Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Coming to you cordless

When cordless phones first came out, my brother had a joke. Whenever he would call he would say "Coming to you cordless". He got it from some cheesy character in a movie I can't remember.

Boy have things changed! Now I can sit at my dining room table, or in the yard, if the weather is good, and actually read my email and surf the 'net. We are wired for wireless. I can even save a file to my laptop and access it from my desktop. What a world.

Cords are interesting. They connect things. When my babies were inside me, living off the oxygen and nutrients from my blood, they were connected by a cord that contained 1 vein, 2 arteries and a lot of wharton's jelly. In the old days, when kid was born, the doctor (and it was always a doctor, LOL) cut the cord first thing. They believed, erroneously, that early cord cutting would prevent bilirubin build-up, which caused jaundice. When my kids were born, though, the midwife knew that almost a third of their blood was still in the placenta, so she let the cord finish pulsating before she cut. The miracle is that the vein closes first, as soon as the baby is born, so that their blood cannot pass back to me. It is, from that moment, a one way street. Physiologically, that little infant is no longer sending anything back to mom... but emotionally it is a totally different story. We suck up their presence like drug, after a long, arduous journey through labor. They are our precious reward.

How does the cord with God work? Do we just take and take and take from him? Is it possible that even though we can offer him nothing at all in return, our mere presence, our love, our very dependence, is a joyful gift? I pray that is true, because at the end of the day, it is really all I can offer.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


More and more I find I am affected by the rhythms of the church year. How wonderful Epiphany is! It is sandwiched between Advent/Christmas and Lent. It is the breather between two penitential seasons of self reflection and self denial. And while self denial (denial of the self, really) should be a part of day to day Christian life, during Epiphany this year I feel almost giddy. Light. Free. (Is it the green on the altar? Promise of Spring? I don't know.)

I am in a joyful place.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why I love Lent: Reason # 426

Because it is like having a 40 day retreat in the middle of your real life.

Am I nuts that I love Lent? Is it crazy to look forward to a penitential season that is designed to purify us? Perhaps. But somehow I have grown to love the quiet, simple, introspective time. I like that, unlike Advent, I never feel like I am wandering the desert alone. Instead, I feel like it is hard core one on one time with Jesus. He kind of coaches me through it.

I like giving stuff up. It always hard and I inevitably do it imperfectly, which helps me remember that striving for perfection is a form of spiritual hubris. Only God is perfect. My failure forces me to rely on God. At first, that seemed ironic, that I would ask God to help me with something that was meant to be a gift to him. But in the end, I realized that my asking him for help probably was the gift he most wanted.

I like that the material world takes a back seat to the spiritual. Emotions are close to the surface. Things take on a new significance. The world seems full of signs and wonders.

I don't feel lack. To me, being off in the desert with my Beloved never feels like sacrifice or punishment. It's emptiness is more a privilege. A joy. A gift. Even when it is painful and difficult.

This year, I haven't thought about what I will give up to God. I have already put down sugar and, for the most part, booze. I don't smoke. Maybe I should try giving up cussing! And I am going to read the New Testament. And abstain from meat on Fridays. All of these little intrusions into my day to day life will serve as reminders that I live for God. That I want to offer everything to him. That life in him is the greatest joy of all.

I love Lent.

So tell me, dear readers, what are you doing for Lent this year?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fresh Delivery

Maybe it is cliche, but I have a crush on my milk man, Leo.

The truth is, I only see him a couple of times a year because he usually shows up long before we are awake. Every Monday morning we wake up to find fresh milk in glass bottles, juice, cheese, eggs and half and half in our metal milk box on the porch. Sometimes we go for the exotic like homemade grilled pizza with a white garlic sauce and roasted vegetables. Or perhaps I'll get a package of frozen ravioli and make a sauce in the crock pot.

Today Leo was late. He showed up at about 8:30. I met him at the door and he offered to carry my order into the kitchen.

We commiserated about the Patriots. Talked about the details of the game. I discovered that Leo normally gets up at 2 am but overslept this morning after staying up late watching the Pats choke.

Last year, the Munroe Dairy calendar had photos of all the milk men and I asked Leo to autograph it. This year, my family is in it, so maybe we'll autograph one for him!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

By Him and with Him and in Him....

Most Sunday mornings begin with me in a state of sin: I lose my patience and yell at my kids as we are getting ready to go to church, then spend the rest of the morning in a state of contrition. Today, though, something remarkable happened. Instead of getting mad, we got out of the door with no casualties and had a good conversation in the car on the way to church. I was explaining the difference between a symbol (like the cross I wear around my neck) and the Real Presence of the Eucharist.

"The little cracker changes during the service and contains the actual presence of Jesus." I said.

"How?" the kids want to know.

"I don't know, exactly, but it is something the priest does. They are able to change it. That is one really cool part of being a priest."

"Could I do it?" Noah wants to know.

"Not unless you were a priest." I reply. (Although, truly, I am not actually sure about the mechanics of it.)

"Watch during the service" I said. "You'll see when the priest is changing it."

So later, during the mass, I invited Noah to stand with me and watch as our priest added water to the wine, then waved his hands over the chalice and the host, and finally lifted them into the air.

Later, as I was relating this to Fr. Rich, he corrected me. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms it, he said. Not us.

The priest, then, is more like the doorway through which the Holy Spirit acts, I explained to Noah and Emmett on the way home.

"I bet I could do it." Noah asserted. "I don't think you have to be a priest to be a doorway for God."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A mere shadow

of my former self.

Yup. I am groovin' with South Beach. Down about 10 lbs. and feeling extra fabulous. I told a girlfriend of mine that I feel like a movie star. And it isn't just the weight, obviously, but the fact that I am eating healthy, wonderful, food. I still have many more lbs. to go.... but slow and steady wins this particular race.

My mini goal for this year is to lose enough weight so that when I go to Vietnam this summer I won't keel over and die of heat stroke. Eventually I want to get down to around 150ish, which at my height makes me one frabulous babe. At that point I trade in the mini van and get the convertible and a lifetime membership to Apollo Fitness. Or maybe I should do that now? (Do they make a convertible mini van? I still need to carry the kids and kitchen stuff around!)

I am in a hugely grateful place. Grateful that God has given me this tool for change. Grateful that he gave me the willingness to make changes that are all to the good. Grateful that my sugar withdrawals only lasted a couple of days and I have been craving free since day one. And mostly grateful that I feel a million times more healthy now that the crap is out of my system.

Beloved God,
Let me be temperate and moderate in all things. Give me the strength to do what is right. Walk with me on this journey to physical health. Let me remember that it is for you that I do this. So I can be a better mother, better wife, better witness.


Friday, January 19, 2007

It's not like that

I had lunch with a friend who is in seminary. She laughed when she told me that most of the students are middle aged women who wear sensible shoes and wool socks who could probably stand to surf by PeaceBang's site.

I found myself lumping all those women into a category:

Women who reached middle age and realized there was more to life. And unlike men, who get themselves a 20 year old girlfriend and a red convertable, these women began a romance with God.

I have felt lumped, too. I remember talking to the Rector of our local Anglo Catholic parish, at one point, and telling him that I was a Unitarian Universalist, but that I had become a Christian and thank you for letting me come to your church during Holy Week.

"Ah," He chuckled. "One of those high church Unitarians."

I don't think he meant to be disparaging. Or perhaps he did. But in any case, he was wrong. I wasn't just a Unitarian tourist with a flair for the dramatic. I was, in fact, a woman desperately in love with God and not quite sure what to do about it. I was, and am, a woman whose world tilted on it's axis with one dunk in a pond in western Rhode Island.

It is easy to discern 'types', but the truth is, none of us are that. We, each of us, are engaged in our own relationship with God. It might be simple, complex, easy going or intense. Funny or stunning, filled with boredom or Holy Spirit fire. But it is ours. Our very own story. Our story with God. And no matter how much our story might resemble someone else's... it is still a unique dance between us and God.

I feel uncomfortable being lumped.

I ought to know better than to do it to others.

Pulling your strings

I got a call on Tuesday from the woman who coordinates volunteers for the Warwick school department.

"We have a meeting on Thursday morning at the library. You signed up in September as a volunteer to do puppet shows at the elementary schools. You got a letter about it this week."

I did?

Uh. Ok. I don't remember signing up, or getting the letter, but what time is the meeting? I'll come and check it out.

When I got to the library, the room was empty, even though I was on time. I brought my coffee and sat down. Eventually the coordinator arrived, along with another woman named Helen, who is a veteran of the program. We chatted a bit. Time ticked by. We were waiting for a couple others, but they never showed up.

So I am, by default, a puppeteer for a program that goes around to the elementary schools teaching kids to be tolerant of folks with disabilities, brush their teeth, stay away from drugs. I don't have to talk... all I do is move the puppet's mouth to match a recorded script. I am probably going to be Mark, a puppet in a wheelchair. Roberto is the blind puppet, but Helen has been doing him for years now and I don't get the impression she wants to change.

My kids claim to be mortified at the thought that I am going to do puppets at their school, but I think they are secretly excited.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Call it what you want....

Things have been good for my brother lately.

He bought a wonderful house. Got himself a truck to go with it. Is learning to budget his money and pack his lunch. And during this whole process has come to appreciate family more than ever before. (Could it be the hours and hours of help we provided during the grueling move? LOL!)

So, after 16 years of dropping by our house for dinner, Jake called me and invited us over to his house for a weeknight meal. He made roasted chicken thighs and homemade mashed potatoes. I brought the salad fixings.

It is our custom, at my house, to say grace before meals. So as we sat down to eat, we looked expectantly at my atheist brother. "Are you going to say grace?" the kids asked.

For a second, Jake looked a little like a deer in the headlights. But then he grasped the hands of my husband and youngest son and said

"Big Bang. Energy of the Universe. Whatever you are... Thank you for my new home, this amazing year, and most of all, for my family."


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Real Life

I am funny.

In fact, I think I am one of the funniest people I know. I have a silly, self deprecating streak that I pull out at parties. I am a happy drunk. I never get morose or angry or ranty. Instead I tell everyone I love them and get maudlin and sillier.

What is weird is that that rarely comes across on this blog. (Which suggest maybe I should try blogging drunk sometime?)

So, what is the real me? The happy, funny, silly girl who can cuss a blue streak and laugh so hard she is required to change her drawers, or the breathlessly earnest Jesus freak you often find on the Big Dunk? Is it a double life? Or are they just different shades of the same chick?

I admit I try and avoid being funny on the 'dunk because too often on blogs, funny=snarky and that is not what this is about. Not that I don't appreciate snarky... I just think there is more than enough out there and this is a snark-free zone.

Some of my regular readers on the 'Dunk also know me in real life. They know my history, my nutty, artistic family, my embarrassing foibles and annoying faults. They know that I am silly and not just breathless all the time (unless I happen to be slogging on a beach.... see posts below).

So, my dear friends who know me in the flesh.... do you recognize this girl in the 'Dunk?

And for my other, dear, blogger friends.... are you who you are in your blogs?

A charmed life

My friends think I lead a charmed life. When I travel, especially, it just seems that everything comes up roses.

I was in Dallas, this week, for a kitchen tools convention. We were hosted by my friend's brother and his wife, who wined and dined us all week, put us up in their beautiful apartment and treated us like queens. I bought the obligatory cowboy boots (brown lizard skin) and didn't eat a single piece of red meat the whole time.

The convention's logistical team had screwed up: There was no food. No transportation. No organization. But we just sailed along under our own steam, taking cabs instead of waiting for 3000 people to squeeze onto the shuttles. Eating our packed snacks or grabbing salads instead of waiting in a line 200 people deep in the cafeteria. My friend's brother is pretty well off, so we were drinking expensive wine and eating great food and feeling grateful for every single bite.

Even on the last day, when I came down with the Norwalk virus and found myself unable to fly, vomiting my way out of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, we were blessed by the kindness of strangers who went out of their way to assist a passenger (and her up-for-sainthood friend) in distress. We were given a free ride by a shuttle operator from a competing company. We were given a hotel room at a freakishly low rate. We got on a plane the next day and discovered it was nearly empty, so we could just lie down across three seats and sleep for the whole flight, making up for at least some of the sleep lost in the bathroom the night before.

And then, arriving in Boston, worried that our luggage had arrived 12 hours before us, we walked out of the arrivals and into the baggage claim to find all our bags lined up waiting for us.

A charmed life, I tell you.

And here's the thing: At the times of great joy, I read my bible. I read psalms of thanksgiving and praise. I pray prayers of thanks and love to God.

But at my worst, lying in a bed with a bucket at my side, in a dimly lit hotel room, 2000 miles from home, I pulled out the New King James that the Gideons had left, and read psalm 23, over and over. And then, just to put things in perspective, psalm 22.

And even though I was scared and alone and feeling very very sorry for myself, I also felt safe in the arms of my Beloved.

By the Grace of God. A charmed life.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Day 4 Sugar free

Part of my new 'clean living' regimen is that I am not eating any sugar. This is not such a huge deal for me. I gave it up for about 5 years at one point. But this last year has been one long sugar binge that has left me somewhat slightly dazed. And let me tell you, detox is a bitch. I spent the morning nauseated and the afternoon starving. And no. I am not pregnant, LOL.

Ok. So although this isn't going to become diet blog, I do want to say that other than the physical withdrawal symptoms, I am doing pretty well. I already feel more energy and am pretty sure I am starting to drop a couple pounds. I won't know that for sure until tomorrow because the battery in my scale pooped out after the second day of my new program. Is that a hint, God? Are you suggesting I stay away from obsessively weighing myself 63 times a day? I'll try.

By the way, for those of you who are just dying to know: South Beach.

I know, I know. Those of you have never had a real eating issue will be saying: Just cut down. Just exercise. Just moderate. Just whatever. But I know that for me, structure of some kind is absolutely critical or this Capricorn girl goes haywire. This one seems reasonable: complex carbs, healthy fats, veggies, fruits, lean meats, beans... it seems like something I can live with.

Which is the whole point, isn't it?

Thursday, January 04, 2007


At 5:17 this morning I got a broadcast call from the Warwick Superintendent of Schools announcing that school will be closed for the rest of the week while the CDC and Department of Health investigate an encephalitis outbreak at a neighboring school.

One kid is dead. A 7 year old first grader was hospitalized in mid December and died on the 21st. Another couple of kids have the bacteria, but are in much better shape, recovering at home at this point. No one seems to know why this normally relatively harmless bacteria has gone berserk, so there are folks in hazmat suits taking samples from the affected elementary school and sending the results to Atlanta for analysis. It is like something out of a House episode. Except no Hugh Laurie. And even if there was a Hugh Laurie around, I doubt he would be much comfort to the parents of that 7 year old.

I was actually in complete denial about all this until the call this morning. Yes, I told my kids to be extra careful about washing their hands and covering their mouths when they cough. Yes I thought about what it must have been like during the polio outbreak, when kids weren't allowed to swim for a summer and parents must have been suspicious of all the other kids in the neighborhood. My dad's cousin has a lame leg to this day. But really, I was just going through the motions.

And I wasn't alone, evidently. No one was discussing this at school pick-up time this week. We talked about the weather, the holidays, our diets and travels. But not one parent could bear to mention the fact that a kid the same age as ours died not two miles away from where we stood. It is too close.

Psa 18:1

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

Psa 18:2

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn* of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psa 18:3

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and I am saved from my enemies.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I am not a big New Year's resolution maker, but this year I came to the conclusion that I really need to drop the extra weight I am carrying around. It has gotten to the point where I am physically uncomfortable, so something's gotta change.

Weight has been an ongoing struggle for me for my entire life. Even in 3rd grade, I remember asking my friend Jill who was fatter: my classmate Wendy (who was morbidly obese) or me? I seriously couldn't tell what my body was like.

At 15 I went on the Scarsdale Diet because a friend's mother told me she lost a pound a day on it. For weeks I ate protein bread and clear broth with a teaspoon of parmesan. I brought my lunch to school and refused to eat anything that wasn't on the diet. In the course of a few months I lost about 30 lbs and got to 134 lbs. It was the last time I would ever see that number in my life.

I regained all that weight and then some, but managed all through high school to stay in the size 18 range, even with terrible eating habits.

During college, though, my eating was just a mess. I was very poor, so I ate cheap food, which unfortunately happens to be the worst kind: boxed mac and cheese, ramen noodles, english muffins with margarine. I ballooned up to about a size 22/24, which was where I was when I got married. (I have the dress to prove it.)

A couple of years after getting married, I was walking on a beach in Cape Cod, huffing and puffing because it was so hard to walk in the sand, when I finally had an epiphany: God did not want me to be unhealthy. He wanted me to be fit. Right then and there I determined to lose the extra weight. When I got home from the Cape, I signed up with Weight Watchers and did very well with the program, losing about 80 lbs in less than a year. I was something of a poster child, happily sharing with everyone how I managed to lose so much weight, exercising for fun for the first time in my life. (It was at this point that I started playing rollerblade hockey with my husband and some friends.) I looked good, even with the remaining 30 or so extra pounds. But eventually I stopped going to WW meetings because I got pregnant.

During my pregnancy, I gained back just about all the weight I'd lost. I was in total despair.... a new mom with a new baby, exhausted, out of shape, depressed. When my son was about a year old, I went back to weight watchers to try again, but for some reason, I was unable to lose even a few pounds. I was hugely discouraged.

After awhile, I began to believe that the only possible solution for me was God. I simply had to find a way that relied on God instead of my own, by this point weak, will power. So I decided to check out Overeaters Anonymous, a program modeled on the 12 steps of AA. I remember going to my first meeting and wondering why no one was clapping or talking about their weight loss. In fact, it seemed like a downer because everyone was complaining about their lives, instead. But I went back. And then again. And finally got myself a sponsor. Slowly some of the weight started to come off. I got down about 3o lbs. I was feeling better. I was convinced that I was sick and that the only cure was a spiritual solution. I learned to rely on God for both my eating and for other issues in my life.

When I got pregnant again, I wasn't as afraid that I would gain weight. I worked with my midwife to come up with a plan of eating that was healthy. I gained some weight, yes, but it wasn't the kind of out of control thing that I had done with my first pregnancy.

After my second child was born, it took a LONG time for the weight to start coming back off. I was back on my rigid, OA foodplan (3 weighed and measured meals a day, no snacks, no flour or sugar of any kind). I kept praying that God would relieve me of the obsession with food and teach me what he wanted me to do. Finally, one day, I had an epiphany while praying and realized that all I had to do was eat like a thin person. Eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied. It was so simple. So simple, in fact, I thought I was 'cured' of my food obsession forever. I began to lose weight. I stopped going to OA meetings. For the first time in my life I could eat a 'little' of something and put the rest down. It really was a miracle. I was doing really well until last January, when I injured my knee. Suddenly my exercise was zero and my metabolism seemed to take a hit and I was gaining weight even with moderate amounts of food. By the time I was able to exercise again, I had gained back almost all the weight I had lost. If any of you have tried to start exercising when you are carrying a lot of extra weight, I can tell you right now, it is very discouraging. But I started small, with walking the kids to school.

So, here I am, at the highest weight I have ever been. I am not sure whether I am going to go back to OA, but I AM sure that it is time to start taking better care of my body. I am walking the kids to school several times a week. I am cutting out processed foods and am eating only well balanced, healthy choices in moderate amounts.

And I am asking God, once again, to help me with this.


In you, all things are possible.