Tag Archives: Holiday

My Christmas

Yesterday was pretty sweet. My cousin from Montreal was home for Christmas, and my grandmother got me a super competitive board game called Cathedral. The point is to place more buildings on the game board than your opponent by strategically blocking off territory. I love games like this because for whatever reason, I’m obnoxiously competitive. We also played a game called Password. We decided that we would do sibling teams because we knew it would end badly. It was my two cousins against my brother and me. My two cousins think nothing alike, and my brother and I think nothing alike, so it was hilarious. I got a lot of great presents from my family, but I’m most excited about my new bass guitar, and my copy Saint Faustina’s diary.

I realized something rather embarrassing when everyone had left, though. I had gone to Mass the night before, but I had not had a particularly Christ-centered Christmas Day. In my defense, my grandmother had stayed overnight and we had had company all day, so I didn’t exactly have much time to sneak off and do much. I had some, though, and I should have recognized and used it. I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary today, and she wrote something that I think is helpful. I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically she wrote that the future scared her and that she realized the past is unchangeable and not really worth thinking too much about. I empathized with her being a little freaked out by the future, and I’ve realized over time that I have a tendency to dwell on the past. It used to drive me crazy, but it has died down quite a bit. When I went to bed last night I prayed through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and then I crashed. My mistake bothered me last night, but that was last night, and I can’t do anything about it now.

One really cool thing was that my cousin (not either of the cousins I played Password with) told my mom that he really liked the Christmas Mass because our Priest’s homily was basically a history lesson. Apparently there has been preserved, what is believed to be, the wood from the manger that Jesus was placed in as a baby. My cousin asked my mom why they didn’t teach that kind of stuff in history class at school because, he said, it might convince more people to believe, even just a little bit. I’m my cousin’s Confirmation sponsor, and unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to figure out what he believes or how much he believes. This sounds to me like he at least wants to believe. I’m going to start being more of a pest, I think. By “pest” I pretty much mean Catholic nerd.

Anyway, I’ve had an otherwise pretty relaxing day today. I was going to work on my book, but I’ve decided to take a little vacation. As I said, I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary, but I also wrote a little in my own “Honesty Journal,” which I will be sharing with no one, and I started teaching myself the bass part of “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M. I may not have it exactly the same as the original, but I’ve figured out a fair amount of it primarily by ear, which has been great fun. It took me forever, though. I was using a pick instead of finger picking because I’m just used to that, but it actually sounds right, and at least for now, I might stick with that style, just for goofing around. I haven’t just sat in my room and played music for several hours in a long time. The crazy thing is, it seems like I almost forgot how much fun it is. Ironically, I’m wondering if I’ve accidentally become a bit of a workaholic, and in some ways, a perfectionist. I think taking a break will be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Bring It On

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about when Jesus talked about building a house on a rock versus building a house on the sand. Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of cynicism and a lot of pessimism, and I wonder what this has to do with where one chooses to build their house. I remember at the beginning of Advent, going into my church and being surprised to see the purple on the altar and the Advent wreath by the entrance, but I was also excited.

A week or two later I was asked to explain the meaning of the Advent wreath to my fourth grade class, and honestly, I had to google it. The wreath itself represents eternity. The three purple candles represent love, peace, and hope, The pink candle represents joy, and the white candle which is lit on Christmas Eve represents purity. My godmother came to visit during the first week of Advent, and she drew an advent wreath on our chalkboard. Even though it’s just a drawing, it’s been exciting each week to draw a yellow light on each of the candles.

In scripture, God is referred to as our rock, our fortress, and our refuge. He has been that for me over and over. This weekend is Christmas. All the candles will be lit. There won’t be any more darkness. Still, scrolling through Facebook, I see darkness, sadness, and bad news. I heard once from someone who went to a therapist that they were told every ship needs a sail and an anchor. Some people are sails, and some people are anchors. Some people lead to new adventures, risks to take, and experiences to delight in or learn from. Others lead home. Using that analogy, it seems to me that so many people are sailing ships with no anchors.

Last week I finished a song about the aftermath of the election. Don’t worry, this’ll be quick; I know we’re all sick of talking about it. Both Clinton supporters and Trump supporters have been unfair and unkind, and in some cases, violent. I supported neither candidate. I didn’t vote. There’s a line in my song that says “I have one king.” The chorus of the song says:

I dare you to lose
Stare down your own defeat
And defiantly believe
That it’s true you can live on hope alone

I think a lot of people have lost hope. I think Trump won because people lost faith in the government, and I think the people who didn’t support him lost hope because they still had faith in the government. Either way, everybody lost. Everybody lost if we’re only talking about the present, the immediate future, and the reality we know apart from God’s part in it. Everybody lost if we forget to hope.

Jesus is king no matter what, and he will always be king no matter what. There is no reason to lose hope at Christmas time. It’s not about whether or not one has amazing decorations, or can hold extravagant parties, or can afford the newest, greatest gifts. What matters is the reason for celebrating. Last week I spent an hour with my fourth grade class as usual. I brought my ukulele and a bag of cookies my mom made. We sang a few songs, and my assistant teacher read a couple stories to the kids. It was one of the most worshipful hours I’ve spent during Advent, and I spent it with eleven little kids.

For some, Christmas is one of the only times to get together with family. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food. One of our favorite traditions is to get my parents, brother, aunt, cousin and me into the car, get some hot chocolate or coffee and drive around and look at everyone’s lights. It’s fun to make our neighborhoods look pretty, and Christmas is a good excuse. For some, however, the weeks before Christmas are not fun. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, some are simply stretching themselves too thin. Some are reminded of bad experiences connected to this time. Some go hungry. Some are cold. Some spend the holiday alone.

The first Christmas wasn’t a party. The first Christmas was dark and dangerous. Jesus’ life was in danger from the moment he was born. I don’t think he would want the world to forget that for the sake of having a good time. I think he might find it easier to identify with the people who aren’t having a good time. For those of us who are, it’s important to remember why, and to invite the Lord to have a good time with us. It can be as simple as remembering to pray before Christmas dinner, and making sure we get to church.

I’ve seen so many posts about how 2016 has been a really crappy year. Okay, in many ways I can’t disagree. Maybe it’s just been another year for me, but we’ve had political unrest in our country, and the Middle East is still in turmoil. There have been terrorist attacks in various countries all over the world, and sometimes it looks like the world is going to end. As we fight for a better life for ourselves and others, we are dished out more problems. Yes, 2016 has looked bleak in many ways. We’ve had to stare darkness in the face.

We have two options this Christmas and in the weeks to come. We can look at that darkness, often disguised in songs about snowmen and sleigh rides: candy and chaos: we can look into that darkness and see only war and death; or we can look into that darkness and defiantly say, “bring it on. I have the Light of the World inside of me. Jesus is with me, and that’s all I need.” We can live on hope alone.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Giving Up Facebook And Getting A Bird

As many of you know, I am Catholic, so I gave up Facebook for Lent. I’ve found the experience interesting because I’ve found that while I am more productive without social media, I’m not as productive as I thought I would be. I guess I should add that I’m a little obsessed with being productive. I feel like I have a responsibility to the world to accomplish things because I was blessed and lucky enough to be born and raised in upper middle class America.

That being said, I think I have a slightly different idea of what being productive means than some people. Being productive to me doesn’t always mean completing tasks. Being productive to me sometimes means trying new things or making sure I’m enjoying time with people I love, and letting them know how much I love them. I fully believe that love is contagious and can be spread more easily than people might think.

Because I’m not on Facebook, I am getting a lot done, however. In fact, I’m amazed at just how much I can get done, and how much free time I still have. I didn’t realize just how much time I was wasting on something that was really rather pointless.

However, Facebook does have its merits. When I decided to quit the day before Ash Wednesday, I was sure I was going to miss a lot. I was convinced that when I got back on I would be completely out of the loop. Facebook allows us to keep up with what’s going on in our friends’ and families’ lives so easily, that the thought of not knowing is a bit scary. My family is friends with a lady named Charlene. She’s in her early sixties and doesn’t use Facebook. She comes over once or twice a week with her silly little dog to hang out and chat, and she was telling us yesterday (March 2nd) that she had been completely unaware that one of her friends had recently lost their dog, and another friend had had a child.

My mom is on Facebook, and we’re “friends” with a lot of the same people, so I don’t actually think I’m missing much. If I was, she’d probably tell me. I do intend to start using it again after Easter, but I intend to use it a lot less than I was. I still need to use it for my music, and I don’t want to be completely in the dark as to what people are up to. Plus I have a hilarious surprise for everyone.

On Friday I’m going to New Hampshire to buy a bird. I had a parakeet several years ago, and he died at the age of 12. I’ve been petless for far too long now, so for graduation my parents are buying a conure for me. If I get a boy his name will be Seamus, and if it’s a girl, her name will be Lucy. Only a few people know I’m getting him/her, so it’ll give me an excuse to be random. I’ll post pictures here, too because, let’s face it, I get way too excited about cute animals: especially when they’re mine.

Some people say giving something up for Lent is silly and superficial. I think in many cases it is, and I usually don’t do it. Instead, I try to get rid of bad habits or adopt good ones. This year I’m trying to get rid of a very old, and in my opinion, very bad habit. I don’t feel comfortable posting about it, and I’ve actually tried and failed several times. It’s too personal, and it involves someone that is very important to me. This person doesn’t know about it, and it doesn’t really even affect them. It’s just something I don’t like about myself, so I’m trying to get rid of it. In the past I’ve tried using negative reinforcement, and that hasn’t worked, so now I’m trying positive reinforcement and that seems to be working a little better.

Ultimately, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Lent doesn’t have to suck. It can actually be that little extra push that people need to get something done or make a change or just attempt at being a little more conscious of spiritual matters. Sometimes I don’t do anything at all, and I kind of feel like I’m missing something if I don’t. I actually feel like it’s an opportunity that is easily missed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Making A List And Changing My Mind

I realize that I’ve been posting a lot of not-so-happy things on here lately. Part of that is the result of working on my literary journal project for school. The subject matter of my journal was activism, so I ended up reading a lot of concerning things.

Yesterday I was in a bad mood. I read an article from a white woman’s perspective about her godson and his family, who were black. The story was about how, as a teenager, her godson was arrested for not giving up his hat at school because he was afraid he wouldn’t get it back, and later, how his father was badly beaten because he wouldn’t get out of his car fast enough when the police targeted him for committing a crime he had nothing to do with.

After reading this, I was angry. I was sad. I had to consciously remind myself that the world is not terrible, so I sang my song, “Good In Things,” to myself. It’s a happy song, and in that moment, it meant a lot. However, it took me all day yesterday to completely snap out of my bad mood. Yesterday afternoon I had to consciously make a list of what the good in the world was.

Here is my list:

Love
Faith
Trust
Hope
Music
Sunshine
Snow
Rain
Sunsets
Family
Cars
Airplanes
Food
Movies
The Internet
Powered Wheelchairs
Hospitals
Medicine
Doctors
Compassion
Engineers
Humor
Video Games
Blogging
Strawberries
Language
Hands
Guitars
Voices
Singing
Eyes
Cell Phones
Trees
The smell of dirt
Forgiveness
Fish tanks/fish
Doing stupid stuff
Water
Fire
The word “Noodle”
Redemption
God’s Plan
Jesus
Christmas
Presents
Guitar amps
The fact that I can be six inside
Penguins
Animals in general
Gravity
Solid things
The laws of physics
Philosophy
Bug spray
Lava lamps
Yellow paint
Paper
Coffee
Stars

All of these things are good.

The first few lines of my song go like this:

Do you remember when we built castle walls
With colored bricks to the ceiling of our skies?
Our friends and brothers came and knocked them down
But we built something better from the wreckage somehow.

I won’t say that everything happens for a reason, but often, bad things bring out the best in people. Often, something that just works has to be broken down to build something that works great. Often, we need a problem to create love; to create art; to create hope. That family’s story got out. Families will continue to face these kinds of problems, but amazing people will continue to tell their stories, and something will change. We just have to stay optimistic and hopeful because there is good in things, and there is good in people.

Christmas is supposed to be happy, and I just wanted to post something a little more optimistic today.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Independence, Counter-Culture And Christianity

Today is July 4th. Today we celebrate the day that we as Americans declared our independence from the British so many years ago. It’s an important thing to remember for so many reasons as this holiday has morphed and changed and become something new over the centuries. It’s a day to gather with family and eat junk food and weather permitting, watch the fireworks. It’s a day to wear red, white and blue and celebrate what we deem to be truly American. Maybe it’s a day to let loose and behave badly, and maybe it’s a day to remember those we have lost in the various wars we’ve been involved in as a country. Whether it’s fun or silly or patriotic or what have you, today is an important day.

Many people simply refer to this particular day as The 4th of July and forget that it is our Independence Day. Perhaps this is because we have forgotten who or what we are independent of. As Americans, we have been an independent nation for over 200 years. As human beings we are free thinkers, inventors and artists. While it’s true that there is some degree of censorship in the United States, it’s also true that to a very large degree, we have freedom of speech, expression, freedom to organize, and freedom to disagree. The freedom to disagree, particularly with what the government says and does is a very precious freedom. It is a freedom worth protecting and cherishing.

I took a four-week theology class in June. We covered a lot of material in a very short time and it was a lot to process. However, something I remember distinctly is our discussion of Church and State. How dependent are they upon each other, and where should our loyalties lie? I am conflicted on this issue. On the one hand, I feel that they should not be separate at all because the Church offers a stable morality that I think is neglected in our leadership. However, while I firmly believe that Christianity is the only proper way to form a relationship with God, I do not believe that it should be imposed on anyone else. Freedom of religion is very important to me. Freedom of religion is directly related to freedom of choice. If it were up to me, I would not have the United States government be a theocracy, but I would have the Church directly involved somehow. I suppose that in some ways it is.

I also know that the Church as an organization is capable of corruption and atrocities. It is made up of people, and people are flawed. Jesus is the exception, and it was his teaching and example upon which the Church was originally based. Jesus was counter-cultural. He taught forgiveness and love where the standard was justice. He promised life where the expectation was death. By extension, Christianity has often been thought of as counter-cultural, especially in the postmodern era.

When I was a child I developed a thick skin. I was never one of the popular kids, and I was never picked on, but I was usually ignored. Because of this I thought I had to be tough to survive. I had to learn to fend for myself and to be indifferent to what the other kids thought. It worked for a while, but then I developed an overwhelming sense of loneliness. This was partly due to the fact that one of my friends went to a different high school, and many of my other friends became interested in different things than I.

Loving is hard. It’s a lot easier to see people as enemies, but it’s a lot more rewarding to see them as brothers and sisters. It takes humility to look at the people on the other side of the planet who hate you and to pray for them. Many of them want to kill you. They see you as enemies of God who deserve death. It’s easy to say that the Nazis were evil and deserve to go to Hell. It’s even easier, for me anyway, to look at the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world and condemn their persecutors.

I don’t like to be angry. It’s easier to condemn people, but it feels better to forgive them, and if I can’t, at least to pray for them. So what does this have to do with Independence Day? I guess it’s a declaration of independence from cultural norms. You don’t have to get the message from Christ. Plenty of philosophies and religions say the same thing: live a good life and love your neighbors; whether you like them or not. They all say this because it’s something worth striving for. Love is freedom. It’s freedom from loneliness, anger, distrust and fear. Love is the catalyst for everything good. We do and feel everything good because we love something, whether that is a person or simply life itself.

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the fireworks (if it’s not raining where you are).

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Find A Reason To Celebrate

I’ve read a lot of things: blog posts, Facebook posts and stories about Christmas, people’s plans, etc. Tonight my mom took my brother, and cousin and me out to get coffee and drive around to look at Christmas lights. We were listening to Christmas music on the radio and I mentioned that I generally find the secular Christmas songs annoying, but the religious songs I’m alright with. Some of them I’m just indifferent to, but others I really do enjoy. My brother suggested that it was the performance and not the subject matter that effected how much I liked certain songs. I thought about it, and I think he’s right.

Driving around to look at Christmas lights is a tradition for us. Oddly, there weren’t too many decorations this year. There were a few really decorative houses, but most houses were simple or not decorated at all. We had a good time anyway. “The Little Drummer Boy” came on the radio, and my brother said, “I can’t take this song seriously. It sounds like they’re saying ‘rub a bum bum.'” We had a good laugh about that.

A lot of posts I’ve been reading have been rather melancholy. It’s been affecting me a little, to be honest. Christmas should be a happy time. For Christians it is a celebration of the birth of our savior. For most people it is a time to celebrate life and generosity and to get together with family. I believe that Jesus is the savior of all, and I know he would want everyone to be happy at this time of year. I know it can be hard when everyone is dealing with stress and work and school, not to mention any other issues, but I just hope and pray that you would all try to find a reason to be happy this Christmas; to celebrate the Lord’s birth or just to celebrate life and joy and goodness.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!