Are we there yet?

In which I try not to step in it anymore

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“The wise thief didst thou make worthy of paradise in a single moment. By the wood of Thy cross, illumine me as well. And save me.”

I will sing this hymn late next week as we move closer to Pascha. I have never needed to sing this hymn more than I need to sing it now. Lent is always hard. ALWAYS. You try to turn your brain more inward, make it function alongside your soul, make yourself one being: Mind/Spirit/Body. You try to clean up, clear out and make a firmer move toward holiness, toward becoming deified. You mean it.

And I meant it this year. I always do. But things are getting so damn complicated anymore. The Job That Doesn’t Pay takes up a good 12 hours a week, on average. Add that to the Job That (barely) Pays and it’s 40+ and the 6.5 hours of commute time to get to that one…sigh. I’ve been a bit busy. And recent events and ridiculousness are leaving my faith frayed to dangerous extremes.

I do guilt extremely well. It’s an aggravating holdover from my Western Christian days, the days obsessed with legal standing and paying debts and all that other crap. So I feel really really guilty about missing Lenten church services (for TJTDP) to get my stuff together for a search, and for missing last weekend for a 48-hour training. There’s going to be Lazarus Saturday skipped for more training.

The corrective to that guilt, though, was the live rescue of a missing person by a K9 on our team. This work with TJTDP is necessary and I need to do it. My dog’s good at it and it’s a skill we can share. So we’re getting over that right quick.

In the middle of all this, the actual obligations, my home state decided to wade into controversy up to its eyeballs. I tried very hard to hide under a rock and ignore it, but I found it discussed everywhere, by everybody. It was as inescapable as the wind in an open field, even in places I felt were safe. It’s personal to me because I know the people behind the bill, and I know their care and concern for the “least of these” extends only to those who are adult white males, married to women. They advised my old churches on how to hide child abuse. They lobby to keep states from cracking down on abuse in religious schools, colleges and mission organizations. They are getting fitted for their millstones. (And no, I am not sorry I said that.) They miss, of course, that the Golden Rule (and pretty much all the teachings of all the Gospel) is best distilled down to “Don’t Be an Asshole.” I know, it’s hard.

I found out one of my favorite humans in all the universe suffered a terrible loss. My heart broke for her.

So I hid this week, flat out. Skipped a Wednesday liturgy, where I knew the controversy would be hanging out at the potluck. I took my pup and went to a rubble pile. Nothing makes you “present” like trying not to fall into a jagged piece of concrete, rebar sticking out everywhere, looming up where you want to put your foot.

I guess I just found my analogy. This Lent has been an absolute disaster. And I have misstepped, over-stepped and caused landslides of anger in my own heart. I find myself now, as the thief, in the last minute, the midnight hour, trying to get it right. I am reaching out and reaching up. If you read this, and you are so inclined, I ask for your prayers over the next nine days as I approach the Feast of Pascha. Pray I might find a quiet place inside my soul to retreat, even when all around me seems to be going all to hell.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a very obvious sinner.

Unpacking (finally)

Place matters to me. I tend toward being a homebody, and other than my earliest years in Baltimore, I have always been a Hoosier, and a Fort Wayne resident for the past 15 years (most of my adult life). And I was proud of the professional and personal life I carved out for myself.

Then I met A, and he drug me off to his scenic rural home about 30 minutes away from my coffee shops and brew pubs, my downtown farmers markets and my noisy neighborhood. He flat refused to live in the city (in fairness my house was too small for me and the Cattle Dog, let alone him too), so to the country we went.

I went sooner than I planned when my house was burglarized the night before my bridal shower. Within a few days I started staying up there more frequently, coming down just to change out clothes and by the time Christmas rolled around (and I packed all my winter clothes for a two-week holiday) there was no point in going back. So we began the official move, but it happened in fits and starts with no big moment when everything was done. I just kind of trickled up the road.

I have to confess, though, it has not been a smooth transition for me. I make the commute for work and then again on Sundays for church (and since A changed jobs, so does he), so there wasn’t anything that made me feel like this new place, this rural county with its rolling hills and countless lakes, was home.

But I needed something to do out there. It’s weird, but I needed a thing. I needed something that was mine, in the new place. My husband and I do not share social circles for the large part (a hazard of how we met). And while our connections into each others’ lives and cultures grows, I felt very much like a guest. However, I never really thought about the fact that I actually moved. (Anyone wanna buy my house? PLEASE?) I thought, in some strange way that I merely just changed sleeping locations, and maybe someday I’d go back to the little white house. He’d be with me, somehow, but the life I lived here still existed, in nearly the same way.

Ha!

I moved. I moved my geographic location. I changed my name. I changed my legal status. I changed the beneficiaries on my life insurance policy, and my emergency contact information.

I cheated in the transition, though, because I kept my byline the same, so in the newsroom, with the people I have known for so long in the city where I lived for so long, I feel like I did before. Then I would leave to go home, but it didn’t really feel like home. I loved that A was there, and I love the life we’re building together there, but I did not feel like I lived in that place.

A few weeks ago, though, a new opportunity opened up out there in beautiful rural nowhere. I am not going to call it a hobby because it feels more than that. I will bug you later (trust me) with stories about it. But for now, this is just about this deepening sense of place, of belonging to a new spot as this new person. It will be my new name on release forms and contact sheets. These people I am doing this with, many of them know my husband, and know me now only as his wife — “Woody’s wife.” We talk about him because they have known him for longer, and in ways I do not. This is a very good thing. Until this, there had not been in anyway a place (other than with family and in-laws) where that identity — me as his other half — existed.

Is that weird? It may be.

I realized yesterday, when I came back to the city after more than a week away from it, it didn’t really have the pull for me that it did before. It’s now a place I work, and with the exception of my faith community, not where I live.

I live in a new place.

60 words left to use

How shall I use them?

I am trying to read and write more…not writing for public consumption, and stuff I have no intention of ever showing anyone. Feeling like I need to, so I tried to write 1,000 words tonight.

I still have a few left.

I’m on my porch, listening to the crickets and sipping some very good bourbon. I don’t know why, but tonight, I decided, was a special occasion. Helo’s sitting somewhat contentedly at the edge of the porch, listening too. I’m sure he hears so much more than I could even imagine. His ears are like little satellite dishes, always going, always listening, turning this way and that. So cute.

I miss my family–my nephew and niece and the one that’s not yet born. I wish I was at the country home with the boy, who’s probably been in the hot tub and looked at the stars. You can see stars there. You can’t from my house–too many lights. And the sirens are drowning out the crickets right now.

The city’s been a violent place lately–lots of shootings, fights, etc. I joke that I don’t care till someone’s charged, but it really has been noisy on my end of town.  The boy spent Sunday on a manhunt in another county, looking for a murder suspect.

World gone mad, I guess.

But for now, I am sitting on my porch, sipping Van Winkle bourbon (told you it was the good stuff). The sirens have faded a bit and I can hear the crickets again, and my CD player has shuffled onto Jakob Dylan (preceded in the lineup by his father, of course).

Helo’s laying down now, and I’ve used my 60 words and then some. Hope you didn’t mind my sharing.

Night, ya’ll.

Lenten resolution

Been awhile, I know. Life in the new Helo era…we spend our evenings wrestling over knots and stuffies, chasing tennis balls and each other. It’s a good time, but I’m a bit old for it, I think.

Lent starts in about 36 hours, after a Liturgy and Forgiveness Vespers. I’m teaching again, working with a catechumen and trying to figure out what needs to get done before a wedding. It’s going to be a busy season, and I’m going to have be really intentional to give everything the attention it deserves.

So I’m giving up my politics for the next 40 days or so…shutting off the tv in the evening, reading fewer (or none) blogs and not waxing aggravated on the Facebook. This series of tubes known as the Internet is not good for me on occasion. The current war between our political parties is making me completely crazy. As Fr. Andrew said tonight, it has no actual effect on my salvation, but boy I sure can as I dwell on it, mull it over, get aggravated and worry.

Since I have to walk more now (we’re covering a couple of miles a day I think…a happy puppy is a tired puppy, and a happy Cattle Dog is a tired Cattle Dog), I’m going to spend more time with the Jesus Prayer, or listening to hymns or something. Fingers crossed I can bring more with me out of Lent than just an increase of fiber in my diet.

 

Five Guys and the baby Jesus

Ed. note: As of 9 a.m. 11/15/2011, the murder trial was continued. Thank God for small favors.

Tomorrow starts the Nativity Fast.

This is going to be a long 40 days and I am in absolutely no frame of mind for it. The Penn State thing is driving me to complete distraction, but only because it makes me impatient for similar accountability of a legal variety for ABWE. My workplace has become completely crazy.  And there’s a murder trial this week, so game on.

Somewhere in here, I’m supposed to prepare my heart and my soul for the birth of Christ. I’m supposed to clean out the manger of my soul, right? Sweep out the cobwebs. Dust the furniture. Etc.

The fast is supposed to help with this. I’m supposed to pay attention to the little things, the basic activities like what I eat and how much time I spend in prayer, to tune everything up for the celebration of His birth. Great Lent is so much easier. Everyone in Christian culture is doing something to get ready for Easter. But the Nativity Fast, that’s all us in Orthodoxy. Like Wednesdays and Fridays, but everyday. While all of our culture is participating in an orgy of consumerism and fine dining, I’ll be learning a new way to cook shrimp (You know you’re Orthodox when you don’t think of shrimp as something special.) or rekindling my passion for peanut butter. It’s the anti-everything-about-the Christmas-season season

I prepared a bit, I guess, this evening. After working into darkness, and being continually frustrated by what was going on around me in the newsroom, I left with low blood sugar and high blood pressure. After the grocery store (don’t shop hungry, by the way), I stopped off at home and picked up the dog. She and I went to dinner tonight, driving back across town about 15 minutes just to eat a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger and a bag of fries. (I shared with Sunshine. She likes them.)

I guess that’s a start, right? Saying goodbye to bacon and hamburger for a few weeks, maybe that will help me get the rest of my house in order. I don’t know. If this nonsense keeps up at the office, they’re going to need to take my sharps away, or my stapler, or laptop… All the bad stuff, the Penn States, the ABWEs, the drama in my own communities, these things will be ever-present as well, making my soul tired and longing for the comfort of a pepperoni pizza.

Lord, have mercy on me and help me get through this season. All I want for Christmas, though, aside from salvation, is a really good cut of beef.

Hanging out there

Feeling kind of vulnerable today. Not sure why. Nothing happened other than more bills, less money. But that’s nothing new and like most days I wrestled with the desire to stick my head in the sand and wish it would just go away.

I want to blog more tonight, but I’m tired. I should be in bed. But I’m not. I should have gotten more done today, but I didn’t. I probably could use a good cry, but I won’t. Maybe I even need a good fight, but I shouldn’t.

Isn’t that weird? Restless…pacing inside. Feeling unsafe and not able to do much beyond locking the doors and closing the windows. But it’s not even that kind of unsafe…it’s just that unsafe, like you’ve gotten yourself up to high or out too far and there’s no getting back without risk. Your throat and the pit of your stomach have met somewhere in between. It’s not anybody else’s doing or anybody’s particular fault, but rather the realization that this is where you find yourself.

I don’t mean this to be fussy. It’s just one of those odd statements of fact. I will drag myself in to say my prayers and I will try to drag myself out of bed for a run. I will feed the dog. I will go to work and I will cross my fingers, say more prayers and hope that the routine brings some sense of stability, that in getting the necessary accomplished, I can find some quiet. At least, for now, the illusion of safety.

Just again to reiterate, for my mom, who reads this…nothing is wrong. Just one of those days.

So long, Crabfest 2011!

Last year we had our first Crabfest, under the light of the silvery moon (my grandma wrote new lyrics to that song for the party, I kid not) and the paw-paw tree.

We tried to get back there this year, but like a heroin addict chasing that first high, we couldn’t quite recapture the magic of that first shipment of steamed Maryland blue crabs, the corn rolled in melting butter and Old Bay Seasoning getting in the cuts and nicks on our hands caused by the crab shells.

This year, we had thunderstorms, an unbelievably bad Notre Dame football game, an ailing dog, and way more beer than we could drink with Uncle Scott in Krgyzystan. The party was totally different, equally enjoyable,  but just not as mystical as that first one.

This one involved a 3-year-old. Every party should involve a 3-year-old. Upon his arrival in the house, he told my mother, whom he calls Um-Mum (long story), to take a deep breath. If you know my mother, and you know how completely crazy she can be when left unattended, you know this is a PERFECT singular piece of advice.

The following conversations all occurred:

#1:

Oma (88-year-old great-grandma): L, I see your dimples

L (the 3-year-old): (finger pointing) No, you do not. They are in my private parts.

#2:

L: I don’t like it, Mommy, it’s soggy.

Mommy: What does soggy mean? If you want to make an argument, you have to know what the words mean.

L: Daddy, what does soggy mean?

Mommy: No, you have to know what it means?

L: I don’t know what it means

Mommy: Then you can’t not like it because you don’t know what it means.

#3 (while on a walk)

L: I think Daddy’s going to the store to pick up my new cousin.

Me: Your new cousin? Who is your new cousin?

L: His name is Julio.

Me: It is? What does Julio look like?

L: He looks like an elephant.

(five minutes later)

Me: What does Julio look like?

L: Julio looks like a long-necked giraffe.

Me: Is he ferocious?

L: He is ferocious.

The 3-year-old prayed to bless the meal Saturday night, his hands kinda covering his eyes and his voice barely above a whisper with a huge grin on his face.

“Jesus, thanks for crabs. We like them.”