Monday, June 24, 2013

A Pilgrimmage

I don't go to Catholic mass often anymore, but I went today. Aaron's Aunt works at the Phoenix diocese downtown, just a few blocks from my office, and Bishop Nevarez was saying mass today at noon. It's the beginning of the Catholic Church's Fortnight for Freedom, and I will add my prayer to that.

I hesitate to talk about how I feel when I walk into a Catholic church because the last thing I mean to do is demean  the Church into a frilly little nostalgia. It is a serious, and a holy place, just as God's presence anywhere is; and I do not mean to say that the feeling of home and mystery that pushes on my lungs when I walk inside is just some lovely sentiment of a 'bygone' time in my life and nothing more.

So please do not assign any condescension to this, but walking into the basilica today was, as always, a change in the air for me. It is a different time and place in there. The smoke curling from the spicy incense; the organ which always, for me, has a certain 'outdatedness' about it, but instead of that making it less serious, it makes it even more so. The stained glass windows were beautiful. Nuns. Nuns! Holy water, whipsers, stillness.

It's frightening in an electric way - like staying up past your bedtime - but it's so reassuringly commonplace. That juxtaposition of emotions is, alone, a spark of electricity. Awe and wonder and a little bit of fear and the knowledge that you're safe; that just as there are no answers, there are, too, no surprises; this is religion.

It makes me remember being the altar girl; finding the shortest robe in the sacristy and praying the entire time I wouldn't drop the wine. It makes me think of singing at all those parish weddings - in my dark maroon dress with the sparkles and my mary jane shoes, wondering what I'd do with my $50 wedding fee and wrinkling my nose at the song in between readings that talks about "filling your house with children" - I was much more of a 'feminist' back in 6th grade. It makes me think of staring at the stained glass windows at St. Louis, wondering what Mom would make me for lunch that day and whether the sunflowers in the backyard had bloomed yet; and whether Mary was real and if she cared about me.

The incense especially makes my head swim with the Notre Dame basilica in South Bend - 8 years old, terrified, quiet whispering, wondering if Someone would appear to me. St. Catherine of Siena's bones - she wrecked me and then I saw her dust. She's just lying there! And what was I doing?

I went through the mass today, conscious of my ever-shifting focus, which I fought for so much of my childhood. I never understood how the Catholic mass seemed 'long' to some people - most protestant services are actually much longer - but I think the mass always seems short because I know exactly what's coming, and when. It's the same way that running 40 minutes feels like 5 when I know when I'm starting and when I'm stopping; but if I take off through the neighborhood without a watch on I can barely make it 3 minutes without getting irretrievably winded.

It was a lovely mass, and I still get the urge to call my mother and say "Mom! I saw the bishop today!" which is perhaps a consequence of growing up in a tiny town where the bishop was a celebrity who made rarely an annual appearance. But he was short and sweet with his homily, reminding us that we're a country of freedom but are in danger of losing it, and that we are killing our babies and can't be quiet about it, sign of the cross, close the book, back to the chair. Imagine what that would sound like to unaccustomed ears? We're killing our babies? What?! And he's just sitting back down?!

Mass reminds me of taking things seriously. Knowing God is bigger than me and my pithy little revelations in my sprial bound journal; I will never fully know Him and there aren't enough seconds in a lifetime to fill it all in. The fearful mystery of Catholicism and the reverence with which its people celebrate mass is a beautiful thing, for that reminder and for the way it has survived so many self-involved centuries and will surely survive several more, including this one.

I am delirous at the thought that our trip to Israel in a few months could be this feeling, magnified to an unimaginable maximum. I'm terrified of it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

10 Reasons Why My Dog is the Worst

SO! Do we like the new design? A litte cleaner, a little more modern, perhaps? My buddy Steve down Florida way is a fantastic graphic designer and made this banner for me. He is extremely talented and does freelancing graphic design so if you ever need anything, he is your guy.

Meanwhile. Listen, it's Friday, ok? I read a lot this week and wrote a lot as well, just not here, and today my brain is full of vanilla latte and emptiness, and I just don't have much in me. So let's talk about the Baer. Because he's the worst.

Jet weighs 40 pounds soaking wet, but he has a bark that sounds like one of those black rottweilers that live behind the chain link fence on 19th Avenue downtown. And if you enter my house, or walk near my house, or look at my house, or think about my house, he will bark at you, with a really mean tone if we're being honest.

2. He might be racist and is definitely sexist
Jet does not like dudes. He is instinctually mistrustful of them. Aaron's brother Ben has lived in Phoenix now for years and Jet still won't let him near him. I have no evidence to back up the claim of racism but let's be honest, the odds are with us.

3. He is a total foodie snob
Literally the only things in this world that he will eat that aren't poop are pepper jack cheese, steak, eggs, rice and Purina One dog food. He will not eat anything else. Not peanut butter, no vegetables, no potato chips. I totally bet he instagrams his food, too. Asshole.

4. He plays favorites
And it's me and he won't leave me alone and I secretly love every minute of it except I keep almost tripping on him when I get out of the shower every morning. HE IS ALWAYS RIGHT THERE

5. He has a better singing voice than you

6. He has better taste in TV than you
I swear on Dumbledore's grave that dog shuts up and faces the TV any time Law & Order is on.

7. He is manipulative
This is the face he gives me every. single. morning. when I am about to leave. Since when do dogs have eye brows?

8. He is putting pillow pets out of business

9. He gets carsick

10. I like him better than you
He gets me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Weekend

Friday Afternoon
Aaron and I both went to the dentist; it was so super cute, like the beginning of a Matthew Mcconaughey romcom, except we were at the dentist and I didn't have a French baguette in the front basket of my bike. However I don't have any cavities and Aaron has two, so it was a fun time for me anyway and really romantic.

(Side story re: the dentist. I still go to the one in Scottsdale next to our old apartment, so it's all fancy. Each chair has its own TV with DirecTV and they asked me what I wanted to watch, so I told them to just put it on the USA Network. It was another episode of Law and Order: SVU which I'm not particularly adverse to, but then it ended up being the episode where the guy is being sexually abused by his mother and has this real creepy psychotic break in the interrogation room. I was mortified, because the hygienist was hearing every word. At one point she was like - "Oh! Am I hurting you?!" and I said "No! why?" And she said "Oh, you just have a really awful look on your face." Probably the incestuous rape did it. Lesson: ESPN is usually a safer bet.)

After our dentist appointment/date, we had our obligatory "where should we eat" argument with each of us unwilling to name our choices but instead demanding to write them down before our opponent could, well, oppose them. Why are we like that? I don't know, but it works.

We went to BW3's (MY request) and watched baseball, revelling in the simple Friday-ness of it all. Such a lovely night, Friday. Isn't it? Then we went home and watched more Harry Potter. Dumbledore 4EVER.

Chicken wings are gluten free (not boneless though, and that's discriminatory)
Jet watching me watch Hermione
I spent most of the day researching topics for the radio show that night and taking care of some freelance assignments. I also went to the gym and watched The Five while I was there. Terry, the radio host who so inexplicably lets me keep coming back to be on her show, calls me the Dana Perino character of that hour and oh, how I love her for it.

Please to listen here to hear a podcast of the show


That night we had dinner with friends Kevin and Haily and their little girl Lucy, and oh em gee if Aaron didn't read her a book and I died.

The radio bit was fun as always. I have this thing where I feel really strongly about something political, say it, then immediately flash back to that terrible episode of South Park about NASCAR where one of them starts chewing tobacco and creates a Youtube channel where he just talks about "THIS OBAMA GUY" and how horrible he is the whole time. I don't watch South Park on principle but that episode. Oh goodness.

(I just found the clip and considered including it but... then I decided not to? Just go watch it yourself, but don't tell your mom I told you to.)

Church, nap, laundry, writing, made some gluten-free quiche for breakfasts for the week. Fin.

Today I'm putting some books on hold at the library for research into our upcoming trip to Israel. OUR UPCOMING TRIP TO ISRAEL I mean seriously, I have always wanted to type that! More on that trip soon. Which trip? Why, our upcoming trip to Israel.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Goals This Weekend

1. Close all blinds

2. Turn the air conditioning down into the 60's, I'm going scorched earth on my heating bills

3. Gluten-free Dominos pizza

4. Harry Potter 1

5. Harry Potter 2

6. Harry Potter 3

7. Harry Potter 4

8. Harry Potter 5 (best one)

9. Harry Potter 6

10. Harry Potter 7

11. Harry Potter 7b

12. And I'll be on the radio Saturday night, but I only agreed to it because it won't cut too much into my Harry Potter time, and maybe I can talk about Harry Potter on the radio? I don't know, is there a line we can draw between the US response to Islamic terror and the Ministry of Magic's response to Voldemort in movie 5? Is Dumbledore the gay wizard equivalent of George W.? Is John McCain Professor Snape, except one hundred percent less cool and also one hundred percent less on the side of the good guys? If we all adopted a British accent would we be more civil with each other? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a radio show. Listen live on Saturday night 9-10 pm PST here.

Gotta go, I solemnly swear I am up to no good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Always Give: A Question

There's a homeless man who panhandles at the intersection I drive through right before I get to work each morning and I don't know what to do.

He holds up a sign that says he is a veteran and then makes a reference to God. I always look away before reading the whole thing. But I see God's name there. Big letters.

It's getting really hot out there. 115 last week. (I mean, seriously.)

Over the years I've intellectually come to the conclusion that if I give money away to someone who is asking for it, I have no right to bother myself with what he/she does with it. I say "intellectually" because I have NOT come to that conclusion emotionally. If someone with a gold chain and a starbucks latte is begging for money downtown, my heart sneers. Are you kidding, guy?

And if someone looks, I don't know, out of it? My wallet tends to stay closed, too. I don't want to buy your drugs or your beer or your afternoon at the adult book store.

But blessed are those who are taken advantage of, I think. Get your face slapped. Give your tunic, even if they only ask for a cloak. If your brother asks for a dollar, give him two and spare no thought to what he's going to do with them. I think God asks only that we give. Actually, I know God asks only that we give.

Yesterday I had finished my run at the gym (it gets so much harder as it gets hotter out, even though the gym is obviously air conditioned. My body is just TIRED in this heat.) and I was stretching in the crowded little "STRETCH!" area of Planet Fitness when I kept hearing this annoying sound. It sounded like someone about to sneeze, or maybe trying to get the attention of their friend on the next machine or something. Like a little yelling noise. I started the typical dialogue in my head of 'geeze that's rude, can't you see people are trying to work out, etc. etc.' (I am much more short-tempered when I'm sweaty and tired; sorry about that) but then as I looked around, I realized it was one of The Girls.

The Girls are a group of three adorable ladies with Down's Syndrome. They are in the gym just about every day I am, which makes me wonder if they aren't there every single day. They work hard on the ellipticals and then they go lift weights together. And they always hold the door for people when they're coming or going.

Instantly upon realizing that the noise was coming from one of The Girls it stopped bothering me. I understood. Well, maybe not understood, but I wasn't mad. I'm only mad if I think the perpetrator knows better. What does that mean about me?

I tell that story in connection with the homeless man because it's unfair of me to assume he knows better, or anyone knows better, or that he's perfectly able to get out of his situation. He doesn't have Down's but maybe there's something else. Maybe he doesn't work because he has a debilitating depression. Maybe he doesn't march down the street into one of the steel plants and apply for a job because he's been convicted of multiple felonies. Maybe he stays in the Phoenix heat because he has family here and can't bear to leave them. How do I know?

The most frustrating part of this situation - though I am certainly not presuming this is more difficult for me than it is for him - is that I don't feel right giving him something. I can't figure out why, and so I don't know if I should trust it or not. I've given money to people pandhandling before. Lots of times, actually. I used to buy lunch a lot for a woman who hung out with her shopping cart at the library. It's not the money, really. I just don't feel right about it. Something feels off. Could that be God, or could it only be me?

Do you give to everyone asking? Have any advice? I'm open...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Middle Class Question Mark?

First, for some general housekeeping, I just want to let you all know that I am in the midst of re-laying-out my blog. Not re-designing really, because I don't know anything about designing anyone or anything. But I'm going to change my format and layout and banner and all of that. I don't know why I'm telling you, other than that everyone seems to warn everyone when things are changing, so I just wanted to do my part.


This weekend was lovely. On Friday night I had this romantic notion of my Saturday morning being spent out on our back patio with my new San Diego Zoo mug, drinking tea and knocking out some freelance assignments while the sun rose and birds sang and flutes serenaded me. So I did that, except it was 400 degrees. I still drank tea out of that mug and I sweat like a Bikram yogi, while Aaron cut the grass and Jethro un-gracefully rolled around in it but I loved it.

After giving Jet a bath, some cleaning and a trip to the gym I picked up some groceries and came back home. As Aar was helping me bring the bags in from the car, he noticed I had bought brand-name paper towels and decided to exclaim, with arms to the sky and eyebrows to the ceiling, WE ARE MIDDLE CLASS NOW! And then he gave me a giant high five and started to dance a little bit, but just a little bit.

I have never bought brand name paper towels, I don't think. I am nervous around money. Around it, with it, without it, etc. It makes me nervous. I can literally pinpoint a memory to you of standing in Claire's at the mall as a wee pre-pubescent and picking out a pair of earrings and then thinking to myself, well, do I want these earrings or do I want to go to a nice college? I can't remember if I chose the earrings or the college but as fate would have it, I earned a free ride to Ohio U, and every now and then I wonder how many more earrings I'd have now if I had known that all along. ANYhoo.

Whenever I'm about to spend money, on say, paper towels, for example, I always imagine what else I could be spending it on. You might think that makes me a wise spender or something nice like that, but really it makes me a hyper-obsessive malcontent for whom grocery shopping is one of Dante's levels. Because seriously? Paper towels? When I could just buy the off-brand ones for three months and then have enough for a pair of Nine West's or an upgrade at a hotel in Fiji?

Anyway I've come to learn after 4 odd years or so of living in my own space that some things you just cannot buy off-brand. Lysol wipes, Windex, bug spray (ouch) and, new to the list, paper towels. There is just no comparing. And 4 years is a sufficient test period, don't you think? So we're a Bounty family now.

Brand-or-no-brand theory notwithstanding, Aaron's exclamation made me laugh but also made me think. We have been so blessed since we moved to Arizona. Ever since those first few paychecks, our income has steadily grown over the past few years, through new jobs and promotions and what have you. But somehow, each time we get a little bump, we find a way to spend it (for the most part.) We have built up a modest savings for rainy and/or pregnant days (I AM NOT PREGNANT I AM MAKING A POINT) and have spent a pretty penny or two on some pretty awesome trips (Ireland, etc.) but for the most part, we spend what we make. Some of it is on paying down student loans, but still. We spend and we spend good.

I've always wondered if we'd reach a point where we'd step back and say ok, if we make any more than we do now, let's just save/give away all of it. Because we don't need to go beyond this point. Our house has a roof and enough rooms for us; our clothes are not falling apart; our bellies are full. Enough.

I think we should reach that point. Whether it's an exact dollar amount or a checklist of needs, we should have a threshold. The hard thing is, I think it's important that we decide on that threshold now before we get there. Otherwise I don't think we'll ever know we're there.

I'm still not sure what it is, but I want to start being intentional about figuring that out. And being able to give a good, Biblical, spirit-led response to why it is what it is. As in, why it includes Mary Kay mineral powder foundation and a yearly family trip to South Carolina. Because I think it will have to include those things.

So what about you? Do you have a threshold? Does it include Bounty paper towels because mine includes Bounty paper towels.