Monday, February 21, 2011

The retired Catholic tells her story (Part 2)

So when last we talked, I had walked away from the Catholic church. Well, jogged. OK, out and out sprinted.

I lived in no-man's land for a number of years. And I was somewhat OK with that. I mean, my mom was praying for me, right? She had a direct line to the Virgin Mary, and that seemed to work for her. Me? I wasn't feeling the connection. I mean, Mary never had to deal with Jesus throwing rocks at cars at age six, or calling his brother a "fag" at age 10 and getting his mouth washed out with soap, even though he had no idea what it meant.

Anyway, so there I was. Churchless. Forlorn. Guilty. Occasionally, the guilt would get to me. Like the Spring Break that I elected to stay at school in Milwaukee instead of going home. I felt compelled to attend church for Easter service. Thinking I'd go to hell if I went anywhere else, I found the nearest Catholic hangout and tried it again.

Nope. Not for me.

Fast-forward seven years. I'm married, and thinking I'd better start saving my soul soon. But here's the catch: my hubbie and I weren't married in the Catholic church. So evidently, I wasn't even welcome back there anymore. No matter. He was Lutheran, and had always talked about how Sundays were like a social event at his church - good fun, good people, good food. Sounded like a win-win to me!

So I test-drove a couple of Lutheran churches in town, but found that the traditional services weren't that different than the Catholics. Then I thought, "Maybe what I need is something younger. Hipper. Cooler." So I tried one of those non-denominational churches - you know, the ones held in big auditoriums that have bands playing rockin' Christian tunes and skits that modernize Bible passages and everybody's cheering and praising and it's just like a big Godapalooza.

FAIL. Sorry. I know that road leads to somewhere for many, but not for me. I figured out that I'm more of a "private" worshiper. I'm not even much for saying the words of the liturgy out loud or singing the songs. It's all in my head. And I stood out like a sore thumb in this over-the-top mosh pit of Christianity.

From there, I dated a few different denominations. I courted Methodist and Presbyterian on and off, but just didn't see a future for me with either one of them. Finally, during my first pregnancy, I thought, "OK, God. Help me out here." I started to feel pressured to find a church home because I wanted my child to have a church home. From the get-go. One that he could be a part of as much as I could. One that he would enjoy going to and that would have loads of youth activities that he could get involved in as he grew older.

During the past few years, if I felt compelled to attend "a" church, I would go back to Redeemer Lutheran, a church I had dated a few times, but just never called back. Maybe I needed to get to know this church a little better and see if it could be a match.

It was.

I wanted a place that accepted me for who I was, no matter how I got married (or in the end, divorced). Check.

I wanted a place where I could go to be inspired instead of be scolded. That would make me look forward to attending to hear what message the Pastor would leave me with that day. That would lift me up not only with the Pastor's message, but with the music as well. But not over the top. Check.

I wanted a place that had youth activities and events for my children, so they could be raised to enjoy being a part of the church, meeting other kids, and experiencing firsthand how to be a Christian. Check.

Long story long, my two sons were baptized in the Lutheran church and I took the required classes to become a member of Redeemer. I look forward to attending the services to hear Pastor Meyer's wise words, sage advice, and his incredible ability to not only explain and interpret the Bible, but to do it in a way that applies to my everyday life. That is truly God's gift. My children attend Sunday School, and my older son will be confirmed this May. And I am proud to call Redeemer my church home.

Now, a final note. I don't regret being raised Catholic. I do believe that upbringing gave me an excellent base of morals and values in which to live my life. But as an adult, I am glad I took the time to find a place where I could put my spiritual heart, and I hope that those of you who are seeking your own religious haven will do the same. In the end, you'll know when you're home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The retired Catholic tells her story

Yep. I'm going there.

I know I shouldn't. Two topics that are taboo to many bloggers - unless you're Billy Dennis - are politics and religion.

But I'm not here to dis one over the other. I'm just going to tell you how I got to where I am today.

Basically, I'm a retired Catholic. That sounds better than an ex-Catholic. That makes it sound like I divorced Catholicism. Which I didn't. Because they don't believe in divorce. So sadly, I was kicked out of the church awhile ago anyway. But I digress.

I was born to Catholic parents via the rhythm method (as were all three of my siblings), raised by Catholic nuns like Sister Bernice who dumped my desk and a priest named Father Franzen whose icy, arthritic grip I will never forget. I went to church Monday through Friday before school, then Sunday, followed by coffee and donuts (only on Sunday).

Sounds like heaven, right?

At the time, it was fine. I mean, I never knew anything different. All our friends went to parochial schools; in fact, it never occurred to me that there were public schools in the town where I grew up. My parents were strict but not ogres. I loved them and between their spiritual background and the Catholic School system, I grew up with a healthy foundation of morals and values. That and an aversion to incense. But I digress.

As I grew older, I remember hating going to church. Sit down, stand up, kneel down... it was like aerobics for an hour. But that didn't bother me as much as how crappy I felt after a Catholic sermon. Now, keep in mind, I was rather young, so reading between the lines was not yet my forte. All I heard was that I was a horrible sinner, and that I was going to burn in hell for pretty much everything I did, ESPECIALLY if I left early right after communion. I was already an overly-sensitive, literal youth. Now I waited for the devil to descend on me and set fire to my feet for every impure thought that crossed my mind.

On top of that, I'll never forget that in 7th or 8th grade they introduced face-to-face confessionals. What MORTAL IDIOT decided that kids should be put face-to-face with the most feared figure in their lives - the closest thing to God they knew - their PRIEST???!!! I remember sitting there thinking, "Just take me now, Lord. Because Father Franzen's gonna KILL me." And I was sure that if I told him I "used the Lord's name in vain" or "copied off my friend's homework paper" he was going to be ON THE PHONE to my parents before I could say my penance of one Our Father and three Hail Marys.

So when we moved out of my hometown, I eventually switched to a public school. Gone were the religion classes, but I still managed to get my weekly dose of guilt in every Sunday. And it made me sad, because I believed in God, I loved God, but I just couldn't believe that my God would want me to feel so... BAD. Again, it could have been me. My parents are still very strong Catholics and I respect them for that. They get out of it something I couldn't.

In college, now able to make my own decisions (to a point), I fell away from the church completely. It never really occurred to me that there were options out there. I was Catholic, and that was all there was to it. I just wasn't a "practicing" Catholic. Of course, I felt guilty about this, and figured I was going to hell, but it obviously wasn't pressing enough to make me attend church when I was on my own.

For the sake of making this blog a skulldrag to read, I'm going to end this here, and pick up with Part II, which would be the "...where I am" part of "How I got to..." It's really quite interesting. And it really doesn't make me feel that guilty.

In the meantime, feel free to comment on your religious quest and where you ended up. I'm anxious to hear others' journeys.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to look in the mirror.

OK, Life. Uncle.

You win. You've officially trumped the obsessively organized, anal-retentive, irritatingly nit picky, self-proclaimed Supermom.

How do I know this? I looked in the mirror. Yeesh.

This morning, I leaped out of bed at my normal rising time of 5:45 am. OK, I lie. I hit the snooze button twice, giving me 18 extra minutes of half-sleep, only to wake up at 6:03 and leap out of bed only because I was really supposed to be up 18 minutes ago.

From there, I felt my way downstairs like a blind mime and poured (read spilled) my first cup of coffee, prepared breakfast for my son that he proclaimed he "wasn't hungry for" and then made a lunch for him I knew he wouldn't eat. Then, donning my leopard-print slippers and pink Green Bay Packers cap, I took him to the bus stop, coffee in hand, stains and all.

That magnanimous task completed, I returned home to talk myself into my daily exercise routine, which I am supposed to start promptly at 7 am in order to be done in time to prepare breakfast for my other son and get ready for work. Unfortunately, on this day I was experiencing aches and pains that were either a result of a) thinking I'm the shiznit in the previous days' workouts or b) starting to come down with what every pasty-white, cooped up Peorian has right now. Needless to say, the exercise started half-heartedly at 7:10, throwing me completely off schedule.

Breakfast for my younger son consists of a) a frozen Belgian waffle and a banana or b) Fruit Loops or the generic equivalent and a kiwi. Oh, and white hot chocolate. No, not hot chocolate. White hot chocolate. He doesn't like chocolate, only white chocolate, so for the past two years (since they stopped making Nesquik vanilla unless you buy it online and it's all in Spanish) I've been secretly buying Carnation Instant Breakfast and transferring it into an old vanilla Nesquik container.

Told you I was kinda anal-retentive.

Anyway, you know those cups you put in the microwave that aren't supposed to be microwaved? Well, they punish you for using those by heating the outside of said container to lava-like temperatures, while the contents inside remains stone cold. This causes you to grab said receptacle, acknowledge that it's burning your flesh, but be astute enough to not want to spill it all over the stove. Hence I held this smoldering piece of cheap china for about 10 seconds, in turn searing the flesh off of my right ring finger and causing that hot, throbbing pain that lasted for hours.

Now running later than late, I hopped in the shower, only to determine that even lukewarm water on my charred flesh felt like acid. I completed my shower with one hand sticking out of the door, performed some sort of pseudo Cirque du Soleil configurations with my left hand in an attempt to apply my makeup and clothes, pushed a headband into my wet, curly hair, shuttled son #2 to school and raced to work.

Once there, I juggled my briefcase, coffee, orange juice and Egg McMuffin (which I somehow talked myself into because I felt sorry for burning myself, even though it completely negated the earlier workout) and somehow made it to my office "space" without killing myself or someone else.

Writing assignments were plentiful today; so plentiful that I scarcely had time to pee. My sitter called at 3:25 to say she was stuck in traffic and would not make it to pick up my son at 3:30, which caused a panic as I pictured my youngest, forlorn and near tears, standing in an empty parking lot silently waiting for the mom who never shows up. At least that reminded me I had to pee.

At 5:00, I ran out of work and made it home in time to turn around and drop my son off (who did in fact make it home with the babysitter) at tumbling class, then venture to that adventureland that never ceases to amuse - Wal-Mart. After racing through the aisles like some adrenaline-crazed, shopping cart wielding maniac, I tore through the checkout so I could make it back to tumbling in time to, as promised, take a picture of my son doing an unassisted back handspring. Finally home, I threw a frozen pizza in the oven and added some fruit and veggies in order to proclaim Tuesday as "the night I cooked". I went to wash my hands and have some alone time in the comfort of my own bathroom, and that's when it happened.

I looked in the mirror.

I shouldn't have. Really. Good GOD. Who let me out of the house this morning? My half-ass attempt at makeup meant that I had those globs of eyeliner that managed to actually stay on just in the corners of my bloodshot eyes. My skin looked like I had spent the last year underground, not to mention my furrowed brow from the past 16 hours of scowling. And my hair? Yeah. I sincerely had not touched it since I shoved that headband up into the wet rat's nest of curls at 7:30 this morning.

WOW. Yeah. Uh... WOW.

So for anyone reading this who I actually came in contact with today - my apologies. I'm sorry you had to see that. I'd like to promise you it won't happen again, but tomorrow ain't looking so great, either.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Why so public, ATK?"

It's funny, this social media thing.

Some people are totally against it. No Facebook account, no blogging, no tweeting... heck, they're lucky if they return an email. And that's fine. I don't know that social media is necessarily "necessary". It's just that we've discovered it now, so, like iPhones and laptops and microwaves, some of us can't live without it.

Maybe those who poo-poo it don't understand the good it can do. Maybe they've only seen the harm. Watching their kids spend countless hours on the computer or texting... never uttering a word of conversation or writing a letter on paper. Maybe it's a spouse that spends too much time IM'ing and LOL'ing on Facebook instead of spending quality time with his or her mate. Maybe it's the boss who has had it up to here with his employee playing Farmville or Angry Birds on company time.

I get that.

But there are those of us who embrace and manage social networking and have found it to be an integral part of our networking, communication, and at times - validation.

Here's my point, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to it.

Personally, I don't mind posting status updates about things that are going on in my life, good and bad. Now, some people can't understand why you would make your life so public. My thought is this - and I've said it before. We're all in this together. As a single mom, there are days when I am overwhelmed and don't have all the answers. A simple post about my frustrations can elicit 20 comments or more of suggestions, support and encouragement. Need advice on home repair? Post it. A friend of mine recently asked about who to call to fix her oven. Interestingly, she got quite a few responses, and many of them recommended the same company. Now that's just good PR right there. And I can't tell you how helpful it has been when searching for freelance work or other employment. There was always someone who knew someone that I knew who knew someone... I kept expecting Kevin Bacon to pop up on my wall for the six degrees of separation.

And this blogging thing. I know of a few people who are more than befuddled at how I can post what I post on a blog with my name on it to the general public. And I really don't know how to explain it, other than hey, it's my thing. It's what I do. I write. I tell stories. I've been told that I say what people think. So in a way, I think I provide a service. But it serves me well, too. I blog to clear my head, because there's a lot swimming around in there. I blog to figure things out; to understand, and to look for answers if not from myself then from others.

Here's the deal. I want people to know my struggles with my kids because I know they have struggles with their kids. I want to hear their opinions and I want to help them if I can. I blog about my insecurities, because everyone has them. I blog about cool people I meet, because they deserve to be written about. I blog about great places I've been because I've never traveled much and am thankful for the opportunity to see parts of these United States and want so much to share its awesomeness.

I blog about losing my minivan. I blog about being depressed in the wintertime. I blog about stupid things I did in my childhood, how I parent, what's good about getting older, what kind of superpower I'd choose, my guilty pleasures, how to prioritize, advice I'd give to my daughter if I had one, what I want to do with my life.

I don't expect anyone to read my blog. I'm happy they do, but I don't write with that intent. I write what's on my mind, because that's what I do. I'm horrible at math, and I don't do science. I suck at history and can't even tell you when the War of 1812 was. I'm directionally-challenged and can't dance or sing, though I do the two latter more often than my kids would like to admit. Writing? That's my thing. That's what I love, and that's what I cling to. So this whole social media thing? Yeah, right up my alley.

So until the next best thing comes along, you can catch me here, telling it like it is. And I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

OK - fess up - Did you have a favorite Super Bowl ad?

Well, the game may be over (insert shameless PACKER WOO HOO! here) but the jury's still out on Super Bowl XLV's Super Ads. I've seen better, I've seen worse. Based on my focus group (a handful of Facebook friends following the game and the reaction of my two children), here are some of the most talked about:

Doritos hit it big with the fearless pug and the licking, sniffing coworker:

Anheuser Busch drank it up with a kitchen redo, Bud Light-style and a weird western version of "Tiny Dancer":

Snickers tried to "one-up" the commercial that made Betty White famous (again), this time with Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr:

My male Facebook friends (and a few females) put the Chrysler 200 commercial featuring Eminem at the top of their list:

And my boys loved the Volkswagon homage to "The Force" - as I'm sure did any Star Wars fan:

And I'm sorry... but the E*TRADE talking baby creeps me out.

So what was your favorite Super Bowl commercial? Which one did you hate? Which one was lame? Offensive? And above all, did any of them make you want to buy the product?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowpocalypse, snowmageddon, snowmygod... random musings of a snow day in Central Illinois

The best one I heard today was the Snowtorious B.I.G.

Since the airwaves caught first wind of this little slice of Mother Nature PMS, people have been atwitter with excitement, trepidation and, thankfully, humor. It's almost like we were SO depressed with winter that we'd take ANYTHING to spice things up a bit.

Wow. Now that's spicy.

Here's what we know so far:
A blizzard warning has been in effect in Central Illinois since 6 am.
District 150 was one of the last to close schools - that's just how they roll.
I became aware of my sons' school being canceled via text from my ex-husband at 5:38 am.
It began snowing around 12:30 pm.
The "unofficial prediction" for our neck of the woods is 16-20".
I have no idea how much snow we have right now, since it is blowing sideways, but back deck is almost completely covered in a large drift.

Here's what else I know:
I went to the store on Sunday, knowing I would not get there for a few days. I bought the usual stuff.
Here's a photo of the Wal-Mart in Washington, IL, taken just last night:
People freak out when it snows.

I also know that some people batten down the hatches and don't leave their homes as soon as the prediction is made.

Others text pictures like this to Facebook:
and make cute comments like, "I can barely see the road! lol"

Some are profiting over the little squall:

Even weathermen don't know what more to say about it:

And some, like me, are just plain documenting it:

No matter how you're coping, (and I must remind you moms with children - this is only DAY ONE), humor and patience will be key. Let's see if we can all keep laughing for the next 24-48 hours. So far, we still have light and heat.

I guess like all things, it could be worse:

All we can do is wait:

And wonder why it is we even live here:

Stay warm and safe, my Illinois friends, and all the rest of you affected by this:
Blizzard of Oz
The Fast and the Flurrious

No matter what you call it, I agree. It's definitely snowverkill and I, for one, am snowoverit.