Monday, December 31, 2012

LOST: Sense of Humor (On Parenting)

Last seen somewhere along northbound I-35E near Loop 635, between 5 and 6 pm on Thursday.

There's also a good chance it went missing on Sunday morning, between 10:31 and 11:34 in row 2 of the church sanctuary.

It was definitely gone by Friday, 5:48 am, breathing in swear words with a stubbed face at the wall adjacent to our bedroom door that is not, in fact, a doorway to the crying baby's room. 

Whether my humor's lost, stolen, or simply run away to someone else's good times, allow me an indulgent moment to complain about my silly first world problems before asking St. Anthony to please come 'round ("something's lost that can't be found," for the non-cradle-Catholics among us).

In case you can't tell, I drove full-force into the doldrums of part-time stay-at-home parenthood. It's okay if you just smirked a little, recalling my idealistic declarations a few months ago, something about cooking more, dusting, and having perfect kids.

I've been pursing my lips and raising my eyebrows a lot more lately, including as I read the recommendation of a mysterious blogger that I regularly stumble across. She suggests that parishes start an encouragement ministry for young mothers.

I was completely on board until she said it should focus on spiritual and emotional help, and not include babysitting or help with the housework. I suppose this means it wouldn't include assigning your children to the pews and subjective oversight of other random parishioners on any given Sunday either.

In my opinion, the most effective tool the Catholic Church could offer our world in sharing this vision of children as blessings, fertility as a gift, femininity and masculinity as windows into the spiritual life, and parenthood as a path to sainthood, is to get into the trenches of this divine mystery:

  • Apportion part of the parish budget toward quality, free babysitting during faith formation opportunities.
  •  
  • Put up some heavy Catholic guilt on parishioners to volunteer for religious education -- and not on the parents whose kids are in the programs. Believe me, they see enough of their kids.
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  • Try not to laugh dismissively at parents who complain that cry rooms are literally Purgatory on earth. Don't judge parents who quit showing up for Mass, because they got tired of spending Sunday mornings in a 12 x 12 foot room with a dozen other fussy, wiggly children, and no clear view of anything except kids playing Nintendo DS in the back pew.
  •   
  • Offer Mother's Day Out for free. (Oh my gosh, now this woman's just looking for handouts!)
  •  
  • Don't be afraid to set up rocking chairs in the back of the church for all the parents pacing the narthex with sleepy kids.
  •  
  • Have parishioners serve in the nursery who don't have kids in the nursery.
  •  
  • Schedule one service each Sunday especially for families with children and gear the service to capture the curiosity and reverence of kids (not necessarily more flashy or entertaining, just more accessible).

And this is only one mom's late night brainstorming session!

Other thoughts/suggestions?

(And it's okay, if you just want to say, "Get over yourself. Your two kids are NOTHING compared to my life, much less to the bigger problems of the rest of the world." But you'll probably make me cry. And then eat the rest of the chocolate-covered peanuts we made for our neighbors but forgot to pass out before Christmas.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time to Cut the Hours

A few months back, I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror at work.

Perfected business casual drone of black slacks and some color of cable-knit sweater, shapeless grandma shawl over the shoulders, and a puffy triangle of hair.

"Geez, you're not even trying," I shrugged with indifference at the unfamiliar morphed reflection of elderly-me in a wrinkled shawl and middle-school-me with frizzy, brushed out curls.

Before babies were in the picture, I remember interactions with coworkers that went something like this:

Me: "Excuse me, [name] is here with [company] to see you. They've just arrived, and I've set them up in the conference room."



But one day, and then frequent days, and then regularly, I caught myself having this conversation:

Me: "Hey, were you expecting someone?"

Coworker: "Um, yes, I think so. At 10?"

Me: "Oh, is that what time it is? Sure."

Coworker: "Did you catch their name?"

Me: "Hm, no. It's a woman."

Coworker: "From Bank of America?"

Me: "Sure, she looks like she could be with Bank of America."

Coworker: "Ok, thanks."

Does it say more about the extent to which I lowered the administrative standard around our office, or the outstanding congeniality of my colleague, that he actually thanked me for the information I provided?



And then there's this excerpt from a reply to an overlooked email:

Hi David,

I apologize for this delay. Your email got pulled into a folder that doesn’t get checked very often.

[...important email request fulfilled...]

Best regards,

Charlene

Unfortunately, the "folder that doesn't get checked very often," was referring to my inbox. 


When faced with the overwhelming task of refilling paper in the printer, I found myself choosing the "Hm, cancel print" option more and more often.

If it weren't for my mad OCD and impulsive multi-tasking skills, I'm pretty sure I would have received a "thanks, but no thanks" letter of termination from my company.

Delirious months later, filled with laundry, inexplicably adorable kids, novenas, two car wrecks (no injuries) and extensive research on coupon moms and health insurance alternatives, I finally passed a letter of gratitude and resignation over to my long-suffering employers.

To my surprise, rather than taking the opportunity to hire an ambitious, high-intensity, full-time replacement, they restructured the admin schedule and responsibilities, and offered to keep me around part-time.

And THAT is why they get name-dropped in our family rosary each week, with prayers for their families and business success!

As for me and mine, GLOOOORIOUS! Not that I haven't crashed hard into the doldrums of part-time, stay-at-home motherhood, just that I'm finding the dividends of happy kids and a calm(er) home well worth it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How I Became Mrs. Wally Bader


Four years ago today, Wally and I were married, and I think we're living the best crazy love story ever. But I hadn't always thought it would be this way...



Six years, three months, and 28 days ago, I was given the best advice I've ever received.

I met Father Eric while visiting Palmyra, Wisconsin, with Ad Deum Dance Company, volunteering at a camp for kids with special needs. I was on top of the world, and in one short conversation, he turned it all upside down.


I had only stopped by his small, rural parish for a moment to pray. Wherever I went with Ad Deum, I always stumbled upon the local Catholic church (okay, Google-mapped the whole territory two weeks in advance for every Catholic parish within 40 miles and then called parishioners to see if a traveler without a car could catch a ride to Mass), and sure enough, in three years of touring and performing, God opened every door, so I could experience Him at Mass each Sunday.

St. Mary Catholic Church in Palmyra, WI

That Saturday afternoon, when I came through the doors of Father Eric's church, he asked about my life. He listened, very keenly, and it felt as if we were old friends, deep in conversation, though we'd just met, and were still standing in the entry way of St. Mary's. I suppose I expected accolades as I summed up the excitement I felt at being a new company member and getting to live out this childhood dream. Instead, Father Eric set a question before me, and though I continued to smile and nod respectfully as we spoke, his question didn't fall safely and innocuously from the air through the slats of the old wooden floor. It struck uncomfortably in my soul, settled in, and echoed alongside similar questions that had been in the back of my mind for some time. 

"But what is your vocation?" Father Eric asked. 

He seemed to imply it was all very nice that I was young and passionate, enjoying life, and wanting to do good in the world, but could I trust God with a commitment the size of my entire future? When the curtain closes, and the adventure ceases to feel so adventurous, and I find myself alone, away from all the excitement and busyness, what is God asking of me?


Catholics play around with the word "vocation" like preschool teachers pose, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Really, it's just three options: single (purposely single to work in a unique way for God in the world), single & consecrated for service to the Church (priests, nuns, monks), and married (joining souls with another to work in a unique way for God in the world). From these three options, a person can be or do just about anything. 




In that brief conversation, both our first and last time to speak in person, Father Eric challenged me to look beyond where I currently was -- only willing to make short-term commitments to various activities and groups, and not really moving with purpose toward any kind of long-term commitment -- and he encouraged me to truly discern what God was asking of me, "and then do it!"

I had already discerned my vocation was to (eventual) marriage, but I wanted an exciting, miraculous love story that would make for a super-romantic retelling.

Father Eric threw all of that under the bus when he reminded me that my vocation wasn't supposed to be the most entertaining story at a party, but an opportunity to live the most fulfilling and meaningful life possible, and it would be the path for my soul to heaven. 

And from there, my life suddenly became really easy. 

If marriage was my vocation, and the purpose of marriage was to do God's work on earth, so we could experience Him here on earth, with the hope of being with Him forever in heaven, then I just needed to find the person who could help me do that. 

I asked myself, "Who is the holiest guy I know?"

As it turns out, God was working on the other side of this picture as well, because even today, Wally says, he has no idea why he asked me out on a date in August 2006. (I know why. It's because I asked God to ask Wally to ask me on a date. Because I was too chicken to ask him myself.)

Six years, three months, and 21 days ago, Wally and I went on our first date.