Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'll Leave the Kitchen Light On

Troy and I are suckers for old houses, which explains why we hastily bought our own Victorian beauty without looking once at anything else in the neighborhood. Lately, however, we've found her "quirks" to be less than charming. It's been one thing after another and I'm ashamed to admit that my eyes and heart have wandered, have gazed lustily upon the up and coming subdivisions boasting street after street of newly constructed masterpieces featuring whirlpool tubs, walk-in closets, granite counter tops. "Our lives would be better," I convince myself, "Not only better, but safer and perfectly perfect, if only..."

Late last night I came back from the grocery store and from the garage saw the golden glow of our kitchen, all warm and welcoming. Just beyond that creaking screen door were the remnants of a meal shared with my very favorite people in the whole wide world. Just up the stairs and around the corner, there were books being read and kisses exchanged. Just inside those cracked and plaster covered walls was my firecracker of a family: a gift worth more, so much more, than the time I've been wasting on pining for luxuriousness, for ease - for an illusion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

she's the best around

Much like Ralph Macchio she was the underdog, openly mocked by the bigger, more experienced knights who were stronger, yes, but no match for her speed or her passion. It was David vs. Goliath, Daniel Larusso vs. Johnny, all over again. Throwing caution to the wind, Mary faced her dangerous adversaries head-on in a "winner-takes -all" battle of wits and brawn. They snickered at first, due to her tiny frame and her unconvential choice to don a lacy peach gown beneath her armor, but they didn't laugh for long - oh no. Sweep the leg, kid! the crowd screamed and cheered in unison. That's all it took to awaken within her the raging beast that would force her trembling competitors to surrender on the spot and prove to everyone that she's the best - the best around.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

our finest gifts we bring...

Pause Mr. Cash before playing video

I had no doubts that Priscilla would give 155% to her performance. For days and days she practiced, Listen, mom, listen! And then I sat down on the couch for yet another round of Drummer Boy, Jingle Bells and What Child is This? With gusto and emotion reserved only for the most special of occasions, Priscilla provided those well-known Christmas classics with new life (and sometimes alternative melodies and lyrics). Benjamin, on the other hand, was not as...well, I guess the word would be dedicated to the process of preparation.

This morning we all oohed and awed at our transformed church basement, now a dimly lit stage worthy of Broadway caliber musicals, and the children, excited children, fidgeted their way through liturgy. I pulled Benjamin aside before he darted down the stairs, No silliness, please, I reminded him ... again.

They were angels, all of them, angels -sweet voiced and exuberant. Benjamin, especially, embraced the experience of being heard by an attentive and encouraging crowd of adults. I was so proud, so delighted, so transfixed by the adorableness of the moment.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Well, it's Christmas and we are soaking up the loveliness of Divine Liturgy, feasting foods, togetherness and yes, presents. We've had a wonderful day and I am bursting at the seams - I will explode, in fact, if I wait any longer to tell you that I'M B-A-A-A-C-K! Guess who received a new and better digital camera from her parents and grandfather to replace the one she broke? Guess! Are you stumped? O.K. fine, it was me and I am so surprised and thankful. After the New Year, I hope to inundate you with Snapshots a Plenty, but for now, my dear friends, I wish you a Blessed Nativity! Enjoy your families, your festive meals, and most of all enjoy the peace that comes through faith in the Incarnation. May God bless you with joy, with unfazable hopefulness.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

wedding dress, wedding dress

This evening, I received an early Christmas present from my brother, Bobby. Eleven years ago, he wrote a poem for Troy and I. The first time I heard it was when he read it out loud at our wedding. After the chaos of the reception, the honeymoon, the moving in to Troy's apartment, the getting used to being married, I wanted to display it but alas neither Bobby or I could find a copy of it anywhere. This week, while digging through his basement, Bobby discovered an old journal containing, hooray!, the entire poem, which he kindly typed and framed for me. It is a masterpiece, an extraordinary description of the truths I would later discover by way of living and loving and tripping and falling - truths he managed to foretell while still so young, so inexperienced. I am sharing it with you below - this treasured, treasured memento from my past:

July 5, 1997

The young in you
The fever summer flushing out blushes
Salt oil for your joints; joint grass hair-
Inky, tangled, prolific

Like the doodle-mark spirals drawn by the
child in you
But dark and stiff like brush bristles-
In protruding stalks of winsome thoughts
That grow happily and easily
From a head heavy with time
So much time

A future being fed to you in ladles of


This dream in you

The young in you

Is not yours.

The God in you

Not the silver-flecked figure

Packaged neatly in gilt-edged hymnals

A sardine in his opaline soup

A quivering iridescence

Caught like cod this God in you

Solid and secure in a snarled neuron net

(more holes than thread)

But the mystery - silver, too, only quick and


An early morning sunbeam dazzle

That's felt, even seen in your half-


Then neither seen nor felt nor heard from

Once the SNAP

The numbing shock of consciousness

So it's engaged

Like thrusting your head into mountain


(Do you own the stream?)

Like tapping a tree for sweet syrup

(Can you possess the wild and rooted?)

Like sucking vinegar from a wide-mouthed

cup of salvation

Clumsy, earthly activities all

To punctuate days and lure back the dawn
in you
The God in you

Who is not yours.

The you in you

The he in you

The she in you

Who acquires who

In the hammering out of years
Like the pounding out of armor

To protect what's afraid in you?

Cracked coffee cups, growing laundry heaps

Converging like tectonic plates

That turn molehills into mountains

Credit checks and checkered pasts

Dead flakes off burnt steaks

What's really at stake?

Even Sunday morning papers and the
greasy pleasures they afford
Leafy autumn walks, drowsy midnight talks

drunk with verbosity

A shared plum

The illusion of being known

As when a twin finishes the other's


The other in you

Even the you in you
Is not yours.

So what's left in you

When all that's real to you

Will fade like a summer tan

And the young in you

The God in you

The other in you

Prove as ethereal as spoonable weather-

Caught rainbows, canned snowflakes

Beat, whipped, and spread thick on brown
What then is left in you?

Breath, for one thing, breathing

Life, my two friends, living

Faith yawning, eclipsing doubt's


Comings and goings, trips and treasure

Transcendence found like silver dollars on


For foolish spending
Love, loving

Moments that roll around your tongue

Drip from your mouth

And stain your clothes with scarlet passion

Relent, release, retreat, my twilight companions

For it's into twilight that we're born

- Bobby Maddex

Friday, December 12, 2008

I saw one (difficult to assemble) viking ship come sailing in...

When: December 25th, 2003

Where: A fairly nondescript two-flat in Chicago containing memories so sweet and significant, my heart burns if I merely dabble in the act of reminiscing by viewing photos from holidays past and then remembering the sights, smells, and tears shed during our time there- both from pain and hysterical laughter.

Context: My mother and I piecing together a brand new Playmobil ship for a very anxious and impatient Elijah in my redder than red dining room.

Conclusion: Five years later, I find the details have shifted, filtered themselves and settled neatly, seamlessly, into a yet another sealed and airbrushed layer of my history, the whole of which has been nothing short of thrilling, terrifying .... extraordinary.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nicholas the Saintly

Our intention was to make it to Liturgy, but then on Saturday we woke up all red and raw and barking like seals and so we canceled our plans, involving a festive St. Nicholas Day celebration at the Orthodox Church in Merrillville, and opted for a quiet feast day at home including mugs of hot chocolate spiked with Dayquil. The children set out their shoes, like always, in a row from smallest to biggest by the front door. They placed in them carrots for St. Nicholas' donkey and curled up in their beds with excitement, anxious as all get out for the sun to rise so they could run downstairs and see for themselves the treats he'd leave behind in exchange for their offering of belief and fresh produce. "Is he staying for a sleepover?" asked three year-old Mary before finally drifting off on Friday evening. And I imagined us in our jammies eating breakfast the next morning across the table from the kindly bishop holding a staff in his hands and glowing boldly with a passion for mercy, goodness, love and truth. "I wish he could," I whispered, mostly to myself since little Mary had already started in with those last massive breaths and tiny twitches signaling sleep was overtaking her.

There are many things - many, many, many - that I treasure about the Church and this is one of them. Few events have so spiritually enriched my soul as much as the shattering of my concept of an impassible brick wall between this world and the next I had once thought shielded those who had passed on through death from the pain of earthly sorrows and unpleasantries. A "curtain" is how I now understand it, thin and gauzy. Within our grasp, within earshot, stand a host of righteous ancestors interceding on our behalf and communing with us and inspiring us to keep on despite the syrupy, hollow, sweet-talking lies and distractions suggesting I'm crazy, fanatical to a fault, ridiculous for sweating and often crying my way up a path rife with mountains and dangerous twists and turns never found on the wide and smooth yellow brick road known as compromise, lukewarmness, indulgence.

It's hard to rise above the catalogs from Target displaying all I've ever wanted topped with red satin bows, drool inducing commercials for MacBooks, iPhones, digital cameras...(ooh, a Kodak camera with 12x optical zoom - c'mon now, Molly, focus!) and oh yes, a brand new Lexus for that someone really special, parties merry, but lacking, I mean completely void of anything having to do with Christ and His incarnation or our salvation made possible by the gift of God taking on flesh and living, and then dying, among us, but try I must. And here, so close to Nativity, is the feast day of St. Nicholas, our beloved St. Nicholas, our living, victorious example of Christ-like generosity beckoning our attention away from cheeriness for its own sake and onto joy rooted in substance that doesn't end, but rather truly begins, on the 26th of December. Here, so close, when I reach for it by way of prayer and the sacraments and fasting, is all the sustenance I could ever need to keep trekking undeterred toward the Source of all life and all purpose and all meaning, despite the hardships required for my ultimate purification and refinement. Here, so close and yet so easily overshadowed by my attraction to what is shiny and easy and soothing for the moment...

Oh Holy Saint Nicholas, pray to God for me!