Thursday, March 24, 2011


I was just banned from tonight! I know why, and it's hilarious! I'm cracking up over here, and just sent the admins a very nice email explaining the situation and asking to be un-banned. It's all because they get sensitive about multiple accounts being registered to the same IP address. When I registered 5 years ago, we weren't married nor living together! In fact my ONLY post was about being two different rites and getting married!

As someone who has been a moderator on a message board, I actually understand where they are coming from, and can appreciate their security measures. All of those trolls and spammers.


My husband and I are both members of ByzCath--he is [username] and I am [username]. Tonight, I logged in after not using my account for almost 5 years, while my husband was already logged in. He is on the forum regularly and has his information set to automatically keep him logged in.

I then received this message:

Your account has been banned or locked. This ban will expire on 03-14-2012 11:19 PM. If the Administrator has specified a reason for this ban, you will find it below.

Contact the administrator as to why this is the second account registered to the same computer.

I am contacting to let you know that we use the same computer (it's the only one we have) and that is why two accounts were using the same computer. Human error!

If you could please un-ban us that would be wonderful!

Thank you,
[Rabbit's real name]

Being Squeezed

Before I begin, let me say this--yes, I know I'm lucky to have a job, one that helps take care of our needs, provides health insurance, etc. While I get mad and upset with work stuff a lot, I really try to remember what our lives were like from March 2008 until August 2009, when Turtle was laid off. Even so, sometimes, you need to get it all out.

I've alluded to me being upset about something, I believe it was last week. It's my job, which some of you may have guessed. I've been there just over 4.5 years, even though I knew it wasn't a place I wanted to work at forever. But life is funny like that and here I am, still. When I started, I was told that the work week was 40-45 hours. Fine. I rarely worked over 40 for the first few years, and over the last year or so I've worked a bit more, but never exceeding 42 hours in a week and never EVERY week. When I've had more work, I've put in more time, when I've had less work, I've left when my "clock" hit 40 hours.

Not anymore. Now we are required to put in AT LEAST 42.5 hours in a week. (Interestingly enough, this has only been verbally announced; nothing has been put in writing.) I am not happy about this. That is 2.5 hours from my personal time that has been added to my work time. And no added benefit, oh, the joys of being a salaried employee. I had a plan in motion--one for my health and sanity, and now I feel as if the rug has been pulled out from me. All because they want to squeeze more work out of the employees they have.

My plan WAS to get up earlier, work out, prep my meals ahead of time, to really focus on getting healthy. It's derailed now. Not completely--that's a little dramatic of me. I have to reexamine things yet again and figure out how to work around another missing 2.5 hours of my life. It's just annoying to me that our lives have to be so dictated by an outside force like this. Spring is almost here, the days are longer, soon there will be outside work to be done around the house. Now my work day is longer and I won't have as much free time to do things. I'm already tired at the end of the day, due to a lot of frustration and a lack of communication that has emerged with the hiring of my new boss. I have projects which are unfinished, including the half bath that I started a month ago. (Other things got in the way, not just work, but still.) The house is consistently either dirty or messy. I still don't feel fully set up and we've lived here well over a year now. I hate how I'm either at work or tired from being at work. This is not my calling. Also, it's not like I'm a doctor or a lawyer, or some well-paid business person, where I can afford to pay people to take care of things for me. My husband is NOT happy with this work change, but what can we do?

I have another plan in addition to my first one. It's called the "find a new job" plan, which is easier said than done. I was on a roll for a bit when my old boss left, but I need to pick that back up. I got a little off track after a crushing rejection. I'm tired of being taken advantage of, and being overlooked for promotions. Tired of "putting up" and "shutting up" because I HAVE to work. I have been afraid to speak out or speak up for fear that I would lose my job. I've never been trapped, but I guess that's what it would feel like. To feel as if you have NO options, no rights, no way out. I do have a way out...but this is one that I will have to work hard for and wait for. It might take awhile, but at least I'll feel better if I'm moving TOWARDS something positive--both personally (health stuff) and professionally (new job)--instead of sitting around, stewing in my own anger.

Because we all know what happens when you stew. You turn into one of these.

Not so attractive to employers! (Nor husbands!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I did something STUPID tonight.

We'd been getting calls and messages from someone about a debt for a few weeks now. We have no debt, besides our mortgage, so we were ignoring it. Tonight I actually picked up when they called because I was tired of the calls and messages. But while I was talking with the person, they were kind of poking at me about not picking up and not returning their calls, and I told them they were harassing us and "we can't pick up the phone when no one's home all day!"

IDIOT. Who says that!?!?!?! Me.

It's probably going to be OK, but we did a little research and found out that the number that has called us is connected to some guy who's recently been arrested and will be extradited to another state. It's interesting, but we're a little worried about being robbed or something. He knew DH's name. He was trying to contact us about our mortgage--but the bank he said was not OUR bank and DH's birthday/SSN were NOT what he had. At least I didn't tell him THOSE things.

Please--good thoughts and prayers that we'll be OK and nothing will come of this slip of the tongue while in annoyance!

Thoughts on Byzantine Catholicism

As I've posted before, we're Byzantine Catholic. For more explanation, see the Wiki: Trust me, it's just easier that way.

Anyway, liturgies have always been much much smaller than Roman rite Masses, attendance-wise. It's true, there aren't very many Byzantine Catholics in the world, so it's not surprising that the numbers, when compared with Roman churches, would be vastly different.

From what our priests have said, attendance has been on a steady decline over the past few decades. (I heard the same thing when attending a Roman church, but when your numbers were always low to begin with, I guess you notice it more.) Priest's Wife wrote a post on Monday looking back at a weekend spent at both a Byzantine liturgy and a Roman Mass.

A lot of what she said reminded me of Sundays at our church. We drive a long way to attend liturgy. We are the youngest adults there and there are only 3 children attending regularly. It got me thinking about a meeting we had with our priest prior to Lent about how we could grow our church, spiritually AND getting people who had fallen away to return. Why would people want to come back? But why did they go away in the first place?

I've heard the talk, the stories (good and bad), the gossip about the priest at one church who got involved with a parishioner and ended up leaving the priesthood and is now married to that woman, but not without first closing one of the churches in the parish...wait, this might be confusing.

Here's the short version of the backstory: DH's childhood parish had two churches. One in a nearby big city, one in a suburb. The priest who left closed the big city church, per Bishop's orders, but the suburb one was kept open. A year or so goes by, we're getting pinch-hitting priests, including Ukranian rite priests, Roman priests, etc. It's pretty interesting. Finally, we get a priest. This guy is FRESH out of seminary! After he barely gets settled, the Bishop asks him to be the administrator to another church in another big city, because that priest sort of was kicked out after some disagreements with parishioners and newcomers, which turned into some thinly veiled racism. Welcome to being a pastor, indeed.

So we've got people in both places who are angry, confused, betrayed, etc. And we have some with a language barrier, which always makes things entertaining. Some people left both churches because they were upset by what happened with the respective priests and respective parishes. That's too bad though, because it shouldn't be that way.

Was this the only reason that attendance has dropped? I don't think so. I'm not a sociologist or a professional in urban studies, but there are a few things that I learned with my fancy-pants American Studies degree that I don't get to use in my real life, but they still stick in my brain. Might as well see how they apply here.

Suburbia! I think that has a lot to do with why people have drifted from (in this case) Eastern Catholicism.

The church we attend most of the time was constructed in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I'm sure that back then, the streets surrounding the church were filled with parishioners, like in many cities and towns. As time went on, people made better wages, could save their money, and started moving out the the 'burbs and "the country" as they thought it was the place to be. Look at Levittown, New York. When did that spring up? Post World War II. Guess what? The churches didn't always follow, especially where we live. (Before anyone comments about how there are Eastern churches on Long Island, shhh, we don't live there! But we know, we had a few priests from that area when we were between pastors.) You had to go back to the city to attend liturgy. Now, there might have been enough "old timers" who stayed behind to give the parish reason for remaining. Or maybe it was financially better to stay put. Looking at the Eastern Catholic churches in our state, a LARGE majority of them are in cities.

I hate to say it but people are creatures of habit and get lazy. If it is a 20 or 30 minute ride to church on Sunday, who wants to do that?? Not when there are other things to do! (Or a Roman church looks okay and is right down the road...) I realize that this is a huge blanket statement and not everyone left because of this, but when talking with people at church...they come from all over! Hardly anyone lives in the city anymore. (And I'll admit, there are many Sundays where I don't want to get up at 7am to leave the house by 8/8:15 for a 9am liturgy. What is this, a work day!? I'd much rather sleep til 8:30, roll out of bed, throw on clothes and run up the street for the 9am Mass. And I have done that. Along with not going at all on other Sundays. I'm not perfect, I don't pretend to be. I will say that the weeks I don't go to church at all are horrible, and the weeks where we don't go to liturgy just don't feel right.)

Assimilation. A large part of my degree focused on immigrants and the American Experience, what it means to be American, etc. Now I really get to use it!! Most Eastern rite churches are comprised of one ethnic group, settled by immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Over time the ethnic boundaries blurred as people moved around, but I believe that this also led to people drifting from the church of their homeland. When looking at the 1950s and HUAC in particular, is it any wonder that people might have completely left their rite? Roman Catholics had their prejudices in the 1800s, but by 1950, being Roman Catholic was much more acceptable. Hello Kennedys.

Age. Our parish is a fast-greying one (maybe I should skip to "white"), which could be another reason why attendance has dropped. Older people get timid about driving, they don't want to go too far, or don't feel comfortable navigating the highways. Add that to distance (if they live in the 'burbs) and there are two reasons for low attendance.

What about mixed marriages? Not just between Eastern Catholics and Romans, but other religions too. Maybe a family doesn't really practice ANY religion anymore, or they practice the other spouse's faith. If Roman churches (or any other house of worship, really) is closer, more convenient, prettier, friendlier, whatever, people might go there instead. This is coming from someone who is in a mixed marriage, but happens to like the Byzantine rite much better. I chose this, on my own. Turtle never said "if you marry me, we can only go to a Byz Cath church." Who knows, if I'd never met him, maybe I would have never heard of this rite and would have been not 100% happy with the Roman church, but not knowing what else to do. Have no fear, the Byzantine rite is not 100% perfect. If it were, I would not be writing this post!

With so many reasons why participation has gone down, how can we begin to work at bringing people back? Where do we start? Do people want to come back, do they even miss their old church? I know that some are so hurt and disappointed, they'd rather walk through fire than return. That's their choice, and I hope they know that they'd always be welcomed back, should they choose to return. Then there are people who are comfortable in their ways, and haven't given their old church much thought...but they might, if they got a gentle reminder. What about those people who never came to church at all because their parents stopped going (or went Roman) before they were born? I am not keen on direct evangelization; if this makes me a bad Christian, then I don't know what to say. I don't feel comfortable talking with people about religion if I don't know their background or beliefs. To me, it's like pushing--and I don't believe in pushing anyone to do anything. I wouldn't appreciate someone of a different faith trying quite earnestly to get me to join their religion; I try to practice that same respect when around others. Of course, that can seem as though I'm hiding my faith, which has its own problems.

I don't know if there is a clear answer as for what to do to solve the problems that our church is facing. There are people who care about its survival; are we enough?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On being the baby maker...and the bread winner, part 2

I felt like my part 1 didn't really talk that much about Jessica's post, so I wanted to go back on comment on that!

Re: adoption. For some reason, I've always been interested in it. I don't know where my interest came from, especially since when I was growing up, I only knew one adoptee (as far as I knew). The husband sees things a bit differently, and like Jessica's DH, he feels the need to continue his blood line. (Which is ironic since over the past few years we've discovered some things about his family. To keep it simple, let's just say that certain family members were not raised by their biological parents, and even if they were never officially adopted by the "stand in" parent, it was pretty much the same thing. So much for those "blood lines," eh? lol)

We are open to adoption, as we don't know what sorts of problems we might have conceiving biological children. In fact, when Turtle was in the hospital (long before we were married, before we were even engaged!), he had a dream that we got married, and then adopted a whole family of Hispanic children--like 6 or 8 siblings. Anything is possible :)

But we also know the hurdles and obstacles that accompany the adoption process. I saw it first-hand at work as the owners of my company adopted a little girl (toddler) from Russia. I was there almost 2 years by the time they went to bring her home, and they started the process long before I was employed there. She is doing extremely well; they were very lucky to have been matched with a healthy, strong child. Not everyone is lucky, though, and not all children are born healthy. Some develop conditions along the way. Both instances are just like any biological children a couple might have.

I appreciate what Jessica is saying about adopting children of a different race, and for the most part, I think I feel similarly. While my DH might have had a dream about Hispanic children, I don't know what we would do in all reality. Being adopted can be hard enough (or as hard as you make it for the child) but to be obviously different? I don't know. For many reasons, DH and I are drawn to Eastern Europe--and would probably begin our search there if it came to that. Just saying that makes me feel horribly exposed, as if I'm a xenophobe or racist. Does that make us bad if we didn't want an American child? (Oh no, their bio parents might be out there and want the child back!) A child who is not Caucasian? (Oh no, the kid looks totally different than you!!) From what I've learned, every system has it's pros and cons, so there's not one thing better than another. It's more about what works for the family.

I feel that there is no right or wrong answer, as long as you go where your heart leads you and you are searching for a child for the right reasons. Everyone is called to a different place. Some down the street, some across the globe. And in the end, as long as a child gets a loving family, that's what truly matters.

I can see where Jessica is coming from on many levels. Being a parent in general, bio vs adopted kids, working while pregnant/parenting, etc. I think my "comment" is now finished!

Thank you for your comments on Ash Wednesday!

Because of life craziness--including cars, work, and other things--I wasn't able to say thank you sooner, or reply to the comments.

So here we go!

Priest's Wife--thank you for linking to my post!

Jessica--what's funny is this year, I saw more non-Catholics (both in blogs and IRL) talking about Ash Wednesday. I really didn't think many other Christians gave it much thought; perhaps it's a new thing? I always felt like evening ashes were pointless, especially a 7pm service, if you go right home, then go to bed a few hours later, but that's just me!

IlliniGirl--no worries, it's not even an obligatory day ;-) LOL at your story!

Ana--thanks for stopping by, I hope you see this post replying to your comment. I have yet to attend a Clean Monday service, and this year, we were both sick so we didn't make it to Liturgy the Sunday before Lent started. Re Orthodoxy: My husband always says that if things in the Byzantine church get bad, he'd go Orthodox! I had no idea about Easter carols!

Catherine Alexander--thank you also for stopping by!

On being the baby maker...and the bread winner, part 1

A few weeks ago, Jessica at Faith Permeating Life wrote a post entitled On Adoption and Selfishness. As you can see in the comments, I had something to say, but I never got around to it and once I had an idea of what I wanted to say, I realized that it would be a very long comment and that I should probably be nice and just host it on my OWN blog :)

What I wanted to say correlates more towards the end of Jessica's post. Like her, I am the breadwinner, at least for right now, maybe forever? That certainly wasn't how we predicted things would be when we got married.

Turtle's goal has always been to work for the state, in the public sector of his field. After grad school, he worked in the private sector, hoping that he would get enough experience so that when state jobs were finally posted, he would be hired. Well, he's gone for a lot of state jobs, but never hired, so it's been a long haul in the very underpaid private sector. Ironically, most of the private sector places in his field are contracted BY the state to provide services to this population, but of course, they want the most bang for their buck. Also, Turtle's accident and injuries were a red herring of sorts (for many reasons) and we live in a small state, and people talk. Not to be totally paranoid or anything, but it wouldn't surprise us if there was some kind of black mark next to his name. Then he was laid off, which further derailed his career for 18 months, and he's not where he wants to be career-wise, salary-wise, etc. Not at all. If your husbands are like mine, you'll get where this is heading...he feels like he's not pulling his weight, he's not being the "provider," we won't have the household that we both grew up in (raised by SAHMs, dads working), his injuries closed the door to certain field because he could never pass the physical tests, etc. I tell him that this doesn't matter, I didn't marry him for his earning potential, it's the fields we are in, we assumed (perhaps wrongly) that he would be in a state job by now. The list goes on and on.

He considered going back to school while he was laid off, but he already has a masters and is significantly underpaid. He isn't sure what he wants to do even now, because so many fields are unpredictable. (But so is life, I know all too well.)

My salary is 20% more than Turtle's, even if he brings home 14% more than I do, every 2 weeks. I love stats and numbers, so yes, I did figure out all of this. Why does he bring home more? I carry the health insurance, which is 28% of my salary. Isn't that disgusting? Yes, my employer only contributes the first $200 for the employee--any other family members on the plan are paid for 100% by the employee. Fortunately, this comes out pre-tax, but it significantly lowers the amount I actually take home. If I told you my salary, it could sound impressive (but numbers are relative, really). But not at the end of the year, when the W-2 is only 70% of that number.

We do plan on switching to the health insurance provided by Turtle's company as soon as his open enrollment starts. Hopefully this will take some of the financial pressure off of us, and allow us to save some more money.

If something were to happen to me and I needed to go on leave, we'd still have to pay the cost for health insurance. I know that's common for everyone, usually. But to not be bringing in ANY income, then getting a "bill" from my employer for a large sum of money each month would be horrible. Actually even if we were on Turtle's insurance, and I had to go on leave, it wouldn't be ideal, as there would be a large amount of income missing each month, but at least we wouldn't be socked with a bill from my own employer. (By the way, if an employee does go on leave, they'd still pay that $200. How generous.) If Turtle had to go on leave and we were on insurance through his company, it'd be the same thing. We'd be down an income for a bit, and would have to pay in, but it wouldn't be as huge of a bill. Conclusion: either of us on leave would suck! LOL

My company does not offer short term disability and my insurance agent said that it is so costly to take out a private policy, she wouldn't even give me a quote! Turtle's does offer short term disability, but he never signed up for it. I think I will have him look into that when open enrollment comes around.

So this brings me to how I feel about eventually getting pregnant, especially since last I checked, men can't have babies yet. Granted, there are health issues that need to be resolved first, but the money thing does weigh heavy on my mind as well. We cannot afford for one of us to stay home, unless we had multiples, then we'd have to because day care would be too costly. And even then I think we'd have a freak out. Day care around here is roughly $1000/month for an infant. The way things are right now, in the frame of health insurance and take-home pay, there wouldn't be enough, especially if we had to stay on my company's health plan. A family plan is well over $1000/month. Talk about being anti-family!

Another conclusion: We'd have to save up a LOT of money while pregnant to cover the loss of income while I was out of work. At least that's a PLANNED leave of absence. I don't even want to think about the unexpected... Regardless, it's hard to save up months of salary unless you were doing it already OR one person always made much more than the other, so that all you had to do was tweak some spending. Right now, looking at our take home pay, we're about $125 different.

At least we know that if we switch to Turtle's health insurance, we'd be able to free up some of my salary to put away. (So if you couldn't tell, I cannot WAIT for open enrollment to weigh our options!!!) It's not fun knowing that only you can have the babies and you bring in more money than your husband and if something were to happen, it wouldn't be good. I am all for womens rights, especially when it comes to employment and salaries, but what "rights" do I have when I know that if something were to happen to me that impedes my health, it could be disastrous for my family and our finances? I know I'm not the only woman in this situation, too. People worry about families being destroyed by all sorts of things, but to me, this is serious. A lack of understanding employers, a lack of affordable health insurance, and a lack of maternity coverage is also detrimental to families of all types.

This is not to say that I am ignorant of financial difficulties in families where the male is the breadwinner, but at least the burdens I'm discussing in this post are shared, if you will :) Male breadwinners might worry a lot about taking care of their families and the what if's that come with life, but they do not have the issues that accompany pregnancy--both personally and in the workplace.

I'm not looking for equality here. Equality with whom? Some "ideal" super woman? My mom? My friends? My husband? Other men? This might sound contradictory to my thoughts on womens rights, but honestly, equality will never be possible. Equality is not possible ANYWHERE because we are all different--whether between coworkers, friends, neighbors, etc. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, etc. Even two siblings will say that mom likes the other better, even if that's not true and the mom bends over backwards to make sure that everything is fair and equal. Why, then, do we expect equality so much? I'm not saying that a man is less than me, just that he cannot do everything that I CAN do. :) And yes, I worded that sentence that way on purpose. :)

What we need is fairness and consideration. From society, from our employers and from each other.

I've always been anxious about money, I don't know why. Our accountant says it's because of the values with which I was raised. He should know: he knew my grandparents and knows my parents, and does the books for the family business.

Recently, I had a "moment" stemming from some unexpected bills for work done on both cars, which depleted half of our touchable savings. I'm fortunate that we did not have to charge the work, but still. Now we have to pare things down to rebuild that savings, plus some. That makes me think about the future. And how easy it is to fall down into credit card debt. Turtle also has to have his wisdom teeth out in a few weeks, which will be another large chunk of money.

These present expenses and future expenses have really made me take a long hard look at income, savings, money in general. I actually wondered if buying our house was a good idea, if we really looked at the future and what expenses would pop up in a few years with kids. What's so laughable is that even if we were to sell our house and move into a rental, we wouldn't be that much better off!!!! When we rented, a 2 BR was $1000/month. Our mortgage, taxes, interest & insurance is $1968/month. There's no telling that we'd be able to find another rental and still be able to pay for day care and an increase in health insurance.

Needless to say, I feel stuck at times. Part of it is true, even after the housing market crash, our economy still bears heavily on housing. And housing bears heavily on two incomes, for many families. I know I'm not completely stuck though, there are some choices. Right now, I can 1) pare down spending while ramping up saving and 2) look for a new job. Not only for better benefits and more money, but also because there are some other things going on at my workplace right now that sicken me and anger me. If I can improve those 2 things, then maybe I won't feel so stuck.

This post was very long, and might have seemed out of order or jumping around. I hope that whoever reads this might understand what exactly I'm trying to say. And if you don't understand, or just have a question, feel free to ask.

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am angry

And I don't know how to fix it or change it, short of a few magical things happening. I really dislike not having control over situations, or when a fix might take months or even a year. Additionally, it really angers me when one thing has a hold on so many can make you feel totally helpless. I have vented to my husband, my friends, now here...I've meditated, prayed, tried to figure out a "plan," even tried not to think about it, but I'm still angry. The issue is bigger than me, so I can't solve it. I can only try to fix my part of it.

I'll write more later, when I actually have TIME to sit and write a real post. Another thing to add to my anger.

(To ease everyone's minds, I'm OK, it's work/economy related.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We have germination!

To clarify, no, I am not pregnant. When I announced this fact to my brother, he immediately looked at my midsection with a raised eyebrow. I didn't think that sentence pointed to pregnancy, but everyone's different I guess, haha. So I figure I better clarify here too.

Plants, silly! We have germination with our plants!!! I think I might have mentioned that we're putting in a real garden this year, not just the tomatoes that we did last year.

Turtle started tomato and tomatillo seeds on Valentine's Day, but they weren't doing that well in our basement. He thinks it was too cold. He moved the heat pad, the seed tray, and the grow light to one of our spare bedrooms, and a few days later...sprouts!

We now have plants that are a few inches tall. It's exciting! I raced upstairs when Turtle first told me that we had something starting. We had a little mold episode, which is natural, given moist conditions and heat. A trip to the local garden center helped to remedy this problem and no mold has been spotted since.

We also have some herbs started and are hanging out in our guest bathroom, since it's super warm and sunny there.

What's to come:
  • five types of tomatoes
  • tomatilloes
  • two types of cucumbers (we ordered one, but Burpee gave us a free packet of another type)
  • sugar snap peas
  • two types of bush beans
  • basil
  • parsley
We also want to get some lavender, rhubarb, and horseradish, but we'll pick those up at the garden center.

I apologize for the lack of pictures. That would help with a post like this, no?

Ash Wednesday, then & now

For those who asked, or were wondering, Sunday's dinner went well. Although my parents have this habit of arriving early, when we're still cooking. I love them, but please, when I say come at 5, that means come at 5 or shortly thereafter. Not 4:30! We can't visit much when we're still cooking and busy with last minute things. And yes, we're totally informal and they are welcome to hang out in the kitchen (or wherever) while we're wrapping things up, but I don't like that!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. As some of you may know, I was raised Roman Catholic. I went through all the sacraments, was pretty involved with my parish (even served as Youth Representative to the Parish Council), went to a Roman college, where I thought I'd meet a nice Roman boy, get married, have cute Roman babies and raise them in a Roman parish. And then everyone lived happily ever after. The end. I know, I'm oversimplifying waaaayyy too much, but aren't stories fun? :) Especially when, post-college, I didn't really go to church all that much. I guess you could say I was culturally Catholic at that point?

How things turn out! My "boy" was Byzantine Catholic, not Roman (well, he was Roman at the time, but didn't know it...this could get messy, more later). When I met him (and not IN college--the scandal!), I had never heard of Byzantine Catholics! When he described it to me, I thought he meant Orthodox, which I had heard of, and even had Orthodox friends in college, including one girl who's father was a priest. He kept saying that he wasn't Orthodox, that he was under the Pope too, but not Roman. I remember thinking, "Okay, crazy boy, whatever." He didn't go to church that much either, but all was cool. Later, I was fully educated and saw how one could be under the Pope but different. I might have understood, but me trying to explain it to my family and my friends? FORGET IT.

Fast forward a bit, we were married in the Roman church but for the most part, practice as Byzantines. Someday I will post more about that. I do feel at home with the Byzantines, and most of the time I don't miss the Roman church. Sure, I miss the familiar hymns (especially at Christmas) and I don't know Slavonic (an old church language; it's the Byzantine's equivalent of Latin, but not all Byz liturgies are said in Slavonic, thankfully).

When do I miss it? Ash Wednesday.

I know, it's weird. See, Byzantines don't get ashes. They don't celebrate Ash Wednesday. There's no leaving work early or coming in to the office late with ashes on your forehead. We shouldn't have to "show off" our faith/religion, but to me, there was something communal about walking around with your smudge on your forehead. Seeing other people with theirs and knowing "we're in this together." A college professor called sacraments an outward sign of an inward reality, and I feel like that could apply to the ashes. Maybe the "community" feeling comes from having attended the college I did, where faith was welcomed and incorporated into almost every moment of every day. (I say almost because certain things went on during the weekends that couldn't be included here ;-) but no worries, my college had a late night Sunday Mass which was often standing room only.) I sound like I was on my way to becoming a nun, but rest assured, I wasn't and still am not a saint. I swear. I drink alcohol. I drive too fast. I say stupid/mean/wrong things.

Now that I don't participate in Ash Wednesday, I feel weird when I see someone with ashes. Like I need to tell them that I, too, am Catholic. Perhaps I should wear a sign that says "hey I'm Catholic!" or "I believe, even if I don't have ashes!" Would anyone really care? Probably not, and I'd get some strange looks or comments from my signs. Maybe someone would ask why I don't have ashes, but have that sign on, and that would start a conversation that I don't feel 100% ready to have with a stranger who probably knows as little about Eastern Rite Catholics as I did when I met Turtle.

Does it matter who gets ashes or not? No. Does that really make one person or group of people better, more faithful, whatever, than another? No. Does it make me less Catholic or less believing? Absolutely not. This is coming from someone who went to ash distribution services religiously (ha!) every year. From someone who was scared of the "dirt" when she was little and couldn't wait to rush home after church to scrub the ashes from her forehead. But this someone still feels like she's forgetting to do something every Ash Wednesday. My forehead looks too clean...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Fat" Sunday

Yup, today is pretty much Fat Sunday for Byzantine Catholics. Priest's Wife explains what goes on much better than I do, so you can read that here. In short, our Lent starts tomorrow, not on Ash Wednesday, like Roman Catholics. We don't get ashes on Wednesday, either, which makes me miss my old traditions (I'll try to post about that on Wednesday).

Tomorrow and Good Friday are totally meat-less and animal product-less, although we can eat fish. Don't ask, I don't really get it either. As an aside, when I was a practicing Roman, I never got why we couldn't eat meat on Fridays during Lent either. Byz Caths abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, but we can eat dairy, eggs, and fish. Bring on the fish & chips and ravioli, please!

(I say "practicing Roman" because ritually speaking, I am still a Roman Catholic. It's kind of like being a registered Republican, but voting Democratic--it's all about numbers and "where" you are. Does it matter in God's eyes? I tend not to think so. Plus, Turtle himself was Roman for years and didn't even know it, even though he practiced as a Byz. Note to self: share that story sometime; it's a hoot, if you're into church jokes/humor, haha.)

Soooo back to today! Tonight we're celebrating my dad's birthday, which was yesterday, by having my parents and brother over for dinner. On the menu: pasta with clam sauce (including bacon!), homemade garlic bread, salad, and of course, some kind of cake. My mom's bringing that. Definitely a "fat" meal in more ways that one, haha. Turtle's at the store right now getting the last minute ingredients and I should be cleaning up and getting stuff done.

I hope everyone--no matter their rite or denomination--has a good and spiritually full fast. And no, I'm not giving anything up. Personally, I think that's lame. (And, um, I always cheat if it's food-related, ha.) I'm going to try and be a better friend, wife, worker, person. Let's see how this goes.