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Sunday, May 6th

Okay narcissistic rants aside – I do enjoy writing every day. As the (over written?) introvert, I do better when I can process. Writing allows me to process.

But, what to process? The never-ending balancing act and working towards my deemed purpose.

I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. So, I’ve picked volunteer projects, paid jobs, reading material, and seminars to support that idea. I’ve started endeavors to support that idea. Every choice I make tries to support that idea.

My thinking on what I should be doing with my life has always been ongoing. Growing up Catholic, there is a certain amount of time dedicated to thinking about listening for God’s calling. I never felt like I had one. I only knew to follow my interests. My interests have always been consistent in the environment and education. When I was 18 and a freshman at Michigan State University, a first year at James Madison College eagerly awaiting my studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, I thought maybe I would or could be a lobbyist. I’d lobby for the virtues of the environment or education. I thought maybe I’d need a law degree, which always has intrigued me.

Then I got a bunch of loans through two universities, and suddenly spending more money I didn’t have on law school didn’t seem so important. In between those two universities, the school of life focused my studies on environmental thought, food, and community building. Those themes coalesced at Portland State University with the opening of their Sustainable Urban Development minor. My studies then concentrated on geography and urban development. Two themes where I continued to think about food, people, and how to make it all work together.

Is it any wonder then that I work intimately with a food buying club that focuses on local food sustainability and an environmental nonprofit that guides its thoughts in stewardship? One of my parting studies introduced me to the concept of “servant leadership”. It’s this idea where you lead from behind. A great example is how I stopped arguing with my husband about what to have for dinner and just focused on whole foods, home cooked foods, and organic foods (as budgets allowed). Now, he tells me the virtues of the food we eat.

Each refocus can be identified by a shift in thinking and impatience with the day-to-day. Like when I finally graduated. I had spent so much time thinking about my degree, that when I finally got it all I wanted was to put all those studies into action and work towards some semblance of a career. Then, there was the (housing) crash of 2008. Just one month after I graduated. I was loathe to apply for just any job – I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So, I focused on environmental jobs. I applied to be program coordinators and managers. I tried for AmeriCorps jobs. I tried for a plethora of administrative jobs. I had interviews. I had second interviews. I applied for more than 300 jobs in three years (starting in 2007).

I get a job. And, well… it proves to be more or less as dysfunctional as the twenty some jobs I held in my twenties. So, maybe working for others doesn’t work for me. I don’t get their lack of vision. I don’t get their lack of leadership. I don’t get their in ability to properly facilitate meetings. (Meetings that could identify vision and leadership and focus the organization past dysfunction!!)

These weeks of not writing have been thinking about all of that. It’s been spent thinking and doing the day-to-day, just to get by. It’s been pondering how to fix the rut and get into a career. I think I have some ideas. Now, to put them into action.

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God: a Religious Query

Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: God is dead.

Today, Levi told his preschool teacher that he wanted to kill God. When I queried him much later, when we got home, about this, he said that an unnamed bad person said it first. I do not know if this person was a classmate or a fiction of his imagination. I do not know the context behind the statement, only that the teacher (in this private Catholic school) spoke to Levi about how that sort of phrase makes God sad and it’s not really a nice thing to say.

I relayed the story to my husband who had only sympathetic ears for our 4-year old. My husband is coming from the perspective that, first, we haven’t been going to church regularly. Second, [my addition], we don’t instill a strict Christian doctrine in this household. So, third, Levi is attending this school where it sounds like all problems are fixed by God.

I guess I was taught this growing up. I know many who hold these type of belief now. I also know many who do not.

I believe in God [the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth…]. But, I don’t adhere to the strict Christian dogma I’ve been handed down. I detest when people tell me what God thinks. I detest when people relate sporting events to God-like events. I detest when people blindly put their faith in … well … anything. How can we really know what God thinks anyway? So, how can we know that just because Tebow had a good pass at the 316 that it relates clearly to John 3:16? One is searching for symbolism that isn’t quite there.

So, at home, I loosely talk about God. I want Levi to make up his own mind. I find comfort in believing there is something bigger than myself. I find comfort in believing there is a resting place for my soul. But, I do not find comfort in guilt, brimstone, and fire. [It’s a wonder I willingly go back to my Catholic faith!] I want Levi to be able to think outside himself and find comfort there. I want him to have a quiet place, name it God or whatever, to ask questions his fellow humans won’t be able to answer.

I’ve read varied viewpoints on God, one that God is dead. It gives an open mind pause for consideration. “What if?” Rolls the words along the tongue. What if it’s all a lie? What’s wrong with considering that? What’s wrong with testing one’s faith? Isn’t it more important to be mindful of our day-to-day actions and keep those in perspective with how they hurt, harm, or help people rather than wonder if this being we can barely grasp exists? Or yet, pin every good thing on this being?

But, I am uncomfortable with my son saying he wants to kill God. I am extremely uncomfortable with my son saying he wants to kill anything. But, to kill God, this thing adults don’t even understand but yet we are trained to exalt screams blasphemy in my Catholic trained mind. He didn’t know what he was saying, but he has an inclination that it was bad. What is this good and bad anyway?

Oh Levi, Momma doesn’t believe God is dead. Levi, Momma believes we should respect God and the things we assume he created. And because we assume [s]he created all beauty, why would we want to kill that?

Logic, though, is just beginning. Faith is not logical. This is what my intro to philosophy instructor failed to understand or relay to the mostly religious class of 1998. And, four-year old brains are just starting to grasp logic.

What is becoming clearer, though, is that this private Catholic school, the school of my dreams, is not a good fit for our son. I’ve had the opportunity to confer with friends, increase ideas, and now reality sinks in: we will have to hunt, seriously, for another school for next year. The question begs: what are we going to do over the summer? Now is when I want Grandma and Grandpa around. But, then, we’d slide even more into interesting religious waters that neither my husband nor I want to navigate.

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Teaching Religion & Spirituality

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

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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Lawyer Jokes

I  think I’ve heard this one before – certainly the punchline, but I was reminded tonight.

There was a lawyer, a doctor and a plumber fishing off a boat. They all fell in the water and a shark ate the doctor and the plumber but left the lawyer untouched. Can you guess why?

Professional courtesy.

Another, this one I heard while temping at a law firm. (I love lawyers by the way.)

Two alligators lived in a parking garage of a law firm. One was very small. The bigger alligator was concerned, so he asked the small alligator what he did. The small alligator stated, “Well, I wait, hiding under the cars. When a lawyer comes, I grab him by the ankles, shake the shit out of him, and eat him.”

The big alligator replied, “That’s your problem, when you shake the shit outtta him, there’s nothing left!”

A roommate from college (my MSU days) had a lawyer for a father. He told her this one.

This engineer-architect died. He went to hell. When he got there, the Devil was a little surprised. Usually, architects and engineers, on their own, were stand up citizens. So, if someone held the dual profession, what were they doing in hell? The Devil didn’t dwell too much, what is what may be.

About a month went by, and the architect-engineer asked the Devil for 30 minutes. The Devil granted him his request. On the day of the meeting, the architect-engineer proposed a plan. He reminded the Devil of his earthly skills in design and building. He gave the Devil a vision of tennis courts, a mansion, hot tubs, swimming pools – and even air conditioning.

The Devil paused, and said, “Why not? You have all the labor you need.”

Six months went by, and soon the construction was finished. True to the architect-engineers words – Hell had changed. It was a party every night!

One day, the phone rang.

The Devil: Hello?

Devil, it’s God.

The Devil: Oh, what can I do for you?

God: We seem to have a problem.

Devil: Oh?

God: Yes. You’re in breach of contract.

Devil: Oh?

God: We agreed on lava, fire, brimstone – not air conditioning!

Devil: Oh, well – what are you gonna do about it?

God: I’m going to sue you.

Devil: Oh, with what lawyers?

Plagiarized post of unknown sources – but I love jokes. So enjoy!

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Life: Not a Competition

Playing at the Park with Grandma
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

This too shall pass. This phrase is one of my favorite. Why? Simply because it’s true. It doesn’t matter what is happening at any given moment at any time at any event: This too shall pass. Good, bad, horrible, indifferent, great, exciting, fascinating – it all passes into history, awaiting a new day with new adventures. Finally ending in our own deaths where in a certain regard, it doesn’t matter because what’s done is done. In that sense, life is not a competition.

I believe in God for a few reasons. One is because it simply sounds like a good idea. There is so much in this world I cannot and do not understand. My feeble little human brain cannot wrap itself around all the crap we are dealt with in our lifetime. Life is not fair, and I have to have faith that there is something else better awaiting us just for my own simple sanity.

I came to this realization one night when I was in third grade.

I still had my own room. It, I recall, had a big bed. I was laying in bed, tucked in snuggly with the sheets and blankets pulled taught with their tight hospital corners.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula
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I couldn’t sleep. We had moved again. Still no return of my father (he had left us 3 times, the last being for good). We were away from the place I knew as home: my grandparents farm. We moved downstate into my aunt and uncle’s apartment first. Downstate was like another country as far as I was concerned having lived only in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent move moved us out of my aunt and uncle’s apartment (yes, that was a tight fit – two bedroom apartment, 3 adults and 3 kids) into a (public housing) townhouse, across town, to another school. All those comforts of home were gone. I had gone to yet another school. I was, yet again, the new girl who couldn’t make any friends. At that point, I had lived in more than 5 different towns/cities and had gone to maybe 4 or 5 different schools.

I was in third grade. I was 8 years old.

That means one or two different schools per grade, at that critical age when you’re trying to fit in, figure out life outside of Mom, and get to know all these new “friends”, your peers in your community.

So, that night instead of sleeping, I prayed. I remember thanking God for what I did have. A house. My mom. My sister and brother. Food to eat. Clothes to wear. Church friends. I also remember thinking, if my real father couldn’t be there, at least there was someone I could call Father.

That, in essence, explains my spiritual beliefs. When we cannot get comfort from those around us, let us get comfort from something outside our being. I was raised Catholic, so I continue to use the label of God because this is what makes sense to me.

With my belief in God (and selling books door-to-door), I also believe that no one is dealt a hand with which they cannot deal. That is, you aren’t given something out of your means. Death, life, success, failure – it is all within our capabilities to handle the situation, and to survive.

Sometimes someone is dealt a very shitty hand. And, sometimes a person isn’t (to our eyes) – they might be born with what we deem to be a silver spoon. However, we all have terrible moments; and we all have good. I believe, I hope, that we are all given crap relative to which we can handle it, hopefully gracefully. (And sometimes not.) But, in the end, I believe we are given the ability to come out smelling like roses.

So, in effect, I believe that no hand is shittier than another. Just because someone only lost a loved one late in life, this doesn’t mean their trials and tribulations are less worthy of note than another if they were dealt with loss their entire life. Why? Because in this sense, life is not a competition. This part of life is where we need to lean on each other for support.

Regarding my own personal sob story, I can see the lessons and some of the reasons now, nearly 30 years later.

My step-father, Chris, and Levi. Michigan, September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

It was actually a very good thing my dad wasn’t a full part of my growing up years. Sure, it sucked pickles while growing up, but it allowed my mother to remarry and for me to have a great role-model in my stoic, even-handed, kind, generous step-father. It grew my family, so we were five siblings growing up together instead of 3. We had enough for the starting line up in basketball. Nearly enough to fill all the bases in baseball (or softball). It broadened my awareness of what family is, now being a blended family with all these “STEPS”. It showed me a different culture from the Polish heritage I had only known. Stability reigned through to my step-father’s hometown, where we spent the rest of my growing up years, and now consider my hometown. I even began my college career at his (nearly) alma-mater, Michigan State University. I have my Aunt Betsy because of this sequence of events, the one who introduced me to 50 Ways We Can Save the Earth, the book I consider the fire that ignited my environmental-sustainable passions, what I feel is my purpose in life.

Life is not a competition because everything happens for a reason. Sure, argue that I tell myself this for comfort, a religious crutch. I won’t defend the point because with this comfort, I can sleep at night.

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