Buildings of Faith

A few months ago I took a weekend for myself; marked off one of the things on my bucket list.  I went zip lining through the redwood trees.  Wow, what an experience!   I would definitely do it again.  Sliding along the cables, high up in the trees, such a rush and feeling of freedom, it was awesome.  In a sense too, it was faith building.

After my afternoon zipping along amidst the trees, feeling exhilarated by life, I headed to the nearby beach for some more faith building. Walking along the beach, listening to the  crash of the waves, the squawk of the seagulls, the laughter of the children nearby, I was basking in the sun and feeling a bit more faithful.

During my stroll along the beach, I began chatting with a woman as she was watching her kids play.  Come to find out, they lived in a town not far from me and were at the beach with their local church group.  In the course of the conversation, she asked where I went to church.  I was honest and told her I don’t GO to a church, and while I do have my beliefs, I’m not so sure I need to be in a building to have faith.  I could see by the look on her face and the way she almost imperceptibly  shuddered,  she didn’t agree with the fact I didn’t sit in a building to worship.

As we parted ways, the kind woman made it a point to explain to me that I would be happier if I went to church. I stood there on the beach, watching the waves, feeling the calmness around me, seeing the beauty and wondered.  As much as I like churches- some buildings are beautiful- does it make me any less faithful if I don’t go in?

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Growing up,  my family went to church on Sunday, and we had our catechism class on Saturday.  Having Saturday class sure interrupted some good play time!  Hard to listen to the lessons when many of your friends are out playing baseball and riding bikes.  With so much out there to explore and see, I couldn’t imagine why we had to sit in a stuffy old room ON A SATURDAY!

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With 9 kids, getting everyone up, dressed, fed and to church on time, was not an easy task for my parents.  As some things have a tendency to do,  those weekly forays to our place of worship became less and less.  I think it was more a matter of logistics than anything else.  Does that make us any less faithful?  Some might think so.

No matter what your belief, or who you pray to, is it any less  valid if you don’t sit in a church?

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Traditions

I would venture to guess, most everyone has at least one holiday tradition in their family.  It may be as simple as a favorite recipe made each year, or a house where all gather.  That one event that we all look forward to, that seems to connect us together again.

Who can  forget Christmas morning as a kid? Waking early, rushing to the living room to see all the bright packages piled under the tree.  Searching carefully for one with my name on it, hoping it holds that magical item I just HAD to have.  And then, we wait.  Oh, the agony of waiting for the rest of the family to wake up.  Don’t they know it’s CHRISTMAS?!  Finally, after what seems forever, the others would come out, equally excited ready to get the day moving.  And then, we wait.  Our parents were not out yet.   Have they lost their Christmas spirit?  Arent’ they excited?

One year, I may  have been about 10 or so, things changed a little.   Lined up in front of the fireplace were 9 new, matching red stockings. Green and white trim bordered the top, our names embroidered  across the front.  Filled with treats and a small gift. Oh how exciting!  Just about that time, our parents made it into the living room, looking  in dire need of a cup of coffee.  As my mother made her way to the kitchen to get the coffee started, she informed us all that yes, we could have whatever is in the stocking while we she gets breakfast ready.   SWEET!  let’s see what treats and treasures we have.

We each found our stocking and commenced to dump its contents in front of us.  Inside we found,  an orange or an apple, a handful of mixed nuts in the shells,  a handful of Brachs candies and a small gift. It may be nail polish for the girls, or a yo-yo or some other small item. No matter what it was, it was something we could have right then. More important, I think, it gave time for my parents to get that much-needed cup of coffee.

That is but one fond tradition I had growing up.  There were plenty of  other traditions. For example: carefully decorating sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies to be used as ornaments on the tree; finding the bottom half of the tree empty in the morning, because the dog ate them.  Or having mini english muffin pizzas , eggs and moms cherry ring for breakfast. 

My husband’s family has their traditions as well. Notes in every package, kielbasa for breakfast, new pajamas from grandma.   Now that we have our own family, we have blended some of his, some of mine, to make ours.   I do hope one day that our boys will remember those traditions, remember  that what truly made them happy wasn’t all the “things” they got but the love and family .

I looked forward every year to that christmas stocking.  I don’t remember many of the “must have” items in the bright shiny packages, but that stocking was always there.  I may still have it, tucked away in a box somewhere.

What traditions do you cherish, or have passed on? 

Trade Rumors

My husband loves baseball. I mean REALLY loves baseball.  He’s happy that I love baseball too.  We watch and analyze, cheer and lament.  We talk about  our teams and players like they are our family.  Families are like baseball teams, at least mine is as big as one.

I think any good team starts with its management.  For families, of course , that would be the parents.  In my family the “team” started 60 years ago. Young and full of hope and potential, they said “I do”.  I often wonder how much of their future was planned verses life just happens?  Did they actually PLAN to have 9 kids?

Each player -kid- on the team has a role, a purpose.  The oldest/veteran breaks in the management, paves the way for the future players.  As others are introduced, the dynamics change.  Trying to adjust to the new lineup, so to speak, roles are defined. Each person has their worth.  What good is it if everyone is a pitcher? Who would catch for you? Who would be your outfield backing you up?   Each one  has a job on the team and together they work toward a common goal.

As with any team/family,  there comes a time to shake things up, move on to another team.  In a family the kids grow up, maybe get married,  start their own team.  Sometimes the kids leave on less than  amicable terms and it’s a mutual parting of the ways.  Their time and purpose completed for that team, off to the next step. There are times too, when as much as one would like to stay in that comfort zone ,it is time to take that leap of faith and go for it.

Twenty years ago I started my own team.  Excited for the future, unsure of what would come next.  Am I any less a part of the original team?  Was my time there dismissed when I moved on? Not at all.  I had my role on that team; moms favorite, though she will say the same about all her kids, and truly mean it about each one. We don’t always get it right,  some times we strike out.  But, as in baseball, one inning doesn’t make the whole game.  Sure, one bad inning can devastate THAT game,  there are 161 games to follow.

I wouldn’t trade my team for anything in the world.  Hopefully I learned something from the best managers out there, and can pass that on to my young players.  I do know one thing- When you step up to the plate, life may throw you a curve.  Stand in there, take a swing, you never know- you may just hit it out of the park.

Decisions

How do you know when your decision is right?  Change can be scary and making the wrong decision can have unintended consequences. So how do you know?

Some things are easy, like getting a haircut.  Oh wait, as I have recently lamented, haircuts are scary and can definitely have adverse repercussions.   What if it’s too short?  What if it is cut so oddly that it takes months to grow back to some semblance of normal? People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.   Best to stick with the long hair, straight, no chance of mistake hair.

School is easy.  Oh wait, maybe not.  What if it takes 6 years to get that degree? I shall be older then.  Not that I wont be older anyway, in 6 years.   What if I flunk out?  What if I don’t like it?  People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.  Best to stick with what I know.

Work must be easy then.  Oh wait, maybe not.  I have to spend at least 8 hours A DAY there, sometimes more! I have to be on time, pay attention and do my best.  People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.

Vacation!  That’s it, the easy one.  Oh wait, maybe not.  I have to have money, a plan, maybe even someone to go with me.  People will stare , will shake their head, will laugh.

Life, it’s not easy.  There are choices to make,  consequences to consider.  People WILL stare, WILL shake their head, WILL laugh.  But in the end, the choices we make are OURS. Not theirs.   They can stare, as you accomplish that goal, shake their head- in agreement- as you explain your latest plan. Laugh -with you- at your funny stories.

Don’t be afraid of change.  As scary as it might be, as hard as it might be, it makes us who we are.

A little thing

Every day we rush around, busy in our own life, and don’t realize all the small things we do or see may really have a big impact.  How do we measure the impact of small acts of kindness? I would guess we don’t see the effect that small act may have on the recipient, we have since moved on.

I travel between several offices for work and one building happens to be next door to animal control. In their parking lot is a kennel where they bring the dogs out for fresh air. There are times, too, when people will find a stray and leave them in the kennel, to be found next day by the animal control employee.   I tend to take a peek to see what might be in the kennel as I go to my building and  admit I am a sucker for a pleading dog face.    Many times I wish I could  take the animal home with me, although that’s obviously not practical.  I would have a thousands animals if I did that.

Recently, I was entering my building and one of the animal control folks was out trying to find a kitten hiding in the hedges.  I put my things down and together we found the kitten.  Poor little thing was so scared. Talking to the employee, I learned the kitten will most likely find a new home.

A few days later I was again traveling to an office when I came to a stop sign. There were a few cars in front of me so I had a moment to observe.   On the corner was a man holding a sign.  He was homeless and hungry and asking for help.  The few cars ahead of me pretty much ignored him, and to be honest, many times I do too. That day however, he caught my  eye and I grabbed a few dollars from my pocket.  As I pulled up to the stop I rolled down the window and handed him the small amount of money.   As I handed him the money my hand touched his, similar to a handshake, and for a moment this man had the realization that someone cared. If even for a moment.

Last summer we were in Portland on the commuter train seeing the city.   Part of the adventure to me is the people watching.  On this particular train was an older woman carrying several bags. Homeless? possibly.   As we got to our stop and exited the train I noticed the woman had a sweatshirt draped over one of her bags, and it was starting to drag on the ground.  She had her hands full with her belongings so I tapped her shoulder and said ” careful you don’t lose your sweatshirt”.  At the same time I helped put it back in her bag since her hands were full.  As I did this she stopped and exclaimed ” Oh thank you! that’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me. Thank you thank you.” That sweatshirt may have been the warmest article of clothing she owned.  To think my small act of kindness meant so much,   I was surprised at that.

Do we just pass by people less fortunate than us and watch as they lose a sweatshirt?  Pass by the homeless man on the corner because he’s down on his luck?  Ignore the kitten because we are in a hurry?  These small acts of kindness took no time at all for me, but what did they mean to them?  A meal, warmth, life?

Take a moment for a small act, you never know how it may impact a life, your own included.

A cut above

Let me start with, I am not a hairdresser.   Well, I have been known to take the clippers to my sons head, but that is to save all hairdressers out there from his fear.  Trust me,  there have been times when you  would have thought I was killing him not just cutting his hair.  That’s a completely different story, so back to the original thought.

Whenever I go to get my hair cut, I have an expectation that the hairdresser knows what to do.  I am hoping today is a good haircut day as I watch the hairdresser assess my hair.   Believe me, I know my hair is difficult, I deal with it on a daily basis. So why, why, why do they ask me- “how would you like it cut”?   I usually fumble around and try to explain what I want, hoping it makes sense.  I try to use the correct lingo, but I think I don’t say it right.  Is it feathered or layered? What’s the difference between tapered and rounded? Thinned?  It’s all so confusing to me.  Really, all I want is it to be cut the way that one guy did, 2 years ago, before he moved away. By the somewhat blank look from today’s hairdresser, I’m guessing today may not be the day.

After the initial fumbling request, she starts in.  That first cut.  Ok, so far so good. Nothing drastic I think she gets it. Pretty soon the scissors are snipping and the hair is falling, hey wait! why are you cutting it like that? That isnt’ what I want- or at least I don’t think it is. It doesn’t feel right. It’s never been done like that. Oh this is going to be bad.  Now it’s too late. I sit and watch in silence hoping it will turn out ok. I do give some direction, now and then, and it seems to be ok.  I wait for the final cut and the reveal.

I tried to explain how I like it cut on the left side so it will fall correctly but I am not sure it’s going to be what I said.  She is finished and I take a look.  Hmmmmmm. I guess it’s ok.   I admit, it’s not horrible.  I worry if it will look the same when I do it myself tomorrow.  No matter, it’s too late now. Any further cuts will just be too short or just wrong.  I agree that’s enough and  she removes the drape.  I head to the counter and pay the fee.

At home I head to the mirror for the obligatory brush and closer inspection.  I figure, it’s shorter it will do, at least for now.  It’s only hair and it will grow back.   Even now, a few days later, I am not thrilled.  Maybe  I should learn how to speak Hairdresser?

I do appreciate a person who knows how to cut hair. It’s nice the have that ability to help people present themselves well.  That’s what we all want, right? To present the best of ourself, to look good.   We judge people on looks and first impression.  Just remember, maybe the person you are judging  just doesn’t speak hairdresser.

Just A Note

My office happens to be across the street from the local high school; a fact both convenient ( for me) and potentially embarrassing ( I may show up at lunch and dance in the quad) for my son. There was  the time  I got a call, 10 minutes after school started,  ” this is the school nurse, your son is here, he hurt his shoulder”  A quick run across the street I found  him in pain in the nurses office. Realizing he needed to be seen at the Dr, a quick call to dad to bring the insurance card and off to the Dr he goes. diagnosis broken arm.  Seems the kids all took turns swinging off a post – his turn didn’t turn out so well.

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Sophomore year my son had early morning class and  I would drive him to school, run back home, finish getting ready myself then drive to work.  Fortunately we didn’t live too far and, as a parent, you do what needs to be done. When my son got his license he would ask me if he could use the car at lunch time.  The routine became- drive him to school, when I returned I would park in front of the school and walk across the street to my office leaving the car for him. One day I left a small note on the dash with some money for lunch, and a reminder to turn in the form he forgot.

As the days went on this routine became pretty regular and each day I would leave a note. Simple things: have a great day. I love you. Relax and do your best on today’s test.  Don’t forget to pick me up after work.   I never really knew if he actually read the notes. I would find them later in the side door pocket or the center console.   He never mentioned them. No matter, I kept leaving them.

One morning he drove me to work- he didn’t have early class that day- and as I got out he looked at me and asked ” where’s my note?”   I was surprised. I told him I didn’t think he even noticed them, except for the one’s that had money in them.  No, he said, I love your notes.   Ok, I will remember that.

After a few days it was becoming an issue of finding a piece of paper for the note, and then the note remains.  I happened upon a small notebook at the store and a new routine was born. img132

Each morning I would write the days note and leave it in the car or with the keys. Each morning he would read it.  I didn’t get a lot of feedback then, but I kept on, for over 2 years.  A positive comment, a quote I liked, an apology if needed.  Each day an offering, a connection, an affirmation that I love him.

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My son is now graduated and I no longer leave notes for him.  I miss that.  I do have the notebooks, and on occasion I will take a look. Reminders of how life was, how much I love my son, how proud I am  of him.  What started as a simple note became a very important part of our life.  Well, at least to me.

“The best inheritance a parent can give to his children is a few minutes of their time each day.””

M. Grundler

A.J.B  Ich liebe dich.