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Teaching Religion & Spirituality

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
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For me, one of the more nebulous bits of being a parent is how do we teach religion and spirituality? How do we our beliefs and break them down in a truthful, succinct way for our children? How do we, as parents, work through our differences to have some coherent pattern to show Levi? In short: how do we teach religion?

We do it every day, in our actions, at minimum. No matter what those actions are, we are modeling some sort of behavior. So, with these religious undertones we pray daily, I try to be thankful for things, and if not aware of changing at least aware when I do things like swear at “bad drivers.” Daily prayer and conversations introduced, despite the parental example.

A few times, Levi woke up scared, maybe from a bad dream. I gave him a hug, asked him if he was still scared or if he could describe the scary thing. He was still scared but wasn’t able to describe the scary thing. “So, this is where I introduce God,” thought my brain. I told him that we believe in God, who is everyone’s father, and when we’re scared that God will take care of us and help us to not be scared anymore. I remember, well, that comfort growing up. If my mom couldn’t make the thunderstorm go away, or if I was afraid to go to school the next day, it was nice to believe I could turn to this thing much bigger than me to help with my problems. God the protector is one way I’ve introduced spirituality to Levi.

We attend church regularly. If not weekly, 2-3 times a month. We attend a local Catholic Church. I want to remain practicing Catholocism since I’ve chosen this Christian Path. My husband is true to his Protestant upbringing, but hasn’t found a Protestant Church that not only he likes but that we can both agree on. This Catholic Church we attend is low key, it has a school, and serves as a good neighborhood church. It doesn’t ruffle any feathers, it focuses on the community, and it’s modest. This suits our personalities very well.

Catholicism is laden with rituals. I know it’s not fair to expect Levi to be quiet in church, so we’ve made concessions I never thought I would: we let him play with toys in church! Right now, from age 0 to about 6, I’ve conceded that this is “practice” time. This is the time where we teach Levi church is different, special, and we must be calm, quiet, and respectful in church. Again, we use bribery: if everyone is good, we get a half dozen doughnuts. We introduce ritual with these patterns even the bribes.

Now, Levi has been paying attention to the smaller rituals. He’s been Genuflecting at church after mass! This caught me off guard, but my husband says he’s been doing it for some time. I usually exit the pew last and follow them out, meeting them on the sidewalk after any genuflecting has been done along with the collection of the weekly bulletin. He’s learning, first, these steps without knowledge of what purpose they serve. I find it interesting that this is one of the things where Levi has not asked Why?

Every day and night, Levi asks what we’re doing. We’re teaching him the days of the weeks, as is more relevant with our impending vacation. We’ve been introducing the concept of the weekday and weekend since he’s been in preschool. Every Sunday, Levi understand, we should be going to Church. After Church is doughnuts, and after that – maybe lunch, bread, naps. I like Sunday to be a quiet, reflective day, no matter the pattern.

Through these habits of church and grace before meals and using God when we’re unhappy, sad, or scared – I am introducing this concept of Religion. I don’t really remember how my mother layered in these beliefs, as my personal reflections show they were always there. I am very curious to see what Levi’s expectations and understanding of religion grows to be as we layer on the heavier, conflicting topics of religion with his age. It, if anything, will prove to be an interesting ride.

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Daily Post: Best 2010 Accomplishment

Levi & Peter admiring the view.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband and my son. Just look at them! Adorable! And, we're participating in a trash-pick-up to boot! Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic suggestion: What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?

After this topic, I will be caught up with the challenge, and lest I get behind, I will be posting once a day under this “Daily Post” / #postaday2011 tag.

I haven’t often reflected specifically on the previous year to analyze my accomplishments, and from them, pick the most important. So, let’s take a look at the highlights?

  • Continued to raise a beautiful, kind, energetic boy named Levi.
  • Continued to work on this crazy, myriad thing called marriage – enjoyable companionship and frustrating differences of opinion abound!
  • Finally the food club started and have played an integral role in its set up, even being named president.
  • Continued to volunteer at the Church as reader, {new} Eucharistic minister, and religious ed (Sunday school) teacher.
  • Got a Paying Job.

My gut says, “Say the job, it’s what they want to hear.” You know, because that’s how we value things, generally, in our society – by the pocketbook. So, if we are earning money to value our worth and our daily tasks, then that must be more important than the other things.

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Levi helping me make bread. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, my gut also says, “Value Levi first!” I value Levi first, but is he my greatest accomplishment in 2010? He’s his own person now. And, seriously, what thought went into his creation on my part and my husband’s? Honestly, not a lot. Kids sometimes happen, and they are beautiful, wonderful gifts and surprises, but if a lot of planning DID NOT go into their creation – how can they be called a great accomplishment by the parents? Whatever Levi goes onto accomplish, and he’s had some super milestones this year on his own, will be his, and his alone. As his parent, it is my job to coach him along, help him figure out what values, morals, etc are important and explain to him why I think x, y, and z are the most important. But, is his being my greatest accomplishment? I have to give a resounding no.

Likewise, my husband and I are learning how to be married. Every year we evolve a little bit more. Every year we appreciate each other a little more, learn more about respect, about communication, about family, about love. We didn’t know many of these things when we stated our vows. No one really tells you what’s up in conversation. Can they? Could you hear? So, as a work in progress, is my marriage my greatest accomplishment? Again, while I’m glad we’ve come a long way, I can’t say that it is.

Volunteering at the church is something I do as a servant leader. I feel I must, and as I learn more about certain jobs, I want to do certain things less. Once I made the choice to reconnect with my Catholic Faith, I felt it was very important to act on it in the capacity I had. This meant, at first, reading at mass. As an over achiever, I wanted to do more, and somewhere along the way I mentioned an interest in helping with religious ed. At the church, over the last 5 years, I have helped decorate, fill in in the office when I could, read monthly or every two months at mass, now serve as a Eucharistic minister, and help with Sunday school. This is my second year helping with Sunday school, and I’m not actually enjoying it. Sure, the kids are great, but I have the hardest time explaining faith with the materials and lesson plan given to these young kids. The teenagers are a lot more fun with their questions and critical thinking. This year, none of the parents said evenings would work for them, so the time is still in the middle of the day. This means, we go to church, go home, then I go back. And now, it’s two Sundays a month, and with all the other things I’m involved with – it feels more like a committed burden than any sort of service accomplishment. So, although it could be argued it’s this noble thing I’m doing, I don’t feel like it’s a significant accomplishment.

That leaves the food club. This is where I feel we’ve actually accomplished something and where my greatest 2010 accomplishment lies.

December Frontier
Our largest club order in my living room, later to be transferred by our SUV to be sorted, and then returned to my home for pick up. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

In 2008, the idea came to start a wholesale group, buying primarily food together to cut retail overhead associated costs and make better choices with a group of close friends or neighbors. Well, things didn’t pan out like I thought they would. 2009 was a pretty dry year with buying, and it turned out that my friends weren’t the right people for a buying club. I have a limited network, so I tried to reach out where it was reasonable, and one place I reached was a local Food Coop, People’s Coop, where part of their mission is to assist new buying clubs and coops. Many coops start as buying clubs, so a network link was formed.

Still nothing really happened in 2009, we met, we heard the spiel, we made two orders. I got tired of sending out monthly emails reminding the few folks who found us through Google and Craig’s List that we’re still here, if you have an idea of a buy, let’s get it going! Then, this People’s connection did two things, only one of which I was aware at first. First, she asked me if I’d do an interview and answer five questions via email. I did this but didn’t know it got published until 6 months later. The second thing she did was suggest I become Facebook friends with another Portland Food person. This gal, at the time boasted the largest area buying club and in many ways was over capacity, so she put me in touch with another gal in my neighborhood who was already ordering.

Suddenly, I found myself within the realm of the right people. In many ways, it felt like the thing I was waiting for for so long was (like my whole life, but not really) finally coming to fruition. I was skeptical that this would work and treading lightly was very important. I hope I have accomplished that.

Those first few months were interesting. First, it was Kristina, Kimberly, and I talking, then just me and Kristina. And since no one else seemed to really want to do the talking, it ended up being me. I didn’t mind, this is the thing I wanted, so I wanted this role – this leadership role. We met monthly. Dropped Robert’s Rules as our mode of meetings and went for Consensus. We talked, implemented, and changed. I learned more about my meeting facilitation skills, and where other folks don’t have skills and how that is still similar to me.

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Heirloom tomatoes from our 2009 garden. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I met this amazing group of women who could rule the world. And, mostly, I’ve tried really hard to make sure people’s assumptions don’t get the best of them and encourage judicious, fair thinking across the board to so we can create a sustainable community first within and then without and throughout the rest of the community. Those basic goals are common with the other members in our steering committee and the club.

The goals for the next year would be to increase club participation. We have about a 10% steering committee/buy organizer participation rate. If we could raise that to 20% (20 regular volunteering members instead of 10) we’d do a lot to increase voices and alleviate the work loads.

So, my greatest accomplishment of 2010 was realizing my facilitation skills and seizing the opportunity to practice them with a fantastic group of women who under the surface are itching to change the world.

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