (and sometimes that’s not easy!!), keep your eyes on the Prize, and be yourself.”

Even if you are me.  And I’m crazy, so if most of my fellow parishioners still like me, they’ll like you too!

35.

I’m coming up on my thirty-fifth birthday next month.  I don’t really do birthdays.  Or rather, I would do them if they were (to quote a friend) Amazon.com Wishlist Fulfillment Days that coincided with me being able to spend twelve hours in a row ensconced in my attic office alone with unlimited Caramel Machiatto deliveries and Skyrim and the newest episodes of The Prime Minister and I.  However, since I have a family this is not what birthdays mean.  They mean, “Take a day off of all the work you need to do so that you can spend the next week cramming it into your schedule. But you can’t spend it doing what you like.  You will spend it doing what everyone else wants to do, because no one else wants to hang out in your office and watch kdrama and play Skyrim. Also, make sure you still are on diaper duty.”  So my birthdays? A big, fat “Meh.”  (In fact, let’s just pretend  I don’t have one. That day will be much less stressful.)

I do have some thoughts rolling around my brain about thirty-five though.  Nothing earth-shattering, but this is my blog, so I’m gonna share them.

I am finally settling into a place where I am truly comfortable with who I am.  Not in the sense that I think I’m a perfect saint, but that I know my strengths and weaknesses and I’m kinda okay with them:  I can generate a lot of enthusiasm for a new project, but I’m not that great at the tedious precise details of them.  I can work with almost super-human energy at tasks that I want to do… but if I don’t want to do something I can find a hundred reasons to put it off.  I’m good at meeting people and making friends, but I’m not too interested in following social norms I haven’t internalized so I know I seem crazy to others half the time.  I talk too fast when I get nervous and I get a little obsessive for long stints with my interests, but I know what to do when we lose power for days, or water, or heat, and I can cook just fine over open flames using plants and animals from my neighborhood.  My deficiencies seriously annoy some people around me… and I don’t really care.  If I can accept their deficiencies, and they can’t accept mine… well, *shrug*.  I know the prices of every single item I have ever bought… but I can’t remember names or what anyone tells me out loud.  I hate to exercise, and I have a bad chip and dip habit.  I have a quick temper, though most of the time it passes just as quickly if I’m given the freedom to express it and deal with the problem at hand. I have strong opinions about art and literature and Star Trek and my faith.  I delete comments on my Facebook that irritate me without apology or explanation… even entire threads.  I forgive but don’t forget.  I play the piano enthusiastically but not all that well, because I’d rather bluff through the difficult measures than work at them.  I can make money in my sleep. I have trouble tolerating individuals around me that don’t face their problems directly… which means I’m pretty low on empathy.

I wouldn’t have been comfortable admitting those weaknesses ten years ago… but now I’m not particularly concerned about them.  It feels good to be comfortable.   I try not to start projects that my weaknesses make difficult, and just do the things that I know I’ll be pretty good at.  I know I can’t do All the Things, and I’m okay with that too.  I do what I can and try not to feel bad about what doesn’t get done.  It’s a good season.  Peanut is finally getting some sleep at night (so we are too!), my dad is coming to visit me next week, and my water doesn’t smell like licorice.  Life is pretty good.

 

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