Monday, October 31, 2011

Old School trick or treat

I love trick or treating as much as the next parent, but I'm kind of cranky today.  It seems kids have forgotten how to knock on doors and yell trick or treat.  Or even say anything, for that matter.  I open the door, and they just shake a bag in my direction and give me the "come on, hurry up, I've got more houses to rob" look on their faces.  And forget about a thank you.  Not that I give treats to get a thank you, but I especially love and appreciate the parents who insist their child say it, or stand at the door for what must seem like an eternity to the kid until they say it.  You are teaching your child to appreciate that someone did you a kindness, and that is a huge life lesson. 

I read an article recently (in Catholic Digest, October edition)  about an old tradition from like Medieval England or something, when people used to celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day with all kinds of excitement.  To enjoy the annual celebration of unity with their family members who had already passed from this earth was cause for a huge feast, and all kinds of Medieval merry-making.  Fancy cakes were made, and I am sure there was music.  (How can you properly celebrate ANYTHING without it?) 

Anyways, the tradition was that in the midst of this merry-making, the poor of the area would go door to door asking for "soul cakes".  From the article I gather that this would be some sort of bread or cookie that people would make to celebrate this occasion. Sounds a little like "trick-or-treat", right?  But wait, there's more!  The poor people would NOT just go door to door demanding their ration of "soul cakes".  They would ask if they could offer a prayer for the family (and one could assume, the deceased members of that family that they were thinking of) in EXCHANGE for the soul cake.  If the person behind the door said yes, the person requesting the soul cake would offer a prayer and receive their thanks in the form of this bread or cookie. 

I was picturing this while reading the article.  Knock knock on the door.  "Who's there?"  May I offer a prayer for your loved one in return for a soul cake?"  Silence on my end.  I am up to my ears in soul cakes, since I love to bake for fun occasions.  "Sure, yes. We have plenty!" I would say.  Then as this dear soul drops to his knees on my doorstep and talks to the God we both hold dear in our hearts, and asks for mercy, not for himself or HIS needs (even though they may be many) but for the peace of the souls of MY beloved people, I realize the value of what he has given.  He has asked for peace for Vic, my father-in-law.  He has asked our Creator to allow Kathryn (my mother-in-law) to be in paradise with her son, Little Vic, her husband, Vic, and the Lord Jesus, whom she loved more than anyone. There is no amount of soul cakes that can equal the gift this man has given to my family.  I can see myself packing a whole bag of soul cakes, and maybe slipping a little ham in there, an apple or two, a juice box (if they existed), maybe a toothbrush, some soap...(Those of you who know me...well, you know how this works.)  Then off he goes to bless the next home with his prayer, while I go for the tissues.   

I love this story.  I told this story to Sylvia and Simon and told them that this year we would start a new tradition.  Ask God to bless each home as you walk away from the door (right after the THANK YOU!)  You don't have to say it out loud, or drop to your knees, but just a quick, "Please Bless Them."  No one even has to know you are doing it.  YOU will know that you gave them something way WAY better than a full-size candy bar. 
As you go through your kids' bag of "soul cakes" say a little prayer for the families who gave these gifts to your children.  You will be blessing your neighborhood more than you know! 

Happy All Saints Day and Happy All Souls Day, and may God bless the members of YOUR family who have already died, that they might be with him in paradise forever more.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Friday Night with Smoochy

About 9 years ago I gave birth to a 9 lb 11 oz cherub with cheeks so chubby he could barely open his eyes.  He instantly became known as "Smoochy".  The funny thing is, several people who didn't really know each other called him that, without knowing anyone else called him that, which was beyond odd.  Smoochy.  We didn't name him that, you'll be glad to know, we decided Simon was the right name for this guy.  Named for Simon the Zealot.  I had a feeling he might be zealous.  He is.  Good call. 

So Friday night, Isaac (Smoochy's big brother) had his first varsity football game, and I had a chest cold, so I stayed home.  Smoochy stayed with me.  We decided we'd make cookies for the Bishop, since I was going to be at a meeting he was coming to on Sunday.  Yes, I'm aware that I have a rather strange life, filled with Smoochies and bishop cookies, and zealots.  It's a blessing, really. 

It was the first time we'd spent just the two of us in quite a while.  It was bliss! We ate pomegranates and left-over Chinese food.  We listened to the radio, played with the dog, spilled flour, made cookies, ate cookie dough.  Laughed.  Talked.  Caught up on life.  It's amazing how much a 4th grader knows.  Even when his teachers think he's not listening, he is.  My sweet son was born with an amazing sense of justice, and is ready to stand up for those who aren't able (or willing) to speak for themselves. (Even if he has to "snap a Z" to get my attention.) 

I learned some things that were good to know.  Samantha is still his best friend. He loves, LOVES I say, loves playing basketball.  He loves science, and thinks Mr. Colby is pretty cool.  And he loves his mother.  He also reminded me how important it is to make cookies together some times. Even if I wasn't going to see the bishop, I just love to bake with my kids.  Some of my best memories with my kids are making cookies with them.  Like that one time we put cocoa powder in the chocolate chip recipe to see what would happen, and turned the mixer on too high and ended up covered in chocolate dust.  That was awesome. I pray that CSI never has to swab my kitchen.  They'd be so confused!        

Eventually, we got in our pajamas and watched a little TV until everyone else got home.  We had that wonderful comfortable feeling like we were the only two on the inside of an inside joke. I kissed his little chubby cheeks goodnight, and as I did, I saw my baby Smoochy in his face.  I also saw another Smoochy that is starting to emerge.  A growing-up Smoochy that will lose that angelic singing voice, and get facial hair, and try to pick me up when he realizes he's taller than me.  (Why the heck do they ALL do that?) 

I'm not ready for that Smoochy yet, so I'm really thankful that I had this wonderful, blessed moment in time with the Simon of right now. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There are no Losers in Young 5's.

That's right, the title says it all.  There are no losers in Young Fives.  This is my class, and these are my people.  I love being their parapro, and helping my dear friend Debbie teach them all they need to begin Kindergarten.  We have an interesting mix of little characters in my class, and each one of them is a gift.  Sometimes they are a gift because their sweetness touches my heart.  Sometimes they are a gift because they are teaching me patience by giving me lots of practice keeping my words kind. 

Today one of my little friends lost his battle to keep his words kind, and he called the guy next to him a loser.  Not Cool.  This is not the way Young Fives are allowed to behave.  The young man and I went out into the hallway to discuss his breach of appropriate etiquette. 

He started sobbing loudly about the time his feet crossed the threshold.  This appears to get him some kind of reprieve in some other areas of his life, however, this is school.  It's still your party, and you can cry if you want to, but I've seen a lot of cute kids, and none so cute that the rules did not apply to them.  Your cuteness or sadness will not affect my reaction to your choices.  Save your water, son, I'm immune to your cuteness. 

So I asked him why he called this other kid a loser, and he starts to tell me how tough his life is and that he hardly ever wins at anything and he hardly ever gets to be first, and he just loses all the time.  Then he hits me with the corker, "I guess I'm really just a poor sport."  This catches me off guard, and I'm trying not to laugh, because I'm pretty sure this poor fella is having problems enough with all life kicking his tail, and all.  He doesn't need me to make it worse. It's pretty odd, though, since we were just sitting on our spots on the carpet when he let loose with this mean label, and "carpet-sitting" isn't really all that competitive. I never really equated "sportsmanship" with "sitting on a plastic dot on the carpet".  Although I've seen a whole lot of things become competitive that shouldn't have been.    

I know why he called the other kid a loser.  If you polled the class, you could come up with quite a consensus that the other kid had it coming... Still, not nice.  Not tolerated.  So I explained to this poor young soul that there are no losers in Young Fives.  Only winners.  Only people who try their best, and are kind to their friends.   I told him that everyone in this class is loved and cared for, and is trying to learn more and more stuff, so we can all win when we get older. I ask him if he can be a good sport the rest of the day.  He can, which is really good news. 

So how about you?  Are you being a good sport?  Are you so upset about not being first, or hardly ever being the winner that you can't be kind to your friends?  Can you sit on the carpet politely with your friends without saying mean words that hurt their feelings?  Or maybe you just want to win so badly that you don't really care that you are hurting someone else.  Gee, I hope not. That kid had to miss his recess, and I'd hate to see that happen to you!        

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lost and found

It feels like I haven't written in forever.  To be honest, I've felt lost for quite a while, and I'm trying to find my way again.  Not the same old ways I'm used to, but a new way.  A healthier, happier way.  Sometimes, however, I get lost inside my own life.  It feels like being on a carousel horse, and my life is spinning by so fast that if I try to take it all in, it will overtake my senses, and I'll get nauseous and disoriented, and can't enjoy the ride.  So I try to look at one thing for a moment, then swing ahead to another thing for a moment. 

So basically, my life looks like a series of little moments that I try to hold onto without barfing...Nice. 

Some of those moments are amazing moments.  I reflect on them often and they fill my heart with so much love that it leaks out my eyes.  (If you know me at all, you know I'm a cryer.)  Moments spent loving my husband.  Moments spent holding my children, and loving them.  Just being near them, no matter what we're doing is such a blessing.  I'm so blessed to be with them.  I see myself as so blessed to still be here, with them. 

To be a 5 percenter is a huge blessing.  I'm part of that fortunate 5 percent of people who survive Sudden Cardiac Death.  But I have some days that it doesn't feel like a blessing.  Don't get me wrong, I love my family and friends.  I enjoy every day I'm still above the dirt, but something is missing for me.  When I was without a pulse, I was in the arms of my Maker.  Just as I have held my beloved children close to my heart, and listened to their soft baby breath, and felt the warmth of their cuddle, and LOVED my children, so my Maker held me.  Safe, beloved, perfect, and whole, I was the baby!  I was the bundle of hope that nestled warmly in the arms of the Creator of the Universe, and felt love that words can't even come close to expressing.  I felt the presence of God surround me, and it changed me forever. 

And I "survived".  Or did I?  A friend of mine was talking to me this week about some other totally unrelated stuff, and he inadvertently put my mind on a thought I'd never considered.  In the Old Testament, God shortened the lifespan of people to 120 years (+ or -).  This part I'd heard before, the new part is that he chose to do this because being apart from the One your soul was created to love for much more than that was just cruel.  Even with meditation and prayer, and fasting we can only be with our beloved imperfectly during this life, so we pine away, and search and try every formula we can come up with to be closer to the one who loves us to each and every cell of our beings. I was there! I was in the arms that formed the planets!  Now I'm here.   

Maybe the truth is that 95% of people are allowed to begin their afterlife after experiencing Sudden Cardiac Death, and I'm not one of them.  And that's okay, because He has other things for me to do. 

Maybe the message I'm called to share is that God loves you more than you can ever fathom!  More than Belgian chocolate with berries and Creme Fresh (which is spectacular, btw).  More than butterfly kisses, and puppies peeing outside!  More than even grandmothers being there for birthday parties, and teenage children telling you they love you.  (Which is all crazy good stuff!)  God loves you.  He's kind enough and merciful enough to know when your days are done.  He's also kind and merciful enough to give me the strength to stay here.  He has courage to share, and sent an amazing role model.  Jesus cried in the garden when he was scared.  I don't even need a garden! 

Funny, I don't feel quite so lost as when I started this rambling.  I've found a new group of friends who understand part of what I've been through.  They understand part of the fear and pain.  Some of them understand the confusion of feeling "left behind" by their Maker, whom they love.  Some of them understand the loneliness and searching for balance.  I hope they all know that they are loved and respected and valued, and that we are called to a different purpose than those enjoying their Heavenly rewards.  We were lost, but now we're finding our way.