Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter: The Story of Death (and of Life)

 This is my contribution to the Convergent books Synchroblog.

Easter. Resurrection? Right?  Happy memories of children hunting eggs, jelly beans, and a large family dinner.  Not always.  Did you ever stop to think that Easter is another day?  People are born (like my friend Dan from college was born on Easter Sunday.)  People also die. 

April 16, 1995 was a beautiful warm day in West Virginia.  A friend of mine was offered extra credit in a college class to attend church, bringing a church bulletin in with him the next morning.  So finally, he offered to attend church with me.   My mother was working at the local nursing home, and he was also scheduled to work soon after church, so I fixed lunch for us.  As soon as he got to work, he knew something was wrong when Mom wasn't at her station, and he went running to my grandmother's room.   He declared, "I should have brought Jennifer with me."  Because it was shift change, I was called, told I would be picked up by someone I never met and I was, on the day we celebrate the Resurrection, I was going to be present at my grandmother's death.

It was the hardest thing I'd ever done up to that point in my life, which at twenty-two, wasn't that long of a life.  To be so joyful at a worship service that morning and then watch as life waned from my grandmother, her eyes studying me, knowing she wouldn't see me for a very long time.  Easter now has become synonymous to me with a last breath, making arrangements at the funeral home, and the feeling of emptiness that Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Did you realize that Mary and Mary Magdalene did their first century equivalent of making funeral arrangements?   They were headed to the tomb, not understanding what happened.  They only knew the One whom they loved died a gruesome death reserved for the very dregs of society.  Their Son, their Friend.  Gone.  I'm sure if they even remembered the words of Jesus from John 10:17, they didn't grasp them.  (This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.)  Or the words from John 16:22 (So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.)

My mother, every year on Easter and on April 16 mourned the loss of my grandmother.  Mom always said it was like two anniversaries of death and told me "You never get over the loss of your mother."  I thought she was exaggerating because wouldn't you learn to live without someone?

February 18, 2014, my boyfriend dropped me off at RCIA.  I made the decision last year to become Catholic and needed to be at the class.  We had been running errands in a town an hour away, spending much of the afternoon in the DMV.  He was going to check on Mom, then return for the rest of class.  When the phone rang, my first thought was, "Why is he calling?   He knows I'm in class."  I stepped out of the room, and heard, "I had to call 911.  She's unresponsive."  When I returned to the class, I was asked if I needed to go.  I explained I had no car.  Soon a second phone call.   A paramedic questioning me about her medical conditions.  My boyfriend on the phone telling me I needed to get home.  As I gathered my things, and grabbed a friend out of the class to give me a ride 10 miles up the mountain, I heard the lesson.  The Eucharist.   "This do in remembrance of me."  It's how we, as Christians, remember the death of Jesus. 

The next time I heard my priest's voice, he was standing by my mother who had passed away.  Because my mother was not Catholic, he could not do Last Rites, but did a prayer of committal of her spirit to God.  The Scriptures were comforting, at least as comforting as they could be at the moment when my mother was gone.  I had fully expected to see her later that evening.  Sobs racked my body, though.  My boyfriend on one side of me, the friend who brought me home from church on the other.

It is two months today since Mom died.  It's hard.  I had to have follow ups to a mammogram because something suspicious was found.  I wanted her there so badly.  (Thankfully all was clear.) I have waited for marriage until I found the right man.  Mom met him, but she said last summer that she had two last things she was living for, one was to publish a book she wrote, and the second was to see me married.  My heart aches at the thought of a wedding now that neither of my parents are alive. 

When my dad passed away, I had recently taken a trip to Israel with a friend who was Episcopalian and her Jewish boyfriend.  He stepped up and did the best he could of sitting Shiva with me -- every evening he phoned me.  It was comforting to know that someone acknowledged my grief beyond the time my dad's body was placed in the ground.

I learned more about Jewish mourning rituals at that time.  There's a tradition called avelut where, if your parent has died, you should avoid celebrations, parties, and the like for a year.  My boyfriend's step-mother called recently wanting us to visit on Easter, or for them to visit.  We live five hours away and rarely see each other.  I don't feel ready for a celebration.  I'm not entering the Catholic Church at Easter as I planned but giving myself more time. (I will elaborate on this in an upcoming blog post).   My heart is still shattered.  Although Christians don't follow Jewish mourning rituals, I feel justified in knowing the celebration I looked forward to may not be appropriate for me just yet.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, but right now, I'm still living in Good Friday.  I'm feeling what the disciples felt after losing Him.   I'm sure someday I'll have more of an understanding of Resurrection, Eternal Life, and Heaven, but right now, I'm feeling grief.  Because of my Grandmother, even Easter Sunday has grief woven through it, but maybe, just maybe that's how it should be.  What if we didn't just celebrate the Resurrection on Easter, but remember how death hurts, leaves an ache that won't go away -- unless we see the Person again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recyle on Earth Day and Everyday!

I have recently upgraded to an iPhone through U.S. Cellular.  It's a fantastic phone, and I'm so happy that U.S. Cellular finally started selling the iPhone last year.  I've been an Apple girl for a few years, and it felt awkward to have my computer and tablet on one system, and my phone on another.  Now everything all works on the same platform!  It's so much easier to transfer photos to my computer, and I didn't even have the learning curve that often is associated with a new phone.  It takes great photos and I couldn't be happier with it!

One thing U.S. Cellular has started is their Trade in Program.  You can trade in your old device for cash.  Who doesn't have old cell phones and electronics sitting around?  I know I did!  All you need to do is check out the link, fill out a few details on your device, accept the offer and ship it off -- and they even pay postage!   So quick and easy -- and extra money in your pocket!  What's not to love?

Because it is April, I want to highlight a few ways I use my phone to keep the earth a greener place.   One app I highly recommend is Freecyle and Trash Nothing.  While Freecycle has been around for some time, it's even easier on your phone.  I have given away a chair, an unworking refrigerator, a 1970s typewriter, and more!  I have received used Christmas cards (I make postcards from the front) as well as the the same chair I gave away later when it was no longer needed.  I know someone who often gets old computers, fixes them and gives them to inner city children who otherwise wouldn't have access to a computer!

Photo courtesy

Recyclebank is a site I've used for years.  There's lots of great information on it.  I just took a quiz on if my freezer is running effeciently and did you know that if you keep it filled, it can cut down on energy used and you can even use newspapers and packing peanuts to help keep it filled if you don't have enough stored in there for it to be filled up!  Just by using Recyclebank, you earn points you can redeem for rewards.  I've gotten magazine subscriptions there in the past as well as printable coupons.

I'm always wishing I knew a place to recycle certain items.  1800Recycle tells me where there is recycling for different items in my area.  No more wondering where accepts newspapers or electronics, it's all right here!

Another app I like is one for my favorite gas station.   I know that sounds like an odd one to include in a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle post, but I drive a hybrid car and I know what my miles per gallon are each trip.  Obviously I prefer to fill the car where I get the best gas mileage to reduce gasoline used!  Also, I have a refillable mug for 100 ounces.  I can fill that with soda for under $1 or self-serve coffee for under $1.50.  This is great when on road trips, just pull out my iPhone and I can find the station nearest me!  This is just another great idea on how to make your phone work at keeping your eco-footprint lower.

Joulebug is another fun app.  You can earn badges for doing earth-friendly things and compete against your friends.  They say that doing the suggestions in the app can save users over $200 a year.  For instance, I learned that every minute of a shower costs you $8 per year!  That's incentive there to take shorter showers!  It also recommends using a refillable mug when you get coffee.  It says that in terms of energy used, those paper cups are worse than styrofoam.  (Maybe it's time that people stop making fun of my 100 ounce mug!  I'm just saving the planet, right?  A caffeine  habit has nothing to do with it, does it?)

What are your favorite apps for helping the planet?  They can be ones that are specifically for that purpose, or something a little more unconventional like how I use my gas station app to help the environment!

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post from U.S. Cellular.  I am part of their blogger brigade and all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day

Did anyone celebrate Tax Day by building a snowman today?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Are you following me everywhere?

Are you following me on all my social media accounts?   There's so many these days that I just wanted to give an update of where all you can find me.


(This is links to interesting eBay auctions I have up, plus other things of interest!)






Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Problem of a Markered Forehead

Yesterday,  I had an appointment to make appointments.  Unfortunately, that seems to be my life these days between my mother's passing and all the paperwork that needs done with that and some not-so-good test results from the doctor.

Yesterday I needed to add a few things to my grocery list.   I was in a hurry.   I have always loved scented items that aren't normally scented.  With allergies, I can't really use candles and such, but things like scented pencils, scratch and sniff stickers, etc. have always been a favorite of mine.  I had bought a few scented markers when my mother was in the hospital and grabbed a blue one, scented like blueberry.

I jotted down cottage cheese, apples, cheddar cheese, and salsa.  Sticking the list in my pocket, I headed out the door.

After my appointment discussing my health in which they asked if I had children and I said no, I visited the restroom. 

There across my forehead was a big blue marker streak.

I'd already said I didn't have children.  It wasn't Ash Wednesday so I could think that the lady interviewing me would think my church used blue ashes.

One more reason I wish I had children. . . someone to blame when I do things like this! Ha ha! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Giveaway: Purex Limited Edition Fabulously Fresh Crystals (Ends 4/13)

Recently I was asked to review and host a giveaway for Purex Crystals in the Limited Edition Fabulously Fresh scent.  Of course I said yes!  My boyfriend absolutely loves fresh smelling laundry and this did not disappoint -- and laundry stays smelling fresh for weeks.   I'd never used Purex Crystals before, but all you have to do is add it to the wash with your laundry detergent.  Super simple!

The Purex Fabulously Fresh Crystals are colored green, so fun for spring!

Purex has generously offered me three totally free coupons to give to my readers.  The coupons expire on September 1, 2014 and ONE PERSON will win ALL THREE coupons for Fabulously Fresh so you can have Fabulously Fresh laundry for a long time -- or share with friends.

You need to be 18 or older to enter, and live in the USA.  Giveaway ends 4/13.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free bottle of Purex Crystals in the Limited Edition Fabulously Fresh Scent in exchange for this post and hosting this giveaway.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Review: Girl At the End of the World

Preaching to the crowds at nine years old was part of Elizabeth Esther's childhood.  As the book opens, that's where we find her, telling people they might die and face the judgment.  Added is the tip that if no one is paying attention shout the name of "The Lord Jesus Christ".  Already this book had me hooked.  After all, who wouldn't be curious about the life of a childhood street preacher?

The judgment may be at hand, so the church she grew up in made absolutely sure that everyone was ready for Revelation to be played out at any moment.  Setting up secret hiding places was normal.  As well as, in later years, learning how wearing a thong was a sin because God would see it.  After all, girls should be modest.  But hopefully by that time, the children would have had all the sin spanked out of them and they would be following what was taught.

Or not.  When Elizabeth Esther goes to high school, which is a public school after years in her church school, she discovers boys.  And defiles herself before marriage by doing the shameful act of kissing her secret boyfriend.  After all, dating isn't allowed, only courtship.  Even her clothes in sizes too big for modesty sake  doesn't keep the boys -- or friends -- away.  It is in high school she decides she wants to go to college -- to escape.  Of course, this idea doesn't fly with her dad, who as in most patriarchal systems, calls the shots for his household. 

She does escape, obviously, or she wouldn't have told the tale.  While I didn't grow up in a church this abusive, several things echoed true for me.   I remember thinking as a child I needed to find a hiding place to store a Bible because we were taught as small children at church that the Russians were coming and they were going to kill all Christians and destroy all Bibles, so that is why we needed to memorize Scripture.  (I didn't realize that if we were dead, it wouldn't have mattered how much we had memorized.)

This is an excellent book for those who have come out of any type of abusive church situation.  Learning to think for yourself after a situation like that is not just difficult, but frightening.  There's always the "What If They Are Right?" question stuck in the back of your brain wondering if you are the one who is wrong and not them.   It's also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to see what the insides of a cult are like.   It is a book that you can't put down.  It's a tale of survival, hope, and escape.  She learned to think for herself and no longer be brainwashed.

FTC disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  Yet I only recommend products I like and believe are of value to my readers.

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