Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What is Health in My Head

I am always trying to find ways to be healthy. I try not to be unrealistic. So today I decided to write down some of "my" healthy ways to teach my kids.

1. Prayer is like food—it is as essential to health. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

2. I accept myself and my body exactly as I am today. This means that I will not beat myself up, scold myself, or hold guilt for missteps in diet or exercise, or about so-called undesirable physical attributes.

3. Healthful diet and exercise is necessary everyday, but should I fall down in these areas, I will pick my self up again tomorrow.
- Sub-rule: Follow the 80/20% rule: You only have to make good choices 80% of the time.

4. Everything in moderation – It does no good to over or under indulge in food or exercise. You need food/fat/carbs/protein/etc., but do not over do it. You need exercise but don’t over do it, because what good does it do you to tear an ACL.

5. You should feel hungry at least three times a day, but never thirsty. This means drink plenty of water and, hunger is a part of life. If you never feel it, then you may be eating too much; plus it is good for the soul to be temperate and control one's appetites. The food will taste that much better when you've waited until the appropriate time.

6. You should see plant life on every plate you eat.

7. Observe feasts with joy – Neither under nor over celebrate.

8. Food ought be made and processed in the home and not in factories—eat as little of processed food as possible.

9. Listen to your body—If there is something amiss with your health and it does not seem to be getting better, see a doctor.

10. Try to get at least ten minutes of sunshine each day—Take a walk and get your daily dose of vitamin D. You’ll feel better.
And Alexander, jelly beans are not a meal. I am still trying to convince him of this one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Try Byzantine? – For Anyone Wanting to Know Reasons to Try The Eastern Catholic Church

My friend wrote me and wanted to know what I like about the Eastern Rite, because her family is considering attending an Eastern Liturgy on a regular basis. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I never knew there was an Eastern Catholic Church before college. Once I discovered it, I felt as though I had been lied to my whole life (I will explain this deceit later). I had heard of Orthodox in passing from my parents. But, I had gone to Catholic school and attended Catholic Education at our church while in public high school and no one had taught about this part of the Church. None of what follows is meant to be negativity toward the Roman rite, because we are all a part of the same Church—the left and the right lung. I was raised Roman and found faith in the Roman Church, but these days I consider myself Eastern and will raise my children Eastern.

Many of those who attend Eastern Catholic parishes in the United States come from Roman rite, or former Orthodox. So, if you are coming to this rite from either, you are not alone. Most parishes have a small percentage of parishioners who it is not only their religion it is also their culture, and or ethnicity. As you may have noticed when you come across Eastern Catholic churches, they specify their cultural origin: Ukrainian, Greek, Syrian, etc. There are 22 Eastern churches under Rome. Under no circumstances do you need to be culturally or ethnically Ukrainian. However, being a part of the church it is fun to learn some of the culturally based traditions, like pysanky and pyrogies.

Growing up in small town Wyoming, there was no opportunity to be exposed to the Eastern Church. My parents certainly knew about the Eastern Church and they chose not to expose their children. I suppose because they were enamored with the new Roman Church. Further, in all my years of Catholic education there was not one mention of the other lung of our beautiful religion. However, the main reason that I felt cheated upon learning about the Eastern Church is because the Eastern Liturgy is the oldest form of the Liturgy. It is the original. Call me a purest, but it seems to me that the closer one can get to how things were when Christ lived, when He handed the Church to the Disciples, the more true your worship of the Most Holy Trinity will be.

The Liturgy and Tradition of the Eastern Church is so rich. Honestly, I have had no complaints about the Eastern Liturgy. There is far too much to talk about here. The Eastern church we have attended in Irving, Texas has a wonderful website that explains a lot about the Tradition (http://www.stbasilsinirving.org/stb/).

Some highlights of the Liturgy and Tradition are:

-As I said before, the richness of the Liturgy, which you will need to discover yourself, with the help of those who already know it well. You will likely recognize every part of the Liturgy from the Roman rite.

-Everything is chanted; every moment is a prayer; there is never silence; which means that there is no lull at any point (where children might get bored); there are no strange transitions into the musical segment of the Liturgy, because it is all music; the music/chant does not vary drastically from church to church (like at each different Roman church the music changes to the music director’s tastes, i.e. hippie 70’s peace/love music, old Anglican style, Latin, Gospel.)

-One thing that I think is REALLY important is that all the Sacraments/Rites of Initiation are done at once, which means that no grace is denied to the recipient. I told my husband that when I was growing up, the fact that I had first Communion, and Confirmation/Chrismation separate at different phases of my life were two really important moments for me that I am glad I can remember unlike those who receive these all at once. But, after listening to my husband speak about why you would want these graces all at once, especially from a young age; I realized that my “memories” were not as important as the grace. Further, when a baby (or adult) receives these sacraments before the whole parish we are all there to partake in this bestowing of grace. In the Eastern Church, no one is left out—especially not children. Children are as responsible for their faith as adults.

-One final point that I think is a marvelous benefit to the Eastern Church is the sincere fellowship. After Liturgy, everyone stays and shares a meal, or at least snacks. It is an opportunity to share faith and lives with those who worship with you. This is very different from the Roman Church in which everyone bolts out the door the minute Liturgy ends and sometimes right after Communion. If it is a really friendly Roman church folks may exchange hellos and pleasantries for a few minutes afterwards, but it could not be considered fellowship. The Eastern Church is truly a community.

Andrew Wrote a Byzantine Church Survival Guide for a friend of his. At first it is a little uncomfortable learning the chants and sometimes other languages like Ukrainian. But, you will catch on quickly and find yourself chanting as you wash your dishes, make dinner, or put the kids to bed. This is what I was told after my first experience at the Byzantine church and I did not believe it. I thought the chants were so awkward, but soon I was chanting these beautiful hymns throughout my day.

Andrew’s Byzantine Survival Guide

Let me share what I know about the Ruthenian Rite from my experience. There is a difference between Ruthenian (which is more or less Ukrainian) and Ukrainian but in any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if they share the exact same liturgy and translation/language. I say this only because the Ruthenian Rite/Family is so prevalent in America. It basically comes down to the Ruthenians (Ukrainian of a sort), Maronite, and Melkites as the three main groups in America.

As far as survival tips go (that’s an excellent way to put it), there are a few things I can say. The first is when in Byzantium do as the Byzantines do:

Stand when they stand, sit when they sit, etc. Though kneeling is accepted, since Pope John Paul II allowed the Eastern Churches to return to their traditional liturgical practices, nearly every parish has gone back those practices which include a lot of standing with some sitting, no kneeling.

Secondly, realize that each person has a slightly different way of worshiping in the liturgy. You’ll see people at different times venerating icons or crossing themselves and at first it will seem really uncomfortable. However, there are a few things that are traditionally highly encouraged. It is proper to venerate the icon on the tetrapod, just before the iconostasis, before and after liturgy. When venerating the icon, the most important thing to remember is to kiss the feet of the saints and not their faces. There is usually a three-bar cross beside the icon that is usually venerated too. You will want to cross yourself before and after veneration at the table. (I’ll attach a site with some more specific tips on this below). Some people will also touch the icon on their way to receive Holy Communion. If you are extremely uncomfortable with approaching the tetrapod at first, a deep bow (sometimes called the profound bow) is accepted before you enter or as you exit your pew. Genuflection simply isn’t the practice in the East. For a bow, just bend at the waist at about a 90-120 degree angle and cross oneself.

Thirdly, as I am sure you are aware, Easterners cross themselves backwards from the Roman Catholics. This isn’t an essential thing, but it’s worth remembering. One crosses oneself right to left, not left to right. Again this isn’t a big deal.

On this point, major arguments have ensued about the way one uses his fingers when making the sign of the Cross. The traditional way of making the sign of the Cross is to put your thumb, index finger, and middle finger together as the three fingers that touch your body as you make the sign. The ring finger and pinky simply rest inside the palm of your hand. This symbolizes the two natures of Christ and the Holy Trinity. There are other ways to do it, but this is the most common way.

Fourthly, Communion, is taken under both “species” on a spoon. The practice is to go up if you are prepared to receive and to stay in the pew if you are not. The priest will either ask your name before you receive, or he will simply say a prayer and then give you the Sacrament. Note that he says Amen for you. Just don’t bite down on the spoon, and bend your knees slightly and you will be fine. If he is much taller than you, you may not need to bend your knees at all. Other than that, it is much like the Roman Rite. However, when you return to your pew, the practice is to stay standing and either to pray standing upright or sing the Communion hymns. There is a sung prayer of thanksgiving that immediately follows after everyone has received. While Communion is very solemn in the West, it is a time of joy in the East. To oversimplify, the Roman Rite tends to focus on the Crucifixion and the Byzantine Rite tends to focus on the Resurrection.

From what I can tell, in some parishes, most parishioners will cross themselves (with both hands on the chest as though just to receive a blessing in the Roman rite) and in other parishes, this is uncommon. The crossing of oneself here symbolizes many things—xristos and the wings of cherubim. It’s rich, beautiful and meaningful. My parish in Spokane was full of parishioners who did this, but we had quite a few people from Ukraine. The parish I have been visiting in Irving hardly does this at all.

Lastly, stay after church and talk to the congregants. The fellowship that follows Divine Liturgy seems to be a big deal to the Eastern Rite Catholics for a variety of reasons. The parishioners will love to talk with you and share details about the rite, parish, etc. Admittedly, this is extremely awkward at first, but my wife (who was once totally unfamiliar to the other “lung” of the Church) found this sort of full immersion process immensely rewarding and edifying.

I hope that helps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Painting Poo

Alexander and I painted a BIG picture on Saturday while baby sister was sleeping. It was great fun for us both. I started Alexander off by painting his hand purple and making him put his hand print on the paper. Then it was time to go free style. He did not like "finger" painting so much. After he placed his hand prints, he insisted I wash and dry his hands and give him a paint brush--there will be no uncivilized painting for this young man. Later on he let loose a little bit and decided to paint all the colors onto his hand. Having used all the colors, it turned a nice shade of brown. He stopped and looked at his hand a moment. He looked like he was thinking. Then he held his hand up to me and said,

"Look, Mummy. I painted poo, poo."
Here is our finished product. It's a welcome home banner for Andrew who has been away for a week. And the close up shot is where his poo, poo ended up. :-)

Morning Lullabies

When I see these two together in the morning, I think of this song.
"Daddy! Yake up!"

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Man of Habit – Memories of Dad

Dad is a quiet, bookish sort of man. When I reached adulthood, it occurred to me, does Dad laugh? I called my siblings and asked, “Do you know what Dad’s laugh sounds like?” They thought and said, as a matter of fact, I am not sure. They were surprised. How could we have all reached adulthood and never noticed his laugh. Of course, by this point I already knew the answer to my question. It does not happen too often, but I realized when Dad thinks something is funny, he raises his chin, spreads out his grin and lets out an “Oohn, that’s a good one.” It’s not a boisterous sound. It’s almost like a loud sigh.

My dad gets up early, oftentimes before the sun. He reads the paper, does morning chores and eats his breakfast. This habit began as a boy in Chinchilla, Australia. He would get up early, before the family, and ride his bike to the neighboring pasture to milk their cow. Throughout his life there has always been a reason to get up early.

When I was a kid, he would wake up all of us children and feed us breakfast—usually oatmeal. After breakfast, we were left to dress ourselves no matter how young we were. Then he would drive us to school—come rain or shine. Once he dropped us off in three feet of snow and school was canceled. My sister and I had to hike one and half blocks in the snow, which was nearly up to our shoulders, to the convent (the nuns were our teachers) to use their phone to call our Mum. She never got up in the morning to get us ready and take us to school, because she’s a night owl. She was shocked to be getting a call, the nuns were shocked as well that we had been left. Dad will never live it down—this story will certainly outlive him—the day he left two little girls ages six and eight stranded in the snow. But, for all the years you took us to school, even when it was to get us to 6:00 a.m. sports practice, thanks.

The greatest benefit to my dad growing up was his vast knowledge. In all our years of school, there was never a homework question he did not know. I studied French in school and even though Dad had taken three less years of French in school than I, he knew more and remembered it well. When my little brother won his school geography bee, my dad decided to make him a champion at geography. Dad asked for all study materials he could possibly get from National Geographic. He found a complete collection of National Geographic magazines from 1950 in the local library discard pile. Then he sat with my brother before and after school everyday and asked him question after question. They studied the materials together, so Dad knew all the answers too. My brother won the state championship twice and came fourteenth in the national bee. It is always great fun to tap Dad’s knowledge well.

Dad, I hope you have a very fine Father’s Day. Watch some golf, enjoy some fine food and get out of the house for some “quiet time.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wisdom Stuck on Replay - More Inner Thoughts You Shouldn't Know

A wise man once said, "Disordered thoughts mean a disordered mind."

(Chew on that one for a while.)

As we were driving home from church on Sunday Andrew and I were discussing various things. I threw out there as we past a Methodist church. "If I weren't Catholic, I might have chosen to be Methodist." Andrew did not ask me why I had said that. It's a wierd thing to say. So I thought I might spark and interesting conversation about other religions.

He simply replied, "If I weren't Catholic (this includes Eastern Catholic and Orthodox, which had come up before in our conversation) I wouldn't be anything." I was a bit surprised, but only for a moment and then I said,

"Oh Andrew, you old Nihilist." I was somewhat fascetious and somewhat serious. But my comments SURPRISED him.

"What do you mean?" He exclaimed.

"Oh, well you are always looking at the darker side of things. You see the world for the fallen place that it is. Your favorite movies are dark nihilistic movies" Then he said,

"Yes, that is somewhat it. I seek Truth. If I were not choosing only Truth, then there wouldn't be anything else for me. So that is what I mean when I say that I wouldn't be anything. Because anything else is not Truth. There literally would not be any thing if not Truth."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

King of the Hill on Blogging and Other Wisdom

For a little background, I have always been a fan of the t.v. show "King of the Hill." When we moved to Texas, I introduced the show to my husband. The show reached new levels of funniness for us while living in Texas. Mainly, it is so funny because Hank Hill's family and friends are not caricatures of Texans, but are heavily based in reality. We know people like the characters. Though I think the creators are neglecting the crazy drivers who don't use their signals.

Over the years I have often been struck by the show's snippets of morality, wisdom and quips. Last Sunday, my husband managed to catch another "King of the Hill" classic. The main character, Hank Hill, was introduced to MySpace and blogging at his work. Things got out of hand and Hank flung this little gem at his coworkers. "People shouldn't know your inner thoughts!" That little exclamation was the point of the whole show. It had me laughing, because not only am I guilty of this, but I have also enjoyed reading about others inner thoughts in cyberspace. It's funny because it's true.

My all time favorite Hank Hill wisdom was when his son, Bobby, joined an "alternative" Christian youth group. They sang rock songs about Jesus. They skate boarded for Jesus. The youth group leader made Christian teachings "cool." The leader had a bunch of Christian tattoos. But, Hank did not like his son's involvement in this group. This particular episode is just full of fantastic one liners. But the greatest one occured at the end of the episode. After Hank was successfully able to draw his son away from this group, he took Bobby to the garage to explain why he thought Bobby's chosen form of worship was not right. Hank brought out a box and opened it to show the contents to Bobby. Bobby was surprised. "Hey, there's my old troll doll, and my baseball cards..." It was full of things Bobby didn't play with anymore. Hank said, "Son, I don't want you to put Jesus in this box when your done with this fad." He wanted Bobby to find real Faith, not just something that seems cool, because all the cool people are doing it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Dirty

These pictures were taken about three weeks ago. Here are some pictures of the kids helping me with my plants. I am really not a green thumb. Yes, I know. Don't laugh too hard when you realize that I am reading a book about self-sufficiency and farming and I cannot even keep a potted plant alive. These plants now look a little yellow and sad. I need to re-pot them. I put too many plants in one pot. I was being cheap because pots are expensive, and now my plants won't grow. At least I know what I did wrong. I am good with animals though.

Here are my little weeds (they grow like weeds anyway):

In Alexander language, "Kissy-Ya-Ya! [a.k.a Kristiana] She's happy."

I know it looks like he is going to eat that dirt, but he didn't do it, for once.
I think he was about to pour soil on his sister's head.

Sasha wanted to plant "Baby Seesher"

Still happy even though she's been planted.
The handy work of the day.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Creative Homemaker

I received two homemade aprons from my friend in the mail yesterday. It was a great surprise. So here is a big. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I have always wanted a beautiful apron. The only one I have is made of denim.

I checked out a book out at the library today called The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live it: The Complete Back-to-Basics Guide, by John Seymore. As I began to read it today, I was struck by the following passage. It reminded me of my new aprons, the wonderful woman who made them, and what I aspire to be someday (I am kind of only half this right now).

"A true home should be the container for reviving real hospitality, true culture and conviviality, real fun, solid comfort, and above all, real civilization. And the most creative thing that anybody can do in this world is to make a real home. Indeed, the homemaker is as important as the house, and being a 'housewife' is the most creative, most important job on Earth."

Apron 1: The back of this apron is as cute as the front.
A detail of Apron 1: Teapots and Teacups! (tres jolie)
Apron 2: No detail photo, but is has birds all over it.
Very Cute.

Friday, June 5, 2009

On Being - Renee

Yesterday I wrote an email to my closest friend and after reflecting on it for a day, I decided I should share it, because it is not only a good reflection on what is going in my life now as wife and mother, but also a good reflection of who I have been in the past. It may serve as a small inspiration to others who seek change for the better.

To start, I feel busy, but at peace with it. Our family has just begun to master a new routine and we are very happy about it. I still do not have time to do everything I want to do, but I am finding time for the important things.

On Self-improvement

Some important things that I am finding more time for are praying and working out. There is somewhat of an "etymology" here. Around the time that folks at my work decided to do a Biggest Loser style weight loss competition I had already decided to just give IT over to God. I had decided that I was not strong enough on my own. And that IT is the fact that I need to slim down to at least my pre-pregnancy weight (this slimming down is not for vanity's sake, but more so I can be strong, literally, for my family and strong for the next time I am pregnant. Fitness is important when pregnant). So, part of giving IT over to God is praying more. But, I don't pray about IT, because I gave IT to God. I sit (I am just waking up, so I am not cognizant enough to do anything else) and pray for about 20 minutes, formal daily prayers from the New Testament Orthodox Study Bible.

Then I work my butt off doing "30 day Shred." That's a really hard work out. I have been doing the video for just 1 week. It has been almost 3 weeks since I started Biggest Loser and I have lost 10 lbs--ten more to go.
Prayer and working out are two things I never imagined I would have time for as a part of the morning routine. But, I guess giving it over to God made it possible. The only thing I am doing different is making my lunch the night before, which doesn't take that long--maybe 5-10 minutes. I cannot understand how trading 5-10 minutes would equal to 45 minutes in the morning. I don't understand it, but somehow it’s working.

On Family Updates

The kids are doing well. Alexander got new shoes--again. He wears them out so quickly. We just bought him new shoes two months ago. He has been talking about them all week. They glow in the dark, the first night he had to sleep with them.

He has also been getting himself up in the morning. Up to this point waking him up was something Andrew, or I did every morning. We would carry a sleepy little man down stairs, get him some milk and help him start the day. Really, it has been a chore for me, because first I have to get Andrew up, which is quite a feat. This is all under the guise of I don’t have time to get Alexander ready anymore, so Andrew must help. But, I think I spend half that time trying to get Andrew out of bed. So now that Alexander gets himself up, and comes and finds me, I say, “Alexander, go wake up Daddy to take you down stairs.” This is very effective, because who can say no to, “Daddy, Yake up! Yake up, Daddy!”

I am at a point with Kristiana in which she wants to spend all her time with me, but I have no clue how to keep her entertained. I can tell she is pretty smart and she is very sweet. She flirts with her Daddy a lot. It’s fun to watch. (On a side note, my friend suggests I sing to her. If only I knew more songs. I have found letting her play with dinner leftovers is a lot of fun for her.)

Andrew has spent a lot of his time recently researching gold and silver. He wants to buy some so our family is prepared should hyperinflation hit, which it inevitably will considering that the U.S. just spent more in 6 months than we have spent in 6 years.

We have long wanted to establish family prayer time with the kids, but it is difficult to formalize a way to do it that is meaningful to both adults and children. Much of children’s prayers and songs are far too puerile for adults. I think the best thing we have done so far is singing Byzantine hymns to Alex right before he goes to sleep. We have tried praying Orthodox prayer with the kids, but they just bounce off the walls and interupt. But, we continue to attempt snippets of prayer with them. Andrew does not like to pray the evening prayers with me because I am ready to wind down hours before he is (he’s a night owl). So it is a struggle. One day, maybe when the kids are a little bigger we will discover a way to gather meaningfully. We are going to start by learning, by heart, more Byzantine hymns. Andrew found a website that has the music (I have really poor tonal memory).
Also, I hope to add some new pictures of the little Claytons soon.

On Loneliness – Where I have Been

I do truly empathize with loneliness. There was a time in my life in which I was extremely lonely, and it was agony. I was so depressed about it. Finally, I went to confession and confessed my loneliness as an evil vice. Being lonely certainly turned my thoughts inward and away from God. When I confessed and prayed my penance, though I was still alone, I was at peace.

Lonely times are often a time of tribulation (Agony in the garden), but that time as in anytime of tribulation is a time to become more holy, a time to find peace, joy and trust in the Lord. It can also be a time to enjoy the wonderful person that you are. It is a time to find who you are or remember who you are.

I once hated being alone, especially quiet and alone, but now I know I can cherish it as much as being surrounded by family and friends. And once you are at peace with who you are alone, you will also be free to be yourself and be charitable to others.

On Blog Makeover

You may have noticed some changes. I have long been trying to makeover the blog header, because after Kristiana was born it became dated and excluded of our new family member. I did not want it to ever be exclusionary again and I want the header to be timeless. So, I am giving this another try. I hope you like it. Also, the sidebar has changed, but I regularly do maintenance there, so that will constantly be changing.

Silly Songs - This One is for You, Kacy

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha! What solid potato salad has to do with this kind of flexibility I do not know, but this video is A LOT of fun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eastern Christian Awards

Well fancy that! My blog has been nominated for an award. I am always surprised that anyone reads this blog other than my family and a few close friends. For some reason someone out there in cyberspace thought enough of my blog being a representation of the Eastern Christian Faith to nominate it for an award.

I must admit, it is exciting, honoring and humbling. As I begin to pray a little prayer of thanksgiving for this sentiment, I am shamelessly posting to say, "Vote for me!" The award would be a great encouragement to continue with my daily inspirations with an Eastern Christian flair.

I know there are quite a few of you Eastern Christians and Catholics out there who might consider doing this. It will not be hard. Go here http://ecawards.blogspot.com/ and the award I am nominated for is on the second page of the survey. Of course, check out the other blogs...then vote for me. ;-) Voting ends on June 8th.

*Amendment: "shamelessly," I guess I should say shamefully.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009