Of Germs and Laughter

 

If you’re a parent or just your average germ-obsessed adult, there are certain times throughout the year, like right now, when you think a lot about the spread of sickness. Maybe you wash your hands more frequently or avoid certain high-traffic areas because you’re convinced everyone is transmitting contagions. I classify myself as a mom who also happens to be mildly germ-obsessed, which is not an easy cross to bear, especially when your kids could care less. No parenting book ever written could prepare you for the things that you hear yourself saying.

“Put that filthy toilet plunger down now! Sheesh! This is a DISGUSTING public restroom.”

“Did you just pick up and handle a USED tissue off the floor of Walgreen’s?! We’re in the pharmacy, for mercy’s sake!”

My OCD panic has little-to-no effect on my kids. Yet, I continually react, knowing the real threat of catching a ferocious flu.

“Where’d you get that dirty plastic whistle?”

“It’s a treasure I found on a pile of dirt on the playground!” TWEEE!!!

And the next thing you know, I’m up all night with sick kids as an illness works its way through our whole family over the course of a VERY LONG month. (Read a previous blog post about our tango with the flu this year.)

Continue reading “Of Germs and Laughter”

Predicting the Future

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I often get antsy and impatient thinking about my future or my family’s future. When I have a really sick kid, when I go for a mammogram, when I’ve hit a rough patch with a friend or a family member, I desperately want to know what’s on the horizon. Maybe as the youngest of three children, I was ingrained with a deep suspicion that I was being left out of the plans, and woefully in the dark. I recall being the only one excluded from a shared “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” moment after I realized Santa always used a fireplace and yet, “Hey, wait a second! We don’t even HAVE a fireplace…”

“In those cases, he uses a magic key,” my mom assured. I remember the weird smiles plastered on everyone else’s faces. My instincts screamed there was a lot more to this story, but I just couldn’t grasp it. It drove me nuts! As an adult, I still have a strong desire to know how things are going to play out. And I’m just as frustrated when I don’t. What will things look like in 10 years? Where will I be? I find myself even getting impatient with God. I consider how nice it would be to be able to look into a crystal ball to have every answer laid out in front of me, just to get a quick glimpse of what to expect, what to not stress about, and what treacherous pitfalls to be prepared for. Continue reading “Predicting the Future”

Who’s Your Man?

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My 11-year-old son’s regular basketball season ended this week. Their record was an inauspicious 0-11. Not a single win. But their dismal results in no way reflect the amount of heart and tenacity this scrappy team of underdogs displayed on the court. They played to win, even when the scoreboard told a different story. They held their heads high in the face of imminent defeat and kept going to the hoop. On many occasions, I would tell the boys the loss wasn’t due to a lack of shots. In fact, they were crashing the boards like champs, but the ball just wasn’t breaking in their favor. This is something that will undoubtedly begin to coalesce after more time playing as a team. Continue reading “Who’s Your Man?”

Do You Think God Is Fair?

A dear friend came for a visit recently to spend time with the family and me in the lead-up to Christmas. She hung out with the kids and noted their individual personalities. Though distinctly different, she also keenly observed that all three children seem to be equally preoccupied with the concept of fairness. When dessert was doled out, she remarked that they all became very concerned with the exact, precise amounts that each person received. Most people don’t approach their taxes with such painstaking deliberation. In fact, she picked up on a recurring theme in our household.

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I don’t think my children are odd birds in this case. The issue of fairness seems to be a common concern among most kids. I remember sizing up Christmas gifts when I was young, measuring exactly how much my brothers got verses my own pile of booty. If I figured on the lower end of the gift scale—oh what a blow! A greater injustice could not be imagined. Continue reading “Do You Think God Is Fair?”

Vulnerable in the Face of Evil

Nothing is more to be feared than too long a peace. You are deceived if you think that a Christian can live without persecution. He suffers the greatest persecution of all who lives under none. A storm puts a man on his guard and obliges him to exert his utmost efforts to avoid shipwreck.  

—St. Jerome 

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I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Navigating this whole social media/ blog thing is new to me. I struggle with how much to share and how much to keep to myself. Exposing my feelings regarding my faith makes me feel vulnerable, a state I’ve avoided most of my life, like a petulant toddler whose bedtime is fast approaching. Yet, vulnerability is what Christ modeled throughout His life. You can’t be any more unprotected and lowly than an impoverished infant refugee, or a naked, savagely-beaten man exposed to the elements hanging on a cross being ridiculed.  Continue reading “Vulnerable in the Face of Evil”

God Smack

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Recently, during some quiet prayer time, I received a “God smack.” (Probably not the technical term for this phenomenon, but it seems really applicable in this particular situation.) I’m not talking about a light cuff to the ear, I mean a swift crack across the cheekthink Cher’s gutsy wallop unleashed on an unsuspecting Nicolas Cage in the 1980’s classic, Moonstruck. Thwack! “Snap out of it!” said with an impatient New York accent. It’s the kind of divine blow that leaves your skin stinging and your mind reeling. And there’s no denying it makes you stand at attention. I don’t mean to suggest that God, who is all goodness Himself, would resort to violence, but that my realization, most likely prompted by Him, resulted in a physical jolt. God had certainly caught my attention. Continue reading “God Smack”

Are You a ZOMBIE Catholic?

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Halloween is just around the corner. And as usual, I expect to see my fair share of kids trick-r-treating in their zombie get-ups: pasty white masks with dark, vacant circles for eyes, torn shirts and pants, occasionally a little flourish of fake blood splattered here or there. It’s usually the teenagers who go all out with the most gruesome costumes, but occasionally a five-year-old will greet me at the doorstep decked out in full zombie face paint and garb. I respond the same way each time. “Oh… wow…quite a costume,” I stutter with my best perma-smile. “My, look at all that blood… here’s your candy,” I murmur, avoiding eye contact while timidly dropping a couple snickers in the outstretched bag. Then I anxiously scan the perimeter to make sure there aren’t any zombie parents lurking nearby.

Don’t chuckle. Zombies exist. They dwell in our midst.

If you doubt me, just head to your neighborhood parish where on any given Sunday, you can see the parade of Zombie Catholics. I can spot ‘em from a mile away… because I was a Zombie Catholic. After years, maybe decades of having a deadened look in my eye through the whole celebration of the Holy Mass, by the grace of God, the scales have fallen away. So, from someone who’s managed to escape the dreaded Zombie Zone, here’s how you can spot the signs and combat this haunting inclination. Beware!

SIGNS YOU’RE A ZOMBIE CATHOLIC

1.) Your seating choice is decided by how best to make a subtle, late entrance and a discreet, speedy exit. You park in one of the last pews, a mere side-step and you’re swimming in the baptismal font. Back here, you keep a Jackie O low-profile. And if you nod off during a long homily, no big whoop. No one’s making eye contact this far back. You actually scoff at the poor saps who sit up front. Why do you need to see anything? You’ve only been through the mass 5 million-gajillion times! Nothing. New. Here.

2.) The last time you willingly sang a church hymn with abandon, you were three. It’s probably been many years since you even cracked the music issue. If you do sing with gusto, perchance, it’s only because your Catholic autopilot kicks in from time to time. “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on Earth…” You have to admit it’s a catchy tune. I used to cringe when people around me sang too loudly, probably because they were jarring me out of my self-involved daydream. “How dare she shake me from my own thoughts with her exuberant, joyful singing!” 

3.) You approach the Holy Eucharist in the same way you would waiting in line for a prescription at the pharmacy. No awe or reverence before the real presence. Just disengaged resignation. You’ve been told you need this, but you’re not exactly sure why. You appear spaced-out as you shuffle along in line. Your posture belies boredom and impatience. In your mind, this signifies the end of mass, so let’s get this show on the road, already. I want my medicine so I can high-tail it outta here. 

4.) Your idea of fellowship after mass is grudgingly giving the old lady in the parking lot the right of way as she totters through the crosswalk. She nods and you nod back. Then you accelerate and get on with your Sunday plans. You’ve officially checked the duty box for the day.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t lose heart. There’s hope for fighting off the march of the Zombies. Here are some tips that helped me battle my way out of it.

WEAPONS TO FIGHT THE ZOMBIE CATHOLIC

1.) Make a trip to confession even before you attend mass again. Do some serious soul searching to uncover the sin that may be creating a barrier to your intimacy with God. There’s nothing that will intensify your desire for the Eucharist and the mass than an encounter with the loving embrace of God’s mercy. It wasn’t until I finally got serious about confession that I started to dial into God’s voice during the mass. 

2.) Take a quiet moment in your car even before entering the church to say a quick prayer asking Christ to engage your mind and heart for mass. Ask him to quiet the noise in your brain so you may hear Him. Ask the Lord to speak to you.

3.) Turn off all media. Don’t just silence! Truly unplug for the hour you’re there. If your phone starts buzzing, it’s an invitation for your mind to wander. So-called smartphones can numb our brains, leading us quickly into the zombie trance.

4.) Sit closer to the action. For those of you who’ve never done this, it can be daunting at first, but there’s no Q & A where you’ll be quizzed on the words to the Nicene Creed, so take a seat up front and follow along. It’s amazing how much more you notice. This even works with my kids. You might even sing a little. Challenge yourself to truly pay attention especially during the consecration. You don’t need to understand it all, but get engaged in what’s going on. God will lead you. In Scott Hahn’s book, “The Lamb’s Supper,” which I highly recommend, he describes the supernatural drama that surrounds us during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He explains that Pope St. John Paul II described the mass as “Heaven on Earth.” Consider getting a book about the mass. Knowledge is a powerful weapon in defeating the Zombie Catholic.

5.) Consider offering up your Eucharist for the needs of a friend or loved one who is suffering. When you lose focus, consider that person’s trials. As you approach the Blessed Sacrament, remember you are offering up the graces received in Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity for your friend or loved one. This can heighten the magnitude of Christ’s gift in the Eucharist and be a tangible reminder of the solemnity of the occasion.

And above all, keep at it! A Zombie Catholic has stopped trying and is just going through the motions. Once you exert a small bit of effort God will reciprocate in a big way. You’ll soon banish that morbid, pasty-faced Zombie—and in its place become a new creation in Christ. Praise God! Because it happened to this former Zombie Catholic. 

How the Children Suffer

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When I was a kid, my mom and dad did not fight often. Though rare, I still remember those instances with crystal clarity. I recall the deep dread. There wasn’t a lot of shouting, but there was a chill that seeped into every room in the house and ultimately it took root within me. How would this shake out? Would they split? I felt angst-ridden and wanted to flee. Yet, where would I go? I had no other home and I didn’t want any other family. I desperately craved harmony but felt helpless as to how to achieve it. I didn’t feel safe until I knew they were once again in accord, which gratefully was generally pretty quick. Except for that time my mom went on strike so my dad would do more around the house. I think that lasted an interminable three days. “Mom, can you iron my school uniform?” “Sorry, honey. Ask your dad. I’m on strike to improve working conditions.” “Huh?” Continue reading “How the Children Suffer”

Rest for the Weary

“Be still and know that I am God!” -Psalm 46:11

My kids don’t nap anymore. It all ended a little over a year ago. The realization struck me recently. My daughter had a crummy virus, so I kept her home with the understanding that she would at least try to nap. Once I shut her door, I nearly skipped to the couch with unbridled eagerness. This was the first time in a while I’d get to enjoy a nap as well. As I nestled under a throw, I lay there recalling how this had been part of my routine as a new mom. It was the sweet spot of my day; a treasured time that resulted in peace, rejuvenation and a fresh outlook—three things seriously lacking, yet in high demand during this span of my life.

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Before I truly understood the possibilities for this magic time, I thought my kids’ nap would be best utilized in getting more tasks accomplished. I’d try to pull off all sorts of things while creeping around so as to not disturb my little sleeping cherubs. Not exactly a practical endeavor when your modest, ranch-style home means all major activity, TV watching, talking on the phone, cooking, cleaning, happens within mere feet of the bedrooms. Even flushing the toilet at the designated sleep times was a big no-no. How I longed to give a piece of my mind to the obtuse architect of my 1960’s track home. Inevitably, the clang of a pan, a creak in the floor, a loud stomach growl or an annoying postman who ALWAYS rang the doorbell, would close the proverbial window of productive time with a clatter. No doubt someone would wake up, completely shattering the chance to get anything done. Continue reading “Rest for the Weary”

God is a Gentleman

ben-rosett-10614How do I know God is a gentleman? He proved it a couple years ago. I am reminded of it every time I’m irked for not getting the proper credit for a selfless act… during my Mother Teresa-like life of service. This is where I would add one of those annoying wink emoji’s. Those of you who know me right now are rolling your eyes and settling in for a good yarn to be spun. I promise I won’t disappoint. Continue reading “God is a Gentleman”