Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Burial

I grew up going to a Lutheran church and a Lutheran school (one of each branch of "Lutheranism"). Our service on Sunday involved singing out and reading out of green hymnals. Kids always attended the services and Sunday school was a separate time, sandwiched between the two morning services. We followed the liturgy - a modified version of the texts and prayers spoken or sung in church services for hundreds if not thousands of years. 

In high school and college, I fell out of love with liturgy, feeling that it was just ritual and therefore not meaningful, opting instead to attend a very conservative church with electric guitars that did not observe church year seasons like Advent, Lent, Epiphany, Pentecost. 

Later in college, I went through a hard semester. And then an even harder one. And during that time, I found my way home to liturgy, this time in an Episcopalian church. While living in Spain, I moonlighted as a Catholic, attending Mass most weeks (consequently, I know a lot of the Mass liturgy in Spanish, but not in English). My church now is not particularly liturgical, though it does observe the seasons of the church year. 

I write about this to introduce a liturgical tradition that I love. Most people are familiar with Lent, the 40 days + Sundays leading up to Easter. Many people associate this as a time of fasting. But, did you know that there is also a word that drops from the church liturgy during this season? 

During Lent, we bury the Alleluia's and the Hallelujah's. Without these praise words, the liturgy takes a more solemn turn during a more solemn season. (I actually feel a little heretical just typing it during Lent!)

It's for this reason that on Easter and for the seven weeks after that it's celebrated, the liturgy is JAM PACKED with Allelulia's:

Note the additional Alleluias. Yes, I do own my own Book of Common Prayer and my own hymnal. Don't worry about it.
My church now does not observe this particular tradition, which makes me sad (more about that in a future post) and also makes me feel a little obstinate when I refuse to sing the songs that have it during Lent. So, on Palm Sunday - better late than never - I decided to literally bury the "Hallelujah": 


And because I believe that dirt is a spiritual experience and because I believe that gardening is a theologically relevant thing to do around Easter, I added a surprising (Pintrest-y) twist: I used the leftover seed paper from our wedding invitations to make the letters. They may not sprout, since they are a bit older... but if they do, I will be sure to let you all know. 

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Additional Holy Week reflections from past years:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

to my love

With Caleb's permission, today I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote in 2011 to him while he was full-time taking care of his grandpa, who was on hospice. And for fun, I thought I'd share this photo of Caleb and I, from 2011:


to my love:

Ever since that one time we were eating gelato and ran into my coworker Susan and she asked what you did and you said "not a whole lot right now" I started thinking about what you are doing. And why it is valuable.
That day that we snuggled in the hammock and read The Singer stands out in my mind. I remember coming in and you and your grandpa were eating lunch. (At 3:30, of course.) I felt like I do sometimes when I've had a busy day - I came breezing in carrying the whole weight of my day. During most of the day, I had been an individual. I spent time in my windowless, basement office, taught, chatted with my coworker about various students (she didn't have good things to say). I drove my own car alone halfway across the city and wound up walking through your front door and petting Lola, all of this fresh on my mind.
As I sat down with you both at the kitchen table, I felt the pace of the world slow down in a way I don't usually experience. I realized that all of my rushing was simply what the day had required of me, not who I am. I felt like I had a glimpse into your world. You sit with an old man and slowly eat lunch at 3:30 while most of the world is rushing around outside the four walls of your house. While some people are career planning and stressing and making phone calls and taking life at a frenetic pace, you are watching the History Channel with your grandpa. The little things you do every single day like getting breakfast and making sure he is not too cold or has the remote and helping him use the bathroom or slowly move from his wheelchair to the table may seem like little things; but I think they are shaping you in more ways than you realize. I think they are shaping me in more ways than I realize, simply from watching you interact with him.
That day we went four-leaf clover hunting and your grandpa came home from the nursing home, I remember watching you go to him and cut off his hospital bracelet. I had never seen you be that caring and gentle before. It was beautiful.
There are oh-so-many things I love about you, Caleb, but one of them is definitely that you are taking care of your grandpa. I'm sure it doesn't always feel beautiful or like you are being shaped. Even if it feels boring or like nothing, I think that's how growth is. And I want you to know that I think you are doing one of the most valuable, selfless jobs you could be doing. So thanks.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Resolutions all year long

[sometimes I find posts that I meant to post before. This one's from January 2015, but I updated it!]
]
Someone asked me recently if I had any New Year's intentions. I said no, because I tend to set intentions whenever I feel the need. That being said, I am working on several things this year that are continuing from last year. I thought it would be fun to share them with you all.

(Besides, it was between this and telling you about how Caleb and I have been sick for days and binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and I thought this was more compelling.)

Resolution: To complete my yoga teacher training
Started: April, 2014
Status: I hope to finish this by May of this year. I'm pretty close. I don't really know "what I want to do with it", but I think that will come when the moment is right.
2016 Status: Well, see what I didn't know when I wrote this is that I had a major back problem. I did do some of my training in May, but I'm actually finishing it this week! (Assuming that I am not still doing jury duty.)

Resolution: Learn French
Started: November 2014
Status: I started taking a French class in December. It's kind of hard to find time to do homework, even though I love it. I am in a little over my head, because I'm in the intermediate level, but it's good.
2016 Status: I would rate my French level as still at the same level as about a year ago. But I am still trying to use it, and am at a survivable level. 

Resolution: Love my job
Started: Eeehhh hard to say when it started. But Caleb and I had a really good conversation about it in July 2014 which prompted some action.
Status: Complete! I am not taking this for granted. I will be traveling a lot this year, more than ever in my life, and I am pumped. Not just for the travel, but for the reason behind the travel and the way it will inform my daily tasks (which I also enjoy) when I am not traveling. And let's be honest, not traveling is pretty great too. Caleb is pretty fun.
2016 Status: Nothing new on this front!

Resolution: Get my back healthy!
Started: basically as soon as I knew my back was hurt, which was March 2015
Status: Got a new MRI and am seeing the doctor in two weeks! 

Resolution: Swim more
Started: November 2015
Status: Need to get back on this. I've traveled a lot this year and haven't been able to do it due to my back being inflamed and then being sick. Starting this weekend, I am finally okay to do it! I just need to re-work it into my schedule. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Photo post: Goliath

Yesterday I posted about my first dog. Today I want to post about my second dog, my wittle bebe Goliath. Goliath died in July 2014. It was very unexpected and very sad. But if any dog lived his years to the max, it was Goliath "Armpit". He would eat his food and some of the other two dogs'. He would viciously fight off anyone he perceived as an attacker... and yet he could also be the sweetest, rag-doll-iest cutest dog ever. There's really no way I could do him justice with words alone, so here are some photos of him. 

So snuggly!

Seriously, this dog loved to cuddle - on his own terms

Look at his fuzzy little head!
On his last Christmas, Caleb lulled him into a state of relaxation so transcendent that not even having candy placed on top of him could wake him. You guys. Caleb is so good with dogs. 

He was very fierce - the only one of three dogs to ever kill something (bugs and maaaaybe a mouse?) Also the only dog to bite a visitor on the ankle.

He pretty much always had his tongue sticking out. We're sure it was just too long for his mouth. He is mostly hair in this photo.

Hard to capture, but he loved to be held. Hence his middle name "armpit" (because he rode around tucked under people's arms... and sometimes smelled accordingly!)
Just look at his face!
Oh Goliath. You really did have nine lives. Thank you for surviving that time you ate an entire dark chocolate bar right before my wedding. You were the snuggliest, weirdest, feistiest dog ever. We miss you pretty much always because we weren't ready for you to go, but I have to tell you, Lola is sure living it up now that you aren't there to boss her around... May you be always finding snacks and adventures in heaven.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

To my first dog

We got Scout during a very momentous summer. We had moved away from my childhood friends. I was about to start high school. Shortly after getting him, Michael, my brother got really sick and had to be hospitalized for what seemed like months (but was actually much less time). Scout was born in July, and we picked him up at the end of August. He was a dark little puppy.


It was my grandpa, the agronomist, who named him. We got Scout in hopes that he would help keep snakes and other unwanted critters away from our house. (Looking back, I am not sure he succeeded. The second [tiny] dog we got just a few month later was much better at killing things.) Scout was a wheaten terrier. My grandpa suggested the name Scout, a variety of wheat, but also hopefully a christening of his dog duty to scout out the yard. 


Scout and I bonded. I would crawl into his kennel at night or try to get him to sleep in my bed. My mom and I took him to obedience classes once a week. He liked it, liked learning and meeting new pooches, and would sleep happily on the way home.
Taking the dogs out, B.F (before fence) My dad is like a classy secret agent in a trench coat.
Unfortunately, when Michael got back from the hospital, we learned that Scout had a problem with dominance. He seemed to not like Michael, and it quickly became mutual. When we got Goliath, a tiny yorkie maltese with a big personality and zest for life, in February, he helped calm Scout's angst.... partially by chasing him around and chewing on him.

Michael eventually grew up to be much bigger than Scout and developed ways to play with him that were... unique. 


My parents went on to get a third dog, Lola. I loved Goliath and I loved Lola, but I was always very careful to to give Scout special snuggles. He was the oldest, like me, and we shared a special connection. I never wanted him to feel like he had been replaced or overlooked, and to remind him that I remembered our special bond from the beginning. The two little dogs would chase each other around endlessly, and Scout would mostly just let it happen, the quiet observer.


The little dog family that eventually came to be at my parents' house. Lola, Goliath, Scout
 Scout loved going for rides - sometimes we would just put him in the car on a cool day and he would happily sit in the front seat for an hour looking out the window at the driveway. He loved going to the vet and visiting the kennel. He had his share of at-home adventures too... like the time he ran away down to the pond and fell in the ice. Fortunately he was near the edge and just climbed right out. I tried to get him to go swimming at a friend's pool once, but though he loved exploring ponds, he wanted no part of the pool, and I ended up with a lot of scratches on my stomach.

Scout had many nicknames including Oo-tar and Mr. Fluffers, and Wooly-face. 
For years, one of our family's favorite dog activities was to rile up Scout until he wanted to sprint up and down the hallway. Then one by one, we'd lay down in a little ball for him to jump over us. When Goliath came along, we'd get on hands and knees. Scout would leap over up to three people and Goliath would run underneath us.

The past few years, Scout became what we lovingly referred to as a "crotchety old man dog". He loved to go for walks, or stand outside and smell things, but his memory was foggy, and he sometimes couldn't be bothered to get up when the doorbell rang. 

And when he passed away last July, it was sad because it's always sad to be parted from a creature you loved. Especially your first dog. But it was also his time. I was in Kenya then; but I had hugged him a little tighter every time I'd left him for the past 18 months. 

To my Scoutie: The years between 14 and 28 were long and full of innumerable life changes, though we both know I didn't get any taller. You were the best. Remember when I tried to take you on a long run back when I ran, and ended up carrying your 50 lbs self at least half a mile home? I'm glad we did that. I loved snuggling up with you in your kennel and trying to make you sleep in my bed. I even loved when you got old and stinky. I'm so glad Caleb was there for you at the end, since I couldn't be. I hope you are playing with Goliath in some big field where you can eat all the snacks and lick all the salty things. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cocoon

Summer was a busy time, we bought a house, moved, started settling in. Fall came, and we burrowed in, filling cracks, cutting back the overgrowth, painting. 

Winter came and we cozied up inside. We installed overhead lights, made decadent food, celebrated. I traveled and traveled and came home and nested. 

I started noticing a flame flickering deep within my soul. It was way in there, under the brambles and sticks from last summer that had died over winter. The snow and ice fell on them, but they shielded the little spark, became a cocoon for it. I don't really know where this little flame might lead, what it's trying to burn away, what it's trying to cook, what it's trying to thaw out inside my heart. 

But these are the kinds of things you have to follow. You have to listen because you know there are bits and pieces of yourself that lie forgotten in the frosty forest of your soul, and they need to be warmed up. 

We can't be on fire all the time. This winter, I learned how to build a fire in our fireplace, and I am amazed at how much wood a small fireplace can burn when the fire is blazing. Once I even cried out, "This fire's on fire!" But we don't have unlimited wood in the world or unlimited wood in general. For a fire to last all day, sometimes you have to let it die down a bit so that it burns slower. 

And this is adulthood, right? Or maybe I should speak for the only decade of adulthood that I've experienced: my twenties. There's a lot of ways I could view my twenties, but when I think about that internal spark, it seems that it was fanned into a flame really quickly, consuming new ideas, new experiences. Then it had to die down for a bit, re-find itself in the steady embers. 

Me jumping over a bonfire once in during college. I cannot believe I did this.
If you'll allow me to mix my metaphors, the foliage of life cocooned around those embers. I always knew they were there, but I wondered if they might burn again the way they burned before. 

I believe they will. But I have to keep trying new things, because fires need fresh air. So little by little, I'm fanning the flames. The spark cocooned inside me is not dramatically unfolding yet, but it's kicking and wriggling and moving. 

Wriggle on my friends. Fan your flames. Spring is coming.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

the pits

[This post is originally from 3/23/15]

It's Monday at 5:47pm.

Know where I usually am at this time?

Yoga. Not sitting on my couch. Not looking at a screen.

As previously discussed, I love my couch.

But right now, I want to be doing cartwheels and handstands, and general frolicking.

But I'm sitting here, on my couch.

Stupid back.  

birthday reflections

[This post is from May 2015]

Fifteen years ago, I turned thirteen. I was in seventh grade, the first year of school I was allowed to shave my legs. For my birthday, my parents bought me stilts. Not just any stilts - drywall stilts. They let me walk around their house in them and I balanced myself on the ceiling.

I remember ten years ago, when I turned eighteen. Eighteen felt so old. So grown-up. Anyone else remember feeling like that when you turned eighteen? I remember that my then-boyfriend came over early in the morning to surprise me.

Unfortunately, I am a difficult person to surprise at the average level. You see, in my family, we have a tradition of really good April Fool's jokes, and not just on April 1. [this year, I actually avoided talking to any of my family all day on 4/1, since I hadn't prepared anything and my dad had just had surgery.] For survival, I have developed a sort of sixth sense that I call the surprise sense. Sometimes this gets in my way because I love surprises.

So I got up even earlier, brushed my teeth and my hair, put on chapstick and the cute pajamas and tried to look peaceful. After he had "woken" me, I got the sense that he was trying to keep me from looking outside. Obviously, I then worked my way to a different window and saw one of my friend's cars. We went downstairs for a surprise breakfast. The most surprising thing was that they had filled my car with balloons. I recommend this as a very fun surprise.

Five years ago, I turned twenty-three. All of college behind me, I was finishing up my year of living in Spain and threw myself a party. I baked ALL my favorite American sweets - a huge layer cake, cookies, apple pie, and more. I invited everyone I knew. They sang me happy birthday in Spanish then in English. I loved it. It was beautiful. Even though I had specified on the invitation that the only gift I wanted was for no one to smoke, everyone still brought gifts - a Juanes CD, a coffee table book of pictures of Spain, jewelry from Galicia and from Jerez, scarves, and more. It was one of the most beautiful moments for me, to see all these people there, the life I had made in Spain.

And this year, on the eve of my birthday, I picked up my husband at the airport. He'd been in Central America all week, and I was so excited to see him. I couldn't stop smiling on my way to the airport, and  walked very quickly to get to his gate to be there in time to meet him - my ankles and hips burned. We got home and soon it was 12:04 am. My birthday!

We celebrated the next day by sharing stories from our week, swimming, and having dinner and cake with my parents and dear friend Carolyn. Though not a big celebration, it was just perfect.  

Digestion, bacteria, and the tornado

***This post contains descriptions of digestive upset. If you don't want to read about it, don't!***

"Isn't it basically like being on vacation all the time?"

Once I started my current position at work, which involves traveling, someone said this to me. Let me say this: I LOVE my job. I love traveling to other countries, I love building cross-cultural relationships, I love visiting the families we work with. However - it is not at all like being on vacation. It's kind of like... going to summer camp, except for that you take your laptop and work all the time. But you're far away from your family and friends and normal activities, and so it's not a big deal to work from 8 am- 7pm or even longer. Because that's what you're there for. And like I said - I love my job. But vacation it is not.

Since January 2015, I have taken six trips to six countries. Today I would like to talk about something I experienced on 50% of those trips - getting sick from something I ate. It's happened in three different countries from three different things, but the symptoms for me are always the same.

1. Start to feel a little carsick, but all the time. This is when the bacteria is in the top half of your digestive system. Some people get a little feverish or throw-up during this stage. I only threw up once during the three bacteria attacks.... could we call them bac-attacks?!?! I have a couple of photos of myself in this stage, but decided not to post them due to the yellow/ green color of my face + sweat.
2. Feel like your intestines are full of cold gel. (It's that creepy blue-raspberry color too, which sure doesn't help. Such an unnatural shade of blue for a food - and raspberries are red!) Sometimes you can put off entering this stage for a while by not eating very much... which if you are feeling carsick and nauseous all the time might happen naturally.

Here's me on a trip right before stage 3. Please note the skirt which is extremely stretchy and lose on the abdomen. When I got dressed that morning, I knew that pants were not going to work. 
3. Picture a tornado. Now imagine looking at it from on top. Now imagine that the point of the funnel is on your belly button. This is what stage three feels like and sounds like, complete with tornado-y rumble sounds from your belly. This is the best of the three stages so far because it means that your body is working to get rid of the bacteria. 
4. This is the stage where you can be certain that you had a bac attack: elimination. Eventually, you will start pooing liquid if you don't have an antibiotic. This can be a weird experience the first time it happens, but major props to your body for doing work to get the stuff out. Stay hydrated. 

And there you have it!