Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't Be an Ash This Wednesday

I wrote a version of this piece three years ago for Still holds true today for me.

As a good Catholic girl, this is the time of year I think about how I can be a better person.  I think New Year’s resolutions are foolish, but for some reason I have no problem with Lenten resolutions. I was pondering why there was such a difference between the two periods of personal improvement and reflection for me.

I am religious, but I’m more of a cafeteria Catholic.  I find the Sacrament of Reconciliation personally unnecessary as I don’t think I need an intermediary between God and me to obtain his forgiveness.  Don’t get me started on the Church’s views on gays. (Update: I am beginning to feel better about this!)  Despite my picking and choosing of the tenets of my religion, Lent resonates for me. Two of my favorite priests, Fr. Sam and Fr. Bob, love to say that "we are Easter people." I couldn't agree more.

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday.  I am going to go to church and have the sign of the cross put on my forehead with ashes from the burnt palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  The history of the ashes goes back to a time when during the Lenten season only the faithful were allowed into church.  Those who committed serious sins would be forced to wear a hairshirt for forty days.  That hairshirt was blessed with palm ashes.  I imagine that the wearing of a hairshirt was not unlike wearing a scarlet letter.  It marked you as a grave sinner.  Today, it reflects the fact that we all sin but are seeking redemption.

The act of giving something up for Lent is well known.  Catholics are asked to give up something; be it an appetite, a distraction or something we love, not to just suffer, but  to create a “vacuum” of sorts.  It is hoped that this vacuum is filled by the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps that is why I like it so much.  Notice that it isn’t necessarily about improving oneself, it is more about creating a “space”  in your everyday life for God to enter.  Additionally, we are only asked to do this for 40 days, not permanently.  After that period of time it is hoped that you would permanently create this space for God even as you go back to enjoying what you sacrificed for Lent.

What many are not aware of is that the Catholic church does not merely want us to give up during Lent.  The Church wants us also to “give out” and “give in” .  By ‘giving out’ one can express their love of God and Man by making your talents and treasures available.  Acts of kindness, volunteerism, donations of goods and services to those in need are very much a part of the Lenten tradition.  Some Catholics focus on this aspect of Lent more than the giving up part.  At the conclusion of Mass, the priest asks the congregation to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  We are supposed to take what we learn each week in Mass and apply it to the outside world.  I love that fact — that the Church really isn’t about Mass.  It really is about applying Mass to your real life.  Way too many Catholics forget that.  Priests included.

The ‘giving in’ part is especially interesting to me as it is quite Zen.  In this age of self-fulfillment we are called to go the opposite way.  In order to find your life, your way or your path, you must lose it.  You must let go of it.   We are supposed to give our life and our trust to God.  I also look at it this way: when you cling too heavily to your wants, desires or results, that you often miss an more interesting or fulfilling path that was thrown in your way. This giving in part really feeds into the reasons why we give up during Lent.

I’ve tried to give up many things during Lent over the years.  Some worked out fine and others not so much.  I find I’m much better at doing something than giving up something in order to create that vacuum or space for God to enter.  I do this with acts of volunteering that put me in direct contact with those in need.
This year, in addition to volunteering, I am adding daily exercise to the list.  Not to get my fat arse moving, that is an added benefit; but to clear my head of all the cobwebs and crap that interfere with me creating space or that vacuum for God to enter.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rosés for $15 and Under - Stay Away from Chateau Miraval and Drink Great Wine

Yesterday a friend of mine let us all know on Facebook that she bought the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Rosé wine Chateau Miraval. She went on to say she was pretty convinced that the wine shop clerk snickered. I out and out laughed that someone would spend about $20 (average price nationwide is $23 without taxes according to on the Jolie/Pitt creation*. It isn't that Chateau Miraval is a bad wine, it just isn't worth $20. I posted that there were far tastier Rosés at cheaper prices and people asked for my recommendations.

So here are my Rosé choices and are at or under $15 locally - nationwide pricing may differ.  Click on the name of the wine to see a picture of the bottle and label.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What the Heck is Holy Week?

When one thinks of Christians and their religious celebrations, one tends to think of Christmas as the ultimate Christian holiday. In fact, they're wrong.

As a Catholic Christian, I really am an Easter person. Huh? What do I mean by that? Catholics celebrate Easter each and every week at Mass. Easter is all about the sacrifices and Resurrection of Jesus. Each week at Mass, Catholics receive Communion which celebrates and makes real for us Christ's resurrection. Not all Christian religions celebrate Communion each week; for many it is reserved for only certain times per year.

Bustedhalo is a great Youtube channel that explains Christian religious practices or beliefs in highly visual, brief clips. Below is the one for Holy Week, the final week of Lent which is also the week before Easter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Will You Attend? Yes, No, Maybe

I have a friend who when she receives an Evite to an event or party, always answers "maybe." Not that she is any busier than the rest of us, but regardless, the initial answer is always maybe. It isn't until the day of the event, or if you prod her with an email because you need to firm up your plans, that she finally give you a definitive answer. Her constant waffling drives my friends and me positively crazy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Today in WTF: Booze, The Great Equalizer

Do you feel oppressed by affluent, white males? Are you struggling to fit in with your peers? If so, you may want to start binge drinking in order to boost your social status and satisfaction. A study is out which examined levels of alcohol consumption and the relationship with social satisfaction in selective Northeastern liberal arts colleges. Some interesting results were found. Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks for a female and 5 or more drinks for a male. Sounds like a typical Tuesday Friday night right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Celebrate St. Patty's Day by Drinking Irish Wine

I don't like beer. I haven't liked it since 1988 when I was drinking Budweiser products at the basement of the Sigma Chi house at UW:Madison. It isn't snobbery, I'm just not a fan of the taste. I've struggled over the years to properly celebrate St. Patrick's Day without drinking Guinness, Harp or the gawdawful green beer.

Then I met my husband and everything changed. My husband's ancestors are known as 'Wine Geese." What are Wine Geese? Well it comes from Wild Geese, which refers to exodus of Irish soldiers to France at the end of the 1600’s following the Willamite-Jacobite war. The damn Catholics and Protestants always fighting. Catholics were forced to skip town. Wine Geese refers to Irish emigrants who became involved in the wine trade in other countries.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Thoughts: Wine, Women and Song

Have you ever blamed being over-served as an excuse to cheat on your lady love? Sorry guys, that excuse doesn't hold water (or wine) anymore. Two wine economists (who knew those existed and what an awesome job!) noticed that societies which embraced multiple wives, polygyny, do not consume alcohol. Two notable examples of this in today's world are parts of the Muslim world and parts of the Mormon church.