Saturday, December 31, 2011

Is This Normal?! (Julia's Wedding Stats)

So, claiming that 2012 will be one of the biggest wedding years for me since 2005 seems like a rather big claim, knowing my history of weddings...

But how well do we really know my history of weddings, folks? And is it normal? I could have been bitching for years and perhaps my attendance at weddings over my 30 years of life is entirely normal.

Because I seem to always be going to or talking about weddings in my life, people have started to ask me: "Well, how many have you been to? Invited to?" I never had answers. Until now.

The following are my "wedding stats" to the best of my knowledge. If you don't care in any way about this random aspect of my life, feel free to stop reading.

If you care to find out if I am "normal" or "freakish" in any on!

I have divided most by year, the number of weddings I was invited to, the number I actually attended, and included my roles in any of those weddings in parenthesis. You're welcome.

Julia's Weddings Stats:

Weddings attended Prior to 2003 (before graduation of college): 7
(cousins, aunt, family friend, respectively)
RSVP "no" (that I'm aware of...parents took care of most of these things at this time of my life): 1

2003: 4 wedding invitations, 2 attended (1 as Maid of Honor)

2004: 1 invitation, 1 attended (as bridesmaid)

2005: 7 invitations, 4 attended, (1 as bridesmaid, 1 as Eucharistic Minister)

2006: 3 invitations, 3 attended (1 as Maid of Honor, 1 as musician, 1 I gave the "blessing" at the reception, and 1 as a "flower maiden"...yup. I had to wear a dress, so I count this as a "bridesmaid" duty)

2007: 3 invitations, 3 attended (2 as musician, 1 gave "blessing" at reception)

2008: 6 invitations, 3 attended (1 as "lector")

2009: 7 invitations, 4 attended (1 as Maid of Honor, another as a bridesmaid)

2010: 2 invitations, 2 attended

2011: 3 invitations, 2 attended (1 as musician)

So, if you are keeping track...that's at least 44 weddings in my 30 years of life that I have been invited to (that I remembered and was able to write down),  31 I've attended (1 for each year of my life so far, I suppose), and 13 I've said "no" to. Is that normal?? I really want to know!

Additional stats:
7 bridesmaid dresses
3 times as maid of honor
4 times as musician
2 times giving a blessing
1 as a lector
1 as a Eucharistic Minister

So that's about 14 out of 30 attended that I was actually involved with in some way ( I double-dutied at one)...again...normal?!

2012 brings about approximately 8 more potential weddings for me, bringing my tally of invitations up to 52 by age that normal?!?

I need to know people! Comments welcome...

I'm sorry if this post was entirely sad and pathetic. Happy New Year! Themes for the New Year coming next...

Comfort and Joy on the Feast of Stephen

**post written the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, 2011**


What are the songs that the title(s) of this post are from? Go ahead, I'll wait...

I  just want to start this post by saying I DOMINATED at the Christmas carol portion of “Holiday Trivia” which I played with the Strukely side of the family last night. (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Good King Wenceslaus, ftw, btw!)

We are HUGE nerds, I know. We also thoroughly enjoy our annual Christmas carol sing a long which usually lasts for- no joke- 2 hours.

My aunts also have founded a new key- the Key of M. M stands for Manhattans. Our drink of choice. It could also stand for "Merry", because it makes our Christmas much more that...

So Merry Christmas, y’all! Yes, I know that Christmas Day has past, but the Christmas SEASON has just begun, folks! Rumor has it that the Pope doesn’t take his Christmas d├ęcor down until the Presentation of Our Lord- February 2nd! Take that, Martha Stewart!

My pre-Christmas/Christmas celebrations were very Merry, though, there is always some element of stress from somewhere.- some kind of drama that the devil loves to throw in just because there’s all this love and joy floating around.

I had to remind myself a couple times these last days that Jesus has conquered that whole mess. That’s why we are celebrating!

Some of the other things that have been giving me comfort: this new book that I received from my Secret Santa at work (which I had really wanted since I saw this clip of Fr. James Martin on the Colbert Report) “Between Heaven and Mirth”: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter are a the Heart of the Spiritual Life”.

I’m only a couple chapters in, but Father makes such good points about how we don’t focus enough on joy in the spiritual life. But it is really what connects us most to God. Suffering can bring us closer to him, since in those moments we open ourselves up to God many times, but if our faith life is just about suffering- it won’t last. We hold onto our faith because of the JOY we experience at certain points of our life. And Christmas is one of the feasts, I think, which we most receive and remember that joy.

Today is also the Feast of St. Stephen Martyr, so I read some of Acts where Stephen is mentioned. The apostles in Acts amaze me. They are SO full of the Holy Spirit! So fearless! They are being terribly persecuted- I mean, Stephen is stoned to death- and yet, they are at peace and perseverant.

Before the break, I was teaching my students about these very things- suffering and virtue. We do so focus on the suffering- myself included- when really should be focused on achieving the virtue it can produce. Reading the Acts of the Apostles today motivated me in this. There is no doubt (since they had just witnessed the Pentecost!) that they were on fire with the gifts of the spirit: Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. It is so evident in their preaching and actions.

We received these gifts at our Baptism and have them stirred up for us at Confirmation. I remind my students that we have these Gifts inside of us, we just need to use them! And JOY is one of the fruits of the Spirit- also given to us at Baptism.

2012 is fast becoming another year of the wedding for me. As we know, I already have quite a few weddings under my belt (and dresses in my closet). Weddings can and should bring much joy.  But for a single girl who has been on the non-stop train from Weddingville since 2003*, it can also bring a little suffering.  I am praying for an increase of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit in a special way on this Feast of Stephen to carry me through whatever 2012 might bring!

 I’m holding onto Hope, people. Hope and Joy- a theological virtue and fruit of the Spirit- and what most unites us to Christ, especially at Christmas.

Each year, my previous roommates and I would come up with a "theme" for the new year. I haven't quite formulated it yet, but I think 2012's theme will have something to do with "Joy".**

I will leave you with another fun-filled moment from Christmas 2011 that I feel best reflects why I am the way I am.

In addition to Christmas trivia and Christmas carols, my family also got into a heated debate about mortal sin. Who does this? My family.

Luckily, I had 5 priests listed in my phone to settle the score. Who am I? Right. The religious girl who loves pop culture and karaoke. It was refreshing to remember where I get it from.

Merry Christmas!

* I intend to write a post in which I prove this claim...stay tuned!
** I also intend to write a post in which I document these themes and my proposed theme for 2012...I know you will look forward to that! Huzzah!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Birthday of a King

Before the craziness of Christmas really kicks in, I thought I'd write my little reflection on Christmas (does it make it less credible if Christmas hasn't happened yet? Maybe.)

We are finished with school for the next TWO WEEKS! Huzzah! I won't be going back to school until the NEW YEAR. Kind of hard to believe.

And today I had time to do all of the things! Gym, Prayer, and FINISH MY CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! I WIN!!! (as if it were a competition. It kind of was. With myself. I didn't think I could do it, but I did! I got satisfactory gifts for everyone on my list! WIN!)

Of course, I want to share with you the prayer part of this day :)

I went into my prayer time because I felt a nudging to go and I fully intended to go in and complain to Jesus about all the things I WANT for Christmas/New Year.

Wouldn't you know it- in typical Jesus fashion- He had me change my way of thinking so I left there feeling grateful for everything I already have. How Christ-masy of Him! It seriously was like a Christmas special. (no it wasn't.)

Today is Tuesday, so I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries even though it is Christmas time. It's not the Christmas season YET exactly, if you want to get technical (and I do because I am the liturgy police. Not really. Well, kind of...) Advent is a Penitential season, so I figured the Sorrowful Mysteries were still appropriate.  I was praying the third mystery (Crowing of Thorns) and thought about how Jesus was born to be a King.

THEN that made me think of THIS Song which was on our "Wee Sing Christmas Carols" tape that I made my parents play relentlessly each Christmas for probably every year until I was 18:
(the link is to the Judy Garland version. You're welcome):

In the little village of Bethlehem
There lay a child one day
And the sky was bright
With a holy light
O'er the place where Jesus lay.

O how the angels sang!
How it rang!
And the sky was bright
With a holy light
'Twas the birthday of a King.

Humble birthplace but oh how much God gave to us that day!
From the manger bed what a path has led
What a perfect holy way.

Looking at the Old Testament and Salvation History really does give a different perspective on Christmas. You hear about David and how he was not of "stately appearance" yet chosen to be King. Isaiah prophesies similar things about Jesus and you see how perfectly the Old and the New match up. It's kind of unbelievable...yet...what helps us believe. Both kings, both not what anyone expected. One, the youngest son (instead of the entitled oldest) and a shepherd/hippy musician/songwriter at that. The other, our SPIRITUAL shepherd, born of a carpenter in the city of David...not in some palace.

And what do kings have? Their heralds! In this case- angels. I also really love Luke's Gospel account of Christmas (not just because it's the one read in A Charlie Brown Christmas) but because Luke was writing for Gentiles and used the characters of shepherds to convey how the King is truly for everyone. The angels went to SHEPHERDS to represent the everyman...and also probably to show how this image of shepherd to king, king to shepherd has come full circle.

So even though my last post was about Treating YoSelf, the true Spirit of Christmas is about the sacrifice of God's only Son for us- who was a different kind of King. He would have to endure all kinds of trials, just to complete his mission- salvation for us all.
And that's what Christmas is all about...Charlie Brown.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Treat YoSelf 2011 or Advent 2.0

I'm feeling very much like I did when I wrote this post on fall a couple months ago.

I have done ALL of the Advent/Christmas things this week!

And true-to-form, this post will be updatey/reflection-y as such.

It all began with the Cookie Exchange of aught 11 that I already gave you a glimpse into last week. The Milky Way bars were a success- if not at the party, but definitely with my roommates this week (as they helped me eat ALL of the leftovers. So. Many. Cookies! This is a week where it is good to live with four other women ;)

We drank mulled wine, played the Pandora Christmas was Christmas-y.

But it's not Christmas yet! We know this! Gaudate Sunday came and I went to a parish where my friend who was ordained this summer is parochial vicor. He wasn't the priest saying Mass- and a good thing- 'cause I was appalled to see that the man WASN'T WEARING PINK! (or "rose" as they insist on calling it. It's pink. OWN IT.)

What do priests have against pink!? Humph.

Meanwhile, back at school- the students had exams for the latter half of the week. The first half I was finishing up chapters but felt the need to introduce Isaiah- since it IS Advent- in my Scripture class.

I love me some Isaiah. I mean...the dude (or whoever ended up writing his works for him) was so dead. on!

"Behold! A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel; God with us"

This idea of "Emmanuel- God with Us" has been kind of a thing for me this Advent as I am reflect on the person of Jesus in the Sacred Heart. And I've also used the song by Sarah Hart- "God with Us"- twice at school litrugies :) I can't get enough! (scroll down on the link to find the mp3)

I also happened to go to Handel's "Messiah" with one of my roommates last night. I've gone a time or two before (my dad is a singer and often sings it. Not QUITE as often as my sister dances in the Nutcracker...omg I've seen that show so many times done every. way. imaginable....)

But I don't think I really appreciated Handel's piece as much as I did after having a) just taught Isaiah and 2.) my Paschal Mystery course

Dude (Handel) took the whole text straight from Scripture, yo! And in a world where we are soooo against talking about our faith and being "politically correct" it's just kind of cool to have everyone stand during the "Hallejuah" chorus- even if they don't know what they are doing- but really honoring the Resurrection and the sacred in that moment.

I told my roommate I'm totally going to make photocopies of the text from my program and make my students identify which book in the Bible which line came from! Yessssssssssss......

Fun Times!

So Isaiah has been my dude this week, as well as Handel. O Antiphons (which we know are my fav!) start today!

I know when the O Antiphons start 'cause it's also my sister's birthday- not just because I am a huge liturgy nerd. My sis is steadily catching up to me and the "dirty, flirty thirty!" One more year!

Happy 29th bday, J!

So let's see: Cookies, Gaudate Sunday, Isaiah, Messiah, O Antiphons...what else...

Oh, yeah. It's Treat YoSelf 2011!

I had a pedicure this week ("Treatyoself")
Happy Hour with a friend ("Treatyoself")
Went to the Kennedy Center ("Treatyoself")

And now imma bout to go OUTLET SHOPPING ("Treatyoself")

It's the best day of the year ("Best day of the year!")

Happy last week of Advent!

Friday, December 9, 2011

There is Hope.

I just returned from yet another retreat with senior students. God has been calling me to do all kinds of ministry this year it seems, and while it stresses me out at times, I honestly love it. It's what I DO.

This time, the retreat was with another local high school (a school where more than a few of my college friends have taught or teach at!) and our students were there to participate and observe so we can run a similar retreat at our school with our students in the Spring.

Because I have been out of my classroom more than I would have liked this semester, I didn't go for the entire retreat (which is 3-4 days!). I instead taught the first 3 days, then arrived afterschool that evening. The students were gathered to hear the quintessential "forgiveness talk" before Confessions in the chapel of the retreat house when I arrived. I found one of my teacher-friends from college and went and sat with him behind 3 of my students.

They turned around and told me they were having a wonderful time (but that I "had missed the BEST night"- apparently, the night before). I was happy that they were enjoying themselves but I was more just shocked at how everyone in the chapel was SO quiet and prayerful. I had just come from a classroom of lively kids (who i often want to show this video to...I'm the professor...) and these students here were "in the zone". I could tell the past 2 days- and God- had affected them.

The next 24 hours (or less) that I was there, I couldn't help but be positive. As I said, the kids were all so happy to be there, so peaceful, and it was kind of a relief to be with students that WANTED to take 4 days out of their lives, not knowing what they were getting themselves into, and risk. Risk the chance that they may not have a good time or miss out at things at school, and take the risk for God essentially. It gave me hope.

There have been MANY a day/night I am bitter with the road God is taking me on. I look at my classroom or a retreat on a bad day and go: "this is my LIFE. I spend it talking about GOD to TEENAGERS. Gah! WHAT AM I DOING?! AM I getting through?! This is hopeless".

But today, my thoughts at Mass went like this: "This is MY life. I GET to spend it talking about God WITH teenagers. God has blessed me."

Sense more peace in my er, "voice"?

I have been finally surrendering a little bit more to God, giving Him a little more control of my life. And my Advent rosary is certainly helping.

I found myself this week not too tired or angry to want to talk to others and hang out after school. Most days after work- after talking for six + hours straight- I often come home and don't want to look at or speak to ANYONE. I just want SILENCE. But this week, I didn't seem to need that extra introvert time. It certainly wasn't the weather- the weather earlier this week was terrible- I began to wonder, what was it?

Then I recalled I am teaching holiness and virtue, Ignatius and Therese in my classes right now. Kind of hard to be a jerk when you are explaining consolation and desolation four times a day. It definitely makes you think and want to pray.

This Sunday is the THIRD Sunday of Advent already- Gaudate Sunday! We think about the word "joy" this week. And I think I would like to reflect on that joy in light of the HOPE we all one other, in God.

Lastly, I have hope that...


I may become somewhat domestic yet!

"Milky Way Cookie Bars...they look somewhat edible, right?!

My friends host an annual "Holiday Dessert Exchange" and I usually go for the company and mulled wine. However, it is also the ONE TIME A YEAR I attempt to do something in the kitchen. In 2009, I documented it in this blog as well (apparently, our cookie exchange always happens around Gaudate Sunday)

I have definitely upgraded this year from '09's "reindeer poop" to this year's "Milky Way bars" (see above). I begged for easy recipes over Facebook and the Milky Way bars won because they were the easiest. There were a couple moments I found myself vigorously texting my friend who gave me the recipe (to make sure I got it right!) and moment I thought all hope was lost- my batter was really crumbly. I normally would just scream for a roommate to come to my aid and fix the mess I'd gotten myself into, but in this moment I recalled words my Babci (yes, the 89 year old immigrant Polish grandmother who insists I'm too religious and "would just like to see me get marry before she dies already") told me a few years ago when I found myself in the same predicament:

"Add some sour cream to it."

"Um, but Babci, I'm making COOKIES. Do you mean...cream? Whipped cream? Cream cheese?"

"Nope. The sour cream. Put a spoonful in."

I could hear those words echoing in my brain also mixed with the shame I feel each time she mocks me for not cooking enough and ran to the fridge to see if we had some sour cream.

We did. And it worked. Babci saves the day again.

There is hope for me- and for us- yet!

Peace be with you! (proper response? AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT! Just testing...)