This was my view when I got out of the car this morning at work. (Yes, I know. . .and that's my office on the bottom floor, where I spend most of my weekdays.) And it was a sunny, pristine seven below zero. On a typical day, I run back and forth between buildings a few times. This is one of the ways to survive a cold winter: get yourself out in it.
I can hardly believe it's already mid-January! And whatever became of "when things slow down after the holidays"? If anything, it seems I've picked up speed. It's a happy pace for me, though, not a frantic one.
Some of my favorite things have been taking place at work. On Saturday, we held our First Reconciliation Workshop for second graders and their parents. It's such a simple, fun, focused time, and watching moms and dads interact with their kids is priceless. They move together from station to station, watch a video, put their name on a sheep and attach the sheep to the banner, close to The Good Shepherd. Over doughnut holes and apple juice they discuss the difference between a sin and a mistake. (Need a little help here? There are worksheets for that.) Sometimes parents draw children into their laps and give them affection and assurance. All we do is create an opportunity for them to have the conversation.
On Sunday, Maggie and I met with ninth graders for a Confirmation Workshop. I think they're just second graders in bigger bodies, (only more self-conscious.) We're going over things with them that they've heard their whole lives. . .the Holy Spirit, the Saints, the Eucharist. They sometimes act as though it's the first time they've heard it. We've learned that if you let them self organize for small group discussion (let them stick with their friends) they open up a little more. Sort of the way adults do.
And last night I met with some young moms for the first time to get them started with a video series called Momnipotent. I immediately fell in love with these wise young women--the way they manage their lives, their families, how positively they spoke of their husbands, how candid they were with each other about their challenges and concerns. How much they want to grow in their faith.
As we were leaving, we talked a little about the weeks ahead, and what we anticipate together, knowing that having this little group will add a rhythm to our lives that will help us get through the winter months.
About Winter. . .
I have other tactics for "getting through the winter"--do you? I actually like winter a lot, just not when we still have it in March and April. And May.
One tactic is reading, which is the way Jack and I start out our mornings. We both read for the first hour we're up, and I journal. (not that different from the rest of the year) My current read is Dani Shapiro's Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. A few feet away, Jack is absorbed in Prospecting for Trout, his second time through.
I also pay close attention to my surroundings. Indoors, I need a lot on light, color, and beauty to make up for what's sometimes lacking outdoors:
And Tangled Relationships
I used to think I was so good at relating to people, but lately I wonder if I'm not slipping. At Christmas I learned that my last visit with a friend didn't go so well for her. She had to work up to telling me that she thought I was too sarcastic (the entire visit). Gosh. How could I be so unaware, so unevolved? How could it take her four months to tell me? We're not at an impasse, exactly, and neither of us has given up on the friendship. In the past I might have raced to try and fix it, but I'm content with just letting it be for now.
On Facebook I've recently reconnected with my dear friend, Carol, with whom I formed a close friendship the summer we lived together in inner city Louisville, Kentucky. We were summer missionaries, and maybe we thought that together we would save the world. It was 1970, a lifetime ago. Make that two: hers and mine. We haven't seen each other since 1986. Thank you, Facebook. And, also through Facebook, plans have developed to see two friends, sisters, who plan to drive over from Phoenix to see me when I go to Tucson later this week for the retreat.
I first met Janet and Joyce in California in 1973 when they were barely finishing high school and I was barely beginning married life, and I can't tell you the last time we saw each other or connected in any way. I'm certain it was way before 1986. Thank you again, Facebook.
And one of the oddities of the trip to Arizona is that I am going to see these two friends whom I haven't see forever, and I just remembered that I have a brother in Phoenix, too. The last time someone asked me about Mike, I said that I only knew that he's still alive because I looked him up on the Social Security Death Index, and he wasn't listed there. Honestly, I'm not just being sarcastic.
In our Momnipotent group last night, one of the women shared that she is estranged from her mom, and how difficult that is. She has good days and bad days with this. "But I have a best friend," she was quick to add.
And I found myself saying to her that the church for many of us is a place of "re-family-ing" and that sometimes a combination of things happens where God brings people into our lives as we actively seek out those people who can be family for us when our family of origin, for whatever reason, can't be. (I just reread that, and, yes, it's all one sentence. You can figure it out.)
I spoke from my own experience, of course.
She said she always feels a lot of pressure and sadness around the holidays, as many of us do. This year, I remember envisioning my own small family, so connected and at the same time not. I picture "us" in our little cosmos, each circling in our own orbit, circling and not quite touching, connected, still. What connects us is invisible and powerful, our history and our DNA; our stories. And we are few, which seems to make it that much more acute. I'm not feeling sentimental or judgmental or sad about this. . .only observing it and feeling it out for what it is. As Joyce Rupp says, "We just ARE."
Now on to other things, such as packing. I haven't a clue, since for the next ten days I'm committed to one small blue carry on, a purple backpack, a passport, a pair of glasses, a wallet and a pile of pens. Always the pens, as though my deepest fear is that I will runout of them. Oh, that and packets of flavored coffee.