Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ever Children

Just the other day, I was having a phone conversation with my sister.  Our discussion was being constantly interrupted, as her toddler daughter was getting into all sorts of things.  Her little two-year-old is bright as can be, knows the rules, but sometimes ignores them.  Our conversation continued but as it being peppered with repeated cautions, patient sighs, and a few tears, it occurred to me that, in some ways, we are all like children.  I listened as my sister patiently warned her daughter that it was dangerous to climb the stairs, and the little girl's protests as her mother pulled her away from the treacherous, yet tempting steps.  I offered to end the call and let my sister tend to her daughter, but she responded in that cool tone of a loving parent, "No, that's OK.  She's just getting into things she knows she shouldn't get into."  Shortly after that I heard, "Now you know you're not supposed to get into Mama's make-up!"  Realizing that she was found out, my niece hid behind a chair.  My sister couldn't help but chuckle and offer, "I can see your shadow!" 

Shortly thereafter, I let my sister go and focus on her daughter.  However, it struck me how childlike we all can be.  How many times have we been cautioned by those who love us?  We all have moments when we do not make the best decisions--from making a poor judgment call to engaging in self-destructive behavior, or allowing ourselves to get caught up with those who are a bad influence.  Have you ever heard the strong, but quiet voice of the Spirit within your soul say, "My dear daughter, you don't want to do that.  You're only going to get hurt!"  The Lord loves us and gave us free will, but there are times when He will pull us away from the stairs when we need His protection most.  Sometimes this prompts us to shed tears, as we convince ourselves that whatever we wanted to do could only have been wonderful, if we had been given the opportunity to take one more step.  He knows better, and although we may shed tears, get frustrated, and, from time to time, throw hissy fits and ignore our Father's cautionary movements in our hearts, He still loves us...and we still love Him. 

And after being caught doing something we know is wrong, how many of us try to hide?  We hide from our mistake, we hide from our embarrassment and humiliation--ashamed of ourselves, we hide from the Father.  We put off the Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation.  Rather than swallow our pride and reconcile ourselves with the Father, we walk--or perhaps even run--in the opposite direction, unable to face He who loves us so much, worried that we have yet again disappointed Him and are unworthy of His mercy. 

We are indeed unworthy of His mercy, but He gives it to us freely anyway.  Let us always remember that we are His sons and daughters, and His love for us knows no bounds.  He is Love.  Perfect, unconditional, forgiving Love.  So let us humble ourselves and remember that His ways are not our ways.  Our minds cannot fathom the greatness, glory, or plans of our Father, but we must try always to trust Him.  And even when we experience bouts of frustration and anger with our lives, let us not act like petulant children.  Rather, let us remember that the Lord truly loves us and only wants what is best for us.  May we lovingly trust Him and offer Him our sufferings, appreciation, and praise!  He will allow us to make our stubborn, poor decisions so that we may glean something from them, but, like any loving parent, He will never abandon.  He will be there to patiently, lovingly caution us and, when we hide from Him (and we inevitably will), he might chuckle and say, "I can see your shadow!"

"Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.  You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar.  Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all.  Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach.  Where can I go from your spirit?  From your presence, where can I flee?  If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.  If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.  If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light"--Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day.  Darkness and light are but one."  Psalm 139:1b-12

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Save the Date

Confession: I love checking my mail.  Although it is usually the same boring mix of junk mail and bills, each day I have renewed hope that when I open the box, something new and exciting will be awaiting me.  The other day, I was excited to find a small purple envelope in my box.  The return address was a family friend in Michigan who I knew to be getting married.  We're not particularly close--the bride is the best friend of one of my sisters--so I wasn't expecting an invitation.  However, I opened it up and was delighted to find out that the wedding will be in late July, the usual time I take my long vacation to visit the fam. 

The bride, Katie, is one of the sweetest, funniest people, and she's marrying a very nice guy from our hometown.  His family is Greek and the wedding will be in the Greek Orthodox Church.  Naturally, my mind immediately cues all of the best scenes from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  Will there be plate smashing, copious amounts of ouzo, and the constant shouting of "Opa!"???  I'm guessing not, but, like checking the mailbox, I'll hope for something exciting.  In the meantime, I leave with two of my favorite clips from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Searching for the Shamrock

Up until a few years ago, St.Patrick's Day meant one, and only one, thing to me: McDonald's Shamrock Shakes.  Seriously.  I knew that St. Patrick was from Ireland, and all the Catholic kids would wear green.  Part of me wanted to stand out and wear orange in honor of my Protestant ancestors, but I didn't know anything about religion, nor did I care.  Why?  Because it was all about Shamrock Shakes.  Because, when combined with a chocolate shake, you have one tasty, liquified Thin Mint in a cup.  And mostly because, one can only get them once a year.  I had all year to learn about religion, Protestants, and the color orange.

Finding Shamrock Shakes as a young girl in Michigan was easy; it seemed like everyone was waiting in anticipation for that random day after Valentine's when someone would go to Mickey D's and come home to say, "We asked, but they don't have them yet."  Finally, the sign behind the register would go up and word would spread: Shamrock Shakes are here!

Like Cadbury Eggs at Easter, Shamrock Shakes are a seasonal delicacy.  Also like Cadbury Eggs, I allow myself one per year--the calorie, fat, and sugar content in a small cup of minty green goo is daunting.  However, I plan it out and go in search of the stuff each year.  When I moved to DC seven years ago, it really did become a search.  I went to four or five different McDonald's last year before I could find the annual treat.  More than one cashier looked at me like I was nuts--one even took my order, then handed me a chocolate shake.  After searching at Union Station, Metro Center, Pentagon City, and perhaps Friendship Heights, I finally found Shamrock goodness at the McDonald's in Chinatown.  This year, that will be my first stop.  If that proves unsuccessful, I've discovered this Find the Shake website where people are posting where they have found the Shamrock Shake...brilliant!  And, yes, it made me feel like less of a freak, going from one McDonald's to another, inquiring about a menu item no one knew.  There are others.  :)  So, it looks like the search for the shamrock will be infinitely easier this year.  Hooray!  Now it's time to start thinking about going to the gym everyday this weekend...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Great Falls, Maryland

After a challenging week at work, the weekend was all about play.  Sunday lived up to its name as it was gloriously sunny, making it a perfect day to be outside.  A friend suggested we go to Great Falls, a place I had heard much about but had never been, and so we set out.  We opted to park about a mile or so from the national park entrance, which offered us the opportunity to walk much more and enjoy the fresh air.  As you can see, the walk was beautiful.  I can only imagine how stunning this area looks during autumn! 

We walked approximately a mile up the C & O Canal, and gradually made our way over to the Potomac River.  Along the way, however, there were a few small bridges to cross.  Not a big deal for me since they had railings, but when I leaned against a railing and it gave about 2 inches, all I could think was that although I hadn't figured out the purpose of my life, I was about to plunge to an icy cold, rocky death (pictured at right).  I'm not sure if it was God or the devil who wanted to see how quickly my heart rate could rise, but I recovered and we moved on. 

We eventually made our way to the Potomac River and enjoyed the sound of the rushing water and the warmth of the sun, mused about the shapes of clouds, and discussed life.  We didn't come up with an answer, other than it was pretty damn good that day, and "we may never pass this way again." 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year, New Post

We're only 12 days into the new year--time to get started on those new year's resolutions!  I'm a fan of resolutions, but not the "new year" variety, simply because we're called to constant conversion and bettering ourselves.  At any rate, I've a few resolutions of my own this month--some new, some old--a few bad habits I'd like to kick, a few good habits I'd like to acquire, and so on.  Here are those I'll share:
  • Daily Scripture--I think I'm defeating the Catholic stereotype about knowing zip about Scripture by a slim margin, but not much.  Regardless, I want to make this a priority.
  • Daily Mass--At least 3 days a week other than Sunday.  Going to Mass 4 out of 7 days each week can only be a good thing. 
  • Grocery Shop and Cook--Post-September Eat-In Challenge (which was relatively successful, btw), I've failed miserably at this.  However, with a stock of awesome cookbooks received for Christmas (I'm in America's Test Kitchen utopia here), I plan to try my hand at more than a few new dishes.  Something simple to start: Guinness Beef Stew!
  • Call More Often--Living 500 miles away from your next of kin isn't easy.  Facebook makes keeping in touch simple, but a status update does not a relationship make.  No excuses on this one! 
  • More Sleep and More Exercise--More exercise will lead to improved sleep, and vice versa.  It's all a matter of getting up at a reasonable hour...I just hate mornings.
  • Plan and Save--*sigh*
In other news, I celebrated my fifth year at the government job a few days ago.  What's the significance of pushing paper and working diligently at those "other duties as assigned"?  Yours truly is now fully vested in the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS).  This means that around 2040, should the government have any money left and FERS still exist, I will receive some sort of monthly pension.  It doesn't seem very exciting now, but it might when I'm older...maybe.

Reflecting on the past five years and the various things I've done there, I slipped into the courtroom for some alone time.  I spent a few minutes trying to recall--perhaps revive--the feelings I had when I interviewed for and started the job.  Alas, I was unsuccessful.  A few weeks back, I went so far as to turn down meeting a well-known jazz musician, simply because I wanted to wear jeans to work.  To wrap up this post, I leave you with an exchange I had with a friend this evening, followed by an awesome song (but weird video) by Aerosmith.

Friend: Did you listen to Obama's speech?
Me: No.
Friend: Me either.  Go us for being Washington insiders.

Monday, August 23, 2010

September Eat-In Challenge

As I was balancing my checkbook a few weeks ago, it became painfully clear that I spend way too much money going out to eat.  It's expensive and unhealthy, but I do it all the time.  Giving it some thought, I realize that the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is cook.  I also *hate* cooking for one person--it's just no fun.  I love cooking for family and friends, but I rarely do.  Eating out is also fun--there's the whole social aspect of going out for drinks with friends after a long day, or after a function at church.  It's a great way to catch up with friends I haven't seen in awhile, and what better way to reconnect than by breaking bread?  However, this past weekend a friend and I went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch, and we were both surprised at the calorie listings on the menu.  Although I opted for a "lower" calorie option (660 calories, not including the cheesy biscuits they gave us to start), I later discovered it had well over 20 grams of fat...and let's not even go into the sodium content!

As convenient and fun as eating out may be, it's eating up money I could be saving, or putting towards more productive things.  Rather than deflate my checking account only to inflate my waistline, I've decided to eat in the entire month of September.  With very limited exceptions, this means that I will not eat food at any restaurant, the cafeteria at work, vending machines, cafes, etc.  The exceptions will be going out for an occasional coffee with friends, two birthday celebrations, and dinner one night at my favorite monastery.  The bulk of the month, however, I plan to invite a few friends over for dinner and try some recipes that I've been wanting to make.  I enjoy watching the various cooking shows on PBS, and this is a great opportunity to try some of Sara Moulton's "Weeknight Meals," and some recipes from "America's Test Kitchen".  My September blog won't be anything like "Julie & Julia," but I hope to expand my usual grocery list and try new things, and eat in with some great company.  If you have a delicious recipe you'd like to share, please feel free to put it in the comment section!