Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus at the mall

Here is a video my sister actually showed me a few days ago. I'm one of those annoying people who's ready for Christmas in October...sometimes earlier. Now Thanksgiving has come and gone, Advent is here and anyone who objected to Christmas music and festivities too early in the season doesn't need to worry about it now. If you weren't in the mood or ready for Christmas, you will be after you watch this.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent. Day 1

Today was the first Sunday of Advent, four weeks in the Liturgical year set aside for prayer and reflection in order to prepare for Christ's arrival on Christmas day. Advent has always been one of favorite times of year. Granted, when I was younger, to me Advent meant preparing for Christmas in a more material sense. The first Sunday of Advent was also the day that my dad allowed us to start playing Christmas music in the house, which was exciting in itself. This year my brothers and I were excited because my dad put up our outside Christmas lights on the day after Thanksgiving, as opposed to waiting for the first Sunday of Advent as he usually does.

As I've gotten older and gone through year after year of Catholic education and watched my Theology teacher mom decorate Jesse Tree bulletin boards and plan prayer services, I've begun to appreciate Advent for what it really is--a time to prepare my heart for Jesus' arrival, as well as the coming Liturgical year. My faith has always been important to me, but it is not always something I am particularly vocal about. Also, as I've gotten older, I have found myself pulling away from my faith somewhat. I have noticed this especially during my last couple Advent seasons. I fall into a similar mindset as when I was younger; that is, I focus on the secular, material side of the season and often forget that Advent is more than a time for Christmas music and shopping, evergreens and peppermint. In fact, it is meant to be a time for sacrifice, something that very often gets lost in the shuffle of the pending Christmas season...

The point of this rambling blog post? While I do love preparing for Christmas in all its festive and material capacities, I am realizing that something is missing right now. This Advent season I am going to "find religion," if you will. All over again. Well, maybe that's a little extreme. I want to rediscover Advent. I'm not sure exactly how to go about doing that, but some simple prayer might be a good way to start. I'll keep you posted.

Here is a link for Pope Benedict XVI's address to those gathered in Saint Peter's square for the first Sunday of Advent--

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Snapshot

Oddly enough, my last post was on Veteran's Day, when I was also counting my many blessings. Well, all of a sudden, it's Thanksgiving, (Or yesterday was...) and here it is another day to give thanks.

While I have spent the the last few Thanksgivings with my grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins in Chicago, this year was my first Thanksgiving with my immediate family since my senior year of high school. It was quite nice to be home. Today's weather was also pleasant in a lovely, autumnal sort of way. We have recently had some unseasonably warm weather, even for Dallas, and it was disconcerting to think of celebrating Thanksgiving when it was in the 80s. But all was well when we woke up this morning to a chilly, blustery day with temperatures in the 40s. Just the sort of day I'd been craving. (After all, I had a new sweater I'd been dying to wear!)

The day was pleasantly spent talking and joking with my family, reminiscing, watching myriad football and basketball games, listening to music, cooking, eating, drinking... Not so unusual as far as Thanksgivings go. Even washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen was an enjoyable endeavor. Soon after the dishes were done, we had pumpkin pie and coffee and people began to fade very quickly. Most of the family went to bed, and my brother and I curled up on the pull-out couch where I'm sleeping for the next week or so, while my grandparents sleep in my sister's and my room. He sat and read a giant book of Peanuts comics and I sat with my computer on my lap. The fire that my brothers had maintained all day was smoldering into a pile of glowing ashes and the room was warm. I asked if he wanted to listen to some Christmas music and he looked at me sharply and grinned. So I found a medley of Christmas songs by our favorite men's chorus, and we sat and listened.

Tomorrow I have to go back to work, but friends are still in town for the holiday weekend and my grandparents are in town for a little over a week, so the merry-making can continue at least a little longer...

P.S. If you're not quite as ready for Christmas music as I am (and have been), here's a lovely Thanksgiving song by Josh Groban. "Thankful"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day to remember all my blessings

Today is Veteran’s Day, a day that we as a country have set aside to honor the men and women who sacrifice so much to serve and defend our country. Both my grandpas served in the armed forces—one in the Navy and one in the Air Force. My dad served in the U.S. Army for five years. I also have a great-great uncle who died in World War II, weeks before the war ended. Veteran’s Day is always a significant day for my family.

Yesterday and today, I went with my dad to two different Veteran’s Day assemblies at each of my brother’s schools. Yesterday was the Veteran’s breakfast at Bishop Lynch. I was my dad’s “plus one” and got to enjoy some eggs, bacon and cheesy potatoes, as well as some stellar choir performances. A man who was in the Army and stationed in the Middle East during Desert Shield and Desert Storm gave a very detailed account of his experiences in the military and overseas. In addition to the choir singing several patriotic themed songs, the BL band played a medley of each branch of the armed forces’ songs. As each song was played, people stood up for their respective branch. It was incredibly moving to see the range in ages and people who stood up throughout the medley. I also got a chuckle out of the slightly stooped, elderly man bopping around in time to “Anchors Aweigh.”

Today my dad and I went to St. Paul for their Veteran’s Day parade and assembly. Our primary impetus for going was the fact that my brother, Will had won third place in the school’s Veteran’s Day essay contest and he and the two other contest winners were to read their essays at the assembly. Before the essay reading, however, a motley crew of elderly veterans each stood up and introduced themselves, telling us their names, when and where they served and in which branch. Then two men gave accounts of their experiences during World War II and Vietnam.
Once all the reminiscing was over, the eighth graders read their essays. The prompt: Is patriotism still important? They were all very well written and insightful. However, not to be disloyal to my brother, but the eighth grade girl’s essay was my favorite. Her essay was simple and concise and very moving. She discussed how for much of her childhood, her patriotism had been like her religion—something she’d been born into and had not really ever decided for herself. As she has gotten older and learned more, however, both of these things have become more conscious choices for her and she has begun to take new pride in her country. In her essay, the girl recalled going to the airport with her family at Christmastime to greet troops returning to the States from overseas. In particular, she remembered seeing a soldier coming home to his young wife, toddler son and newborn baby—a baby he was meeting for the first time. This family, she wrote, is the epitome of patriotism. She realized just how much these brave men and women and their families sacrifice again and again in order to defend their country. They give up holidays with family, first days of school, watching their children grow up, seeing their children born. It also their families and loved ones, however, who get them through long, strenuous and dusty tours overseas. If you know me at all, I’m sure it will not come as a surprise that by the end of this eighth grader’s essay, I was crying.

I think far too often, many of us take for granted just how extraordinary our country is. We don’t often think about the many freedoms we have. We don’t often appreciate how unusually and wonderfully diverse a people we are. And we certainly do not often enough stop to appreciate and thank the veterans and soldiers who have made our home and lifestyle possible.
Today my dad wore a shirt that said, “Home of the free because of the brave” and it had each of the seals for each branch of the armed forces. When we were in Starbucks this morning, a woman came up to him, thanked him for serving and shook his hand. He was caught completely by surprise, but the encounter made his day.

So the next time you see a veteran or maybe even someone who is on active duty, thank them; express your appreciation. Maybe you’ll make their day.