31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 23: Sense the Mysteries

child in churchDo you ever tire of the Catholic “mommy wars” over proper parenting at Mass? Cry room vs. front row pew; pro-breastfeeding vs. anti-Cheerios; attending as a family vs. letting each spouse go separately. The only subjects more likely to get fur flying are head-coverings or Marty Haugen. Or maybe pants, eh Simcha?

Now that my children are young teens, part of me actually misses going to Mass when they were younger. Sarah would sit on my hip and sing her version of the hymns (“Amazing grapes…”), while Chris would remind me to listen for the angels when the priest raised up the Eucharist. (I had told them that their guardian angels wanted to join the other angels in heaven at the consecration, but if they were naughty, they would have to stay behind, and would be most put-out.)

One of the most wonderful parts of parenting is being able to experience, vicariously, the wonder of the invisible world: God and angels and saints and heaven … and electricity and Tooth Fairies and Mommy Magic and microwave popcorn and musicals and Mozart. So much of life is conducted behind the scenes, like the miles of tunnels beneath Disney World. Gifts and serendipitous moments are as much a part of life as bedtimes and vaccines. Through our children, we learn that if we spend too much time focused on the minutiae, we lose the sense of wonder, and deplete our own joy.

So … just for today, lets give the taskmaster the day off, and take some time to sense the mysteries and remind ourselves of the innate goodness of life.

*  The explosion of a vine-ripened tomato in a mouthful of garden salad

*  The heady aroma of home-baked bread and the simmer of soup.

*  The gentle flickering of a votive lit in a countryside chapel.

*  The crunch of compacted snow frosted with a shiny veneer of ice.

In these moments, time stands still and we catch a glimpse — however fleeting — of life as it was meant to be lived, experienced, and reveled in. These sweet mysteries whisper of the destiny of all human beings: Not constrained by obligation and responsibilities, but liberated to experience life at its transcendent best.


Space Mountain Schadenfreude: Road Trip Ruminations

If you want the full Disney World experience, it’s probably best to avoid the park entirely between Christmas and New Years. Sure, Magic Kingdom has “extended hours” (8 a.m. to 1 a.m.), but that just means you have to deal with a bajillion loud, pushy people for a full 18 hours instead of the usual 14.

Fortunately, my favorite rides are not the most popular … I can sit on the teacups and ride through “It’s a Small World” for hours. See?

small world 1 small world 2 small world 3

But eventually I had to relent, and go with the rest of the family to stand in line at Space Mountain. An hour of nail-biting anticipation (thank goodness for the FastPass), for nine minutes of pitch-dark, neck wrenching fun.

As I said, we had gotten a FastPass, which in theory meant that we could return at the appointed time, bypassing the main line and moving to the front of the queue. But when we arrived at 10:15 (p.m.), the lady directed us to the end of the L-O-N-G line to the left. THAT was the FastPass line. I reached the end of the line just as a teenager with long, dark hair and an attitude to match arrived. With a smirk, she elbowed her way ahead of me.

Being a good Christian and all, I decided to ignore it. Then she called for her posse, who all jumped ahead of us. Eight of them. (I counted.) Then, her mother and grandmother (old enough to know better), who had a friend. Twelve extra bodies. By this time, my patience was depleting rapidly, but I finally decided not to make a scene. (Color me wussy.)

Then we got to the head of the line . . . and their entire group was turned away, because their FastPass had a later time on it. HAH! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. (What’s English for “schadenfreude”?)

Sometimes life is like that. When you rush and push ahead, sometimes you get sent back to the end of the line, bypassing those you’ve mistreated along the way. Not always . . . but sometimes, the universe teaches you a lesson.

Even at Disney World.

A Beachy Christmas: Fun Friday

Fun FridaysAs you are reading this, Craig and I are skipping through the Magic Kingdom with the kids and our uberhappy nanny, whose life dream has been a trip to Disney World. Today, it’s much more low-key . . . still, it’s a beachy Christmas. No snow in sight — and that’s just fine.

beach walkersIt’s the happiest day of the year . . . for everyone but the lizards. We count 24 skinks between Mom’s trailer and the beach (a five minute walk). The kids respond very differently, Sarah shrieking and Christopher excitedly trying to scoop them into a coffee can, to take them home. (No luck. Rats!)

Tomorrow we’re going to watch the sun rise on the beach — I have visions of cupping a mug of hot tea and murmuring Christmas carols. Most likely the kids’ version will win out, pitching seashells at each other and shrieking until we relent and head back to the house to open gifts.

Christmas traditions, like all family traditions, look a bit different from the outside than the inside. The “keeper of the memories” (usually the mom) envisions beauty, sweetness, and solemn joy — which is a lot easier to pull off if no actual children are involved. But then, the whole point of making these memories is not the Kodak moments they create in the family album, but the sense of love and security they create in young hearts.

So . . . this year I’ll be setting aside my wonderful images of Norman Rockwell tableaus full of Christmas carolers in perfectly matched scarves. We’re going to go chase lizards. We’re pretty sure Baby Jesus likes those better, anyway.

FUN FRIDAY: Briny Breezes, Florida. We’re not going to be going many places this week — just hanging out at the beach. My mother-in-law says if you want a good place for fish, check out the “Prime Catch” — they make great sea bass!