Thursdays are simultaneously my favorite and most hectic day. I like what I do on Thursdays (tutoring/volunteering/picking up the church laundry), but it is kind of a drag to have to leave the house 3 hours earlier than normal. Oh well, I guess it helps on the “being intentional with my time in 2015” front.
- Speaking of time, Lent is coming! I’m certain this means that everyone in the Catholic blogosphere is currently obsessing over their first Lent posts. Because those will get Googled most of all.
- Awhile back, I was wondering aloud about how we were going to feed ourselves now that I’m in school. Believe it or not, it hasn’t been an issue so far. Bret’s been doing a lot of cooking on the weeknights and I’ve been pulling my weight by having a ready supply of side dishes and salads available in the fridge. This probably won’t work forever, but for now it’s alright.
All my Shonda shows are back tonight! We’re still four episodes behind on Scandal, so I imagine that that will constitute the bulk of our weekend activities.
8th grade, barefoot, Catholic, catholic school, celebrities, haters gonna hate, Lent, leotards, liturgical dance, liturgical dancer, los angeles, passion of the christ, phil collins, purple, Scientology, stations of the cross, stephen colbert, tarzan, tulle
More than a decade ago, I learned the hard way that liturgical dance is not a good idea. To be fair, it wasn’t actually my fault that I had a one year stint as a liturgical dancer — it was mandatory.
A Little Background
If you’re Catholic or went to Catholic school, you’re probably wondering how it is possible that I spent my 8th grade year in an obligatory liturgical dance group. Believe me, I’ve spent a few years scratching my head over the whole thing. The best answer I’ve come up with is that my school wasn’t really a Catholic school. Sure, it was affiliated with a Catholic church and had all the exterior trappings of a traditional parish school (uniforms, weekly mass attendance, tether ball courts) but that’s all they were — trappings.
In fact, when I describe the school to my friends today, I explain that it had all the celebrity-worship of your average Scientology center against a prestigious backdrop of red plaid and an astronomically high average disposable income.
There were a lot of weird things about this school: the pastor who looked like he spent more time on his makeup in the morning than I did, the less-than-morally-sound 7th grade “Morality Unit,” and of course, the mandatory liturgical dancer troupe. Ultimately, I think most of the weirdness stemmed from this crazy sexual undercurrent that the school had. I could go on and on about what that sort of environment does to a 13 year old girl’s sense of self worth, but I won’t.
After all, I’m here to tell you about my less-than-successful liturgical dance career.
Dancing through the Stations
On my very first day of 8th grade, the teacher informed us that the 8th grade girls (all 12 of us) would get to do something very special. We would get to choreograph and perform our very own “original dance version” of the Stations of the Cross. We didn’t get to pick the music though, as the teacher “had appropriate songs already.”
I ended up in a group that danced to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart” but I can’t actually tell you what station that was for. I do know that it involved a really snazzy boat neck, 3/4 sleeved black leotard and a junky skirt made of elastic and bright purple tulle.
My Ma Says No
From the beginning, the whole liturgical dance thing was not popular in my house. My mother was enraged, my father had that whole “I’m bewildered by this situation involving my teenage daughter” face going on and my brother spent a lot of time hiding as far away from the conversations as possible.
I’m pretty sure the whole family would have been a lot happier if I sat out the whole performance. Ultimately, I did something that I wasn’t particularly proud of – I fought for my right to wear a stupid leotard and spin around barefoot down the center aisle to a stupid Phil Collins song. And I fought hard, dudes. I fought like it was the most important thing in the world to me, even though it wasn’t. Even though I didn’t even want to do it.
Chalk it up to teenage angst, peer pressure or the discomfort I felt being a Midwestern transplant in LA. Either way, I knew that getting excused from the mandatory stations would not endear me to my classmates and I did not want to give them anything else to bother me about.
The Fallout and the Lesson
Suffices to say that it did not go well. Old ladies walked out! Children’s eyes were covered by protective mothers! My own mother was super mad! It was mortifying. To this day, I can’t hear Phil Collins without breaking out into a cold sweat. Beyond all that, the worst part of the whole ordeal was the knowledge that I was willing to throw aside my very real beliefs for the sake of fitting in with my fellow 8th grade miscreants. To this day, I can’t even really laugh about it – which is bizarre because I laugh about everything.
I did, however, learn a few things from the whole experience:
- “My ma says no” is a perfectly valid reason to get out of doing something. I have it on good authority that I can continue using it until I turn 30.
- Liturgical dance shouldn’t happen. It just shouldn’t.
- Your worth as a person is not defined by how you look in a leotard – or how willing you are to spin around in the most revealing leotard you can find.
- One major slip-up in the mores of decency in 8th grade doesn’t define you as a person or a Catholic.
- If you do have to wear a leotard for a mandatory activity, go with the boat neck. It’s very flattering.
**In case you’re wondering, if any pictures of this ordeal ever existed, they have long since been destroyed.
Well, we’ve made it through another Lent. Are you prepared? Are you thrilled and excited? Are you stoked for Easter? You should be. I know that Good Friday isn’t the happiest of Holy Days, but it is an important one. If you’re at a loss about how to commemorate Good Friday, I have 5 (relatively) easy suggestions:
- Fast and Abstain.
If you’re Catholic and over the age of 14, you should be doing this anyway. But if you aren’t or haven’t, why not start today? You don’t even have to go full-on fish fast if you don’t want to. Give up your afternoon snack or eat leftovers for lunch instead of going out. Even small sacrifices can change your perspective on Good Friday.
- Attend the Passion.
According to ancient tradition, Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday. Instead, churches around the world will commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ. Most will have a lunch hour or evening Passion. Find one near you here.
- Read the Passion.
If you’d rather skip the crowds, you can also read the Passion story. Notice that I didn’t say “watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ,” but if watching a movie helps you reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us then, by all means, go for it.
- Reflect on Christ’s Sacrifice.
Some people spend the hours between noon and three in quiet contemplation. If three hours seems a little daunting for your first go at Good Friday, that’s totally okay. Commit yourself to finding a ten minute window to sit somewhere quietly and reflect on Christ’s love.
- Call Your Grandmother.
This has nothing to do with Good Friday, but I bet she would appreciate it.
Depending on what your work situation/schedule is, it can be hard to find time in your day to commemorate Good Friday. I know that I have just as much work to do as I always do. At the same time, I don’t want to treat Good Friday like “any other day” because it’s not a normal, regular day. In my mind, to fully understand the joy of Easter, you must pause to reflect on the sorrow of Good Friday.
Have a peaceful day.
Yesterday was Laetare Sunday. Although Lent is certainly an ongoing process, the fourth Sunday seems like as good of a time as any to evaluate how I’ve been doing with my Lenten offerings.
This year, I’ve done particularly well at making practical changes to benefit our financial life/well-being/future. For example, the Great Paper Towel Experiment of 2014 is going well on all fronts. Even my husband was impressed by how much longer a roll of paper towels is lasting around these parts. My spending fast is also going well. Fun fact: I used to buy a lot of random stuff on iTunes. You never realize how much money you fritter away on $1.29 song purchases until you, you know, stop doing that.
Although my practical goals and offerings are going really well, I still feel like I’m not doing my best at my spiritual offerings. Sure, I’ve said my weekly rosary, but it’s usually rushed and/or on the elliptical. While the lazy part of my psyche says that I should be content with making the effort, the perfectionist in me says that I’m not doing well enough. Moving forward, I’m going to make an effort to focus on the meaning of the prayer instead of just trying to get it over with as quickly as possible.
Making the Most of What’s Left of Lent
As we keep chugging along towards Easter, it’s important (to me, personally, not necessarily in general) that I stay focused on being the best person that I can possibly be. There are only three weeks left until Easter, so now is as good a time as any to buckle down and reflect, right?
How’s your Lent going?
Lent is coming! Are you feeling hype? You should be. Lent has always been my favorite part of the liturgical year – which sounds crazy because I know that Lent is supposed to make you miserable. (Source of this knowledge: two parents who are proud products of 17 years of Catholic schooling.) Still, I like Lent for a number of reasons.
When I was a small child in Catholic school, I liked the inherently competitive nature of Lent. “What are you giving up?” We would ask each other, all the while sizing up our fellow competitors classmates’ piety. When I got older and switched to a rabidly evangelical Protestant international school in Korea, I liked to camaraderie of knowing “who my people were” based on whether or not they got a burger on Fridays.
These days, I’ve taken a more balanced approach to Lenten suffering. Instead of going with the old hat “Yo, I’m totally giving up snacks for Lent this year” approach, I’m using the season to focus on ways to improve my life. I’m choosing to look at it as another set of New Year’s Resolutions almost. After all, you want to go into Easter being your best possible self, right? Right! (For those who want to read more from someone who’s a lot smarter than me, I really like Catholic All Year’s approach to taking things away or adding new things and seeing if your life is improved.)
So What Am I Giving Up? Or Adding?
I feel like there are a lot of ways that my life can be improved this go around, so I’ve come up with a few categories to focus on as we prepare for Easter.
1. Financial Wellbeing and Preparedness.
-I’m going on a “spending fast” to eliminate the slow bleed-out of my savings account. There are a few “frivolous” expenditures that I already have planned during Lent (Girls’ Trip to Pittsburgh) and I need a new pair of black flats (weird shoe size means the hunt for shoes is a long one). Beyond that, I’m going to stop spending money on things that are food, rent, utilities or other essentials.
-My husband and I are going get our wills and trusts written and formalized.
-I am going to work as much overtime as I possibly can so that we will be able to plan ahead for our future instead of just reacting to what happens to us.
2. Media Consumption.
-I am going to stop using the TV as background noise during my workday. (Exception for my morning news fix.)
-When I do watch TV, I want to intentionally watch it. This means that I’m going to stop messing around on my phone when “watching” a program that I like. I’ll certainly get more out of the show and I hope that I’ll feel less overstimulated all the time.
-I want to read good stuff – not just trashy romance novels and constantly updating gossip sites.
3. Health and Wellness.
-Find new activities that my husband and I can do together. He doesn’t get the same joy that I get out of solitude on the elliptical but I know that he would like to be more active.
-Drink more water. Because woman doesn’t live on coffee alone.
-I’m giving up paper towels for anything other than the toilets and the rabbit cage, because I care about the world’s health, too.
4. Relationship with God.
-I am going to stop wondering what the dude who combs his hair during the second reading uses for shine. Really, I am. Also, I may as well stop wondering all sorts of things about my fellow parishioners. I am going to focus.
-I will pray the rosary at least once a week.
-I will do at least one service activity with the young adults group.
5. Relationship with My Family.
-I will stop asking my husband to bring me stuff to my office downstairs. I have legs and refusing to use them shows him that I do not value the hard work that he is doing to find a job as much as I value my own. That’s not fair.
-I will actually call my grandmother once a week instead of just thinking about it.
-I will send a card to the members of my family that I know are hurting.
So, what are you giving up?