Category Archives: Family

Sunday Offerings: The Key to Re-Encountering My Faith

My Sundays typically involve church.  Growing up Roman Catholic, church was a big part of my life. I felt God in the liturgy of the mass, the rituals of incense, candles, and music. As an adult I have found that going to church regularly refreshes my soul and keeps me connected to God, my community and my family. For the past several months, I have not been feeling quite the same about church. I have been struggling with feeling my connection to the Divine.  I know a lot of my struggle with my faith is due to the challenges I have been dealing with in my family life. The liturgy of the mass offers little comfort. I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg thing. Perhaps because I have been struggling in my family life, my church attendance has been spotty, or perhaps because my church attendance has spotty, I have been struggling in my family life.

My Buddhist friend, who knows my struggle, and feels my despair, invited me a lay Buddhist meeting.  She talks to me enthusiastically about how her life and her children’s lives have turned around since they started chanting. We went to lunch one day and I met with one of her Buddhist leaders.  It was an inspiring and insightful conversation. I have no doubt that the Buddhist faith is working in their lives. I accepted the invitation to the Buddhist meeting.  At first I was a bit self-conscious about chanting words I wasn’t even sure I was pronouncing correctly.  But, as the sound washed over me in community with the other women in the room I felt peace.  It was a very positive experience that was both familiar and strange.  It was strange in the sense, that the language was foreign and I struggled to find meaning in the words we chanted.  It was familiar in the sense that the ritual of the prayer beads, the gong and chanting seemed a lot like the rituals I had grown up with and which gave me comfort.

This morning Juan and Diego had to go to soccer practice.  The other kids were sleeping in. I didn’t want to go to church by myself, so I decided I would take Molly on a walk to the big outdoor church. Nature. It’s the other place I feel God. I don’t get outdoors nearly enough, but today the air was crisp, the sun was bright and I needed to move my body.  I announced to my kids that we weren’t going to church this morning.  I think they were a bit relieved they would have a leisurely Sunday morning.

I  drove to nearby Eaton Canyon, took my car key off the ring and stuck it in my iPhone case.  As Molly and I hiked the canyon I listened to a talk given by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran preacher who had visited my church a couple of weeks ago.  At one point during the talk she explained how she had grown up in the fundamentalist Church of Christ, and then decided to become a Lutheran when she experienced and fell in love with the liturgy.  She said liturgy feels like “choreographed sacredness” and that it was like a “stream that flowed long before us and will continue long after us so that we… can be immersed in the language of truth and promise and Grace.” Her words rang so true for me.

I listened and worshipped the nature around me, trying to feel the presence of God.  It was challenging because Molly kept pulling on her leash and the canyon was filled with hikers, joggers, and a lot of dogs.  By the time we had hiked over a mile, we were  she was tired and we turned around to make our way back to the car.  I took my phone out from its case and took this picture of me communing with nature.  I definitely look more sweaty than full of Grace.

Hiking the trail in the great outdoor church.

Hiking the trail in the great outdoor church.

About halfway back to the car it occurred to me that the key I had placed in my iPhone case was no longer there. You know the key?  The one with the computer chip in it that costs hundreds of dollars to replace? I panicked. Whatever sense of peace and Grace I felt during my hike evaporated.  Molly and I sprinted back to the spot where I took the picture.  Along the way, I kept dodging hikers, dogs and the occasional horse and dog poop, all the while looking, hoping, praying to find the key.

I have lost a lot of things before. I have found them too, in odd, unexpected places. My mom is the same way. She has taught me to pray to St. Anthony whenever I lose things.  Along the trail I prayed to St. Anthony again.  I laughed at myself at the absurdity of me losing the key and the even greater absurdity of finding it along the well-traveled trail covered with leaves, dirt and rocks.

I arrived at the spot where I had taken the picture. I looked among the shrubs, under leaves and turned over rocks. It wasn’t there. I made the walk back to the car my eyes downcast, searching for the key, missing the beauty of nature and ignoring the presence of God around me. I thought of the irony in losing the key in my quest to find God.  By the time I reached my car, I still hadn’t found the key and felt resigned that it was probably gone.  I called Juan and told him the bad news, and ask that he bring me the one spare key we had left.

Juan and Nico arrived, prepared to do one more sweep through the canyon. I refused to go, saying it was a lost cause.  Before we left, I decided I’d go into the ranger station to see if the key had been turned in. The ranger told me that no one had turned in any keys and asked me for my name and the key description.  Just then another ranger walked into the office. The second ranger asked, “You lost a key?” Then she pulled out my key from her shirt pocket. She said someone along the trail had just turned it in.

I took the key and in a moment of evangelizing told the ranger about St. Anthony. She said I should go buy a lottery ticket.  I replied that I was going to light a candle instead. Nico drove home with me and along the way we laughed and talked about the miracle.  In my best Southern evangelical preacher voice I shouted, “Allelulia!”  I asked him “Can I have an Amen?”  Getting into the spirit of it, Nico shouted “Amen!”  I enthused, “See? You just need to have faith.”  Nico asked,  ”Well, what’s the lesson here?”  I paused and thought about it.  Then, I replied, I guess the lesson is that I just need to have faith that what has been lost will be found.

Firsts

It’s Monday, the 18th day of NaNloPoMo, and I am feeling a bit uninspired.  I looked at today’s writing prompt to get me going.  The prompt is to blog about a post you didn’t publish. I have a couple of those, but not many. Actually, I have many more unwritten posts that I probably won’t be able to publish, for the same reasons I haven’t written them.  The subject is too raw, and the stories are personal not just to me, but to others in my family.

I looked through my blog posts marked “private” and I found this one. When I wrote it my heart ached for my step-daughter.  I felt so helpless, like most parents feel when they see their child sick or sad. At the time, I wrote the post for myself and yet I knew that I would not be able to hit “publish” because like my other unwritten, unpublished blog posts, the subject matter was still too fresh.

Now, after reading this post, I feel enough time has passed that I can finally hit “publish.”

 

As parents, we’ve experienced many “firsts.” We had a first in our house last night. Our first daughter, with her first love, experienced her first broken heart. As parents, it was one of those times watching your child hurt and realizing you can do little about it, except offer some comforting words and the comforting food of a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake.We’ve all been there.  But, somehow seeing your child go through it makes it so much more painful. As we talked about her heartbreak, I found myself amazed at her level of maturity, insight and sensitivity.  The tears rolled down her face and she sobbed, feeling bad for being the one to break the news and knowing that in doing so, she may have broken a heart and ended a friendship.I have been on both ends of the spectrum, and in my opinion it is worse to be the one hearing the message, than the one delivering the message.  Maybe that’s because when I was the messenger I wasn’t as attached to the person, or maybe I just wasn’t as sensitive as our 14 year old daughter. I was also amazed, stunned actually, that we were talking about it. She doesn’t share her feelings easily, so perhaps it’s a testament to the amount of pain she felt that she was able to share it with her dad and I. Or maybe she just has a more open relationship about these things than I ever did with my parents. It could also be when I was a teen, I under-estimated my parents and didn’t think they would understand.

As much as it hurt to see her suffer, I also felt gratitude. I felt grateful that we have such an insightful, loving daughter.  Grateful that I felt close to her in sharing such heartache. Grateful that she confided in me, her mom and her dad. Most of all I felt grateful in knowing that this too shall pass and as beautiful and wonderful as she is, she will experience love again. This is one thing I know to be true. I am grateful to her for reminding me of that too.

 

Doing Laundry with The Walking Dead

My Sunday nights used to be all about folding laundry while watching The Amazing Race. I fantasized about racing around the globe and winning a million dollars, as I paired socks and folded underwear.  I was so caught up in my fantasy that I missed out on a lot of good TV and found myself bingeing on Breaking Bad to stay current and feel a part of things when Juan and I were invited to attend a finale party.  My fantasy racing around the world made me late to the party at Downton Abbey and almost caused me to miss out on another popular TV series, The Walking Dead.

I never thought I would enjoy a show about a zombie apocalypse, and I scoffed at the idea of such lowbrow TV. How could a fan of Downton Abbey find anything remotely interesting about a television series about survivors of a zombie apocalypse? The series is set in the southern USA after a zombie epidemic wipes out most of the population, leaving only the undead and those fit enough to outsmart and outlast the brain eating walkers. Even though The Walking Dead’s premise did not appeal to me initially, I heard so much buzz about the show I decided to give it a try.

Before we left on our trip to Italy Juan loaded up his IPad with movies and the first season of The Walking Dead.  Since I can sleep almost anywhere, I caught up on much needed rest on our flight to Rome. Occasionally I would wake up and glance over at Juan with his eyes wide open, fixated on his iPad.  By the time we landed in Rome I was feeling only a little tired but Juan was both fatigued and pumped up on adrenaline from watching the first few episodes of The Walking Dead.

On our first day in Rome we toured the Eternal City and at night when jet lag kept me awake, I watched The Walking Dead.  Exhausted from the flight, Juan was finally able to sleep while I caught up with him on the AMC series. From then on, we watched episode after episode while we waited for trains, at night in our hotel room and on the long flight home.  When we returned from our trip we were hooked on the series and quickly watched the entire 3 seasons on iTunes or Netflix.  By the time the fourth season premiered last month, Juan and I were among the many fans waiting to see how Rick and his Zombie apocalypse survivors were faring.  We have not been disappointed.

The fourth season has had a lot of plot development.  As is typical for the show, the creators have not been afraid to write off characters who have had major roles throughout the show.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.  I don’t want to be a spoiler for this who haven’t hooked into the show yet.

Juan and I have to careful talking about the show and spoiling it for our 15 year-old son Nico.  Even though Nico has never been a fan of horror or scary films, he was intrigued by the premise of The Walking Dead.  I told him the show was more about survival and the dynamics of a group trying to make it through an apocalypse. A fan of The Hunger Games,  Nico enjoys reading and watching science fiction stories, and playing strategy games. Nico decided to give the series a try and after the first episode was hooked. Now, in addition to his talk about superpowers, he has begun discussing how he would survive a Zombie apocalypse.  This week I was doing some shopping and I found this:

An appropriate Christmas gift for a teenage fan of board games and zombies?

An appropriate Christmas gift for a teenage fan of board games and zombies?

Needless to say, I bought it as a Christmas gift. Am I creating a monster?  I hope not. Once Nico catches up watching previous seasons, maybe he and I will be able to watch the series together.  Right now, for me, watching The Walking Dead on Sunday nights sure makes folding laundry a lot more exciting.

 

Do you watch The Walking Dead?

 

Wishing for a Superpower

There’s been a lot of news about superheroes lately. Yesterday,  young Miles Scott’s wish to be Batman was granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation and the good people of San Francisco.  My kids aren’t immune to Superhero adoration.  Even Nico, my 15 year-old still has fun with the idea.

A couple of weeks ago we were at dinner when the talk turned to which superpowers my boys would like to possess. Here are their top choices:

Diego’s Superpowers

  1. Invisibility
  2. Force Field
  3. Super Speed

Nico’s Superpowers

  1. Invisibility
  2. Intangibility
  3. Super Speed

Hmmm. It seems that invisibility and super speed are pretty popular. Come to think of it, I would like some superpowers of my own. Here are my choices:

  1. Teleportation: I would be able to travel from home to work to the kids’ schools and after-school activities instantly.
  2. Mindmeld: I can finally discover what my teens are really thinking beyond the eye rolling, grunts and responses like, “Fine,” “Good,” or “Okay.”
  3. Super Speed: Imagine getting laundry, dinner and dishes done with time to spare.

Can’t someone grant my wish?

What superpowers would you want?

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Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday is inspired by yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

I am sorry the picture is so grainy but I couldn’t find the original and I had to use a copy of the photo. Besides, the photo was taken in early Spring 2002, long before I had a digital camera.  Juan and I were dating and things were getting serious. We were spending more and more time together and on those weekends that we had custody of the kids, we would take them to the zoo, the park, or other outings.  In this photo we were driving home from our very first camping trip with the kids. I use the term “camping” very loosely.  Juan never really camped before, while I grew up camping with my family, and had great memories of spending time outdoors.  I wanted our kids to experience the fun and adventure of the great outdoors, so I convinced Juan that we should take the kids camping one weekend.  As an introduction to “roughing it” I chose a campground about 2 hours north of us, in Solvang.

When we arrived I discovered that the “campground” was really an open meadow located a few blocks out of town.  The campground was accessible to restaurants and grocery stores.  It wasn’t quite the getaway I envisioned, but the campground had flush toilets, and showers, and with three young kids, I figured it would be a pretty safe introduction to camping.  The campground accommodated tent campers like us, and RV’s like everyone else there that weekend.

Instead of the wild call of nature, we heard the hum of generators.  Instead of campfires and marshmallows, our neighbors listened to their radios and watched their portable TV’s.  Even though it was not the camping experience I wanted for our kids, they thought it was a great adventure.  They ran around the meadow, dodging RV’s and trailers, while Juan and I struggled to pitch our tent.  After a take out pizza dinner we roasted marshmallows.  We tried to sleep but the noise of all the other campers did not make for a very restful night.  The next day we packed it all up drove to a nearby beach.  Between the sleepless night and a day at the beach, the kids were wiped out.  They slept all the way home and I took this picture.

Do you have any camping memories?

 

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