Finally Christmas than the Theophany and Baptism.

Its been a while since I last wrote. I have been through a bit this last year with becoming Orthodox. Yep! My kids and I finally got baptized, just after Christmas and during the Theophany (hope thats right). I told my family just a few weeks before and they seemed to take it pretty well.

I finally found God Parents for all of us, and that was not an easy task let me tell you. Gerome and I Share a lovely couple and at first I was worried about Rome not adjusting to the whole baptism but he has surprised me. Tristan would do anything I ask but he did let me know he really does like church and he is learning how to shoot hoops with his God Parents. Evilyn has a great God Mother who I have become such good friends with. She helps us out a lot, and Evi and her are just like buddies.

The friends and family we have made has been so amazing. I don’t know why it took me so long to find this. My parents and siblings and some other family came to our baptism. Heath came and so did his family. It was a neat feeling and experience and even some of the parish attended. Our Priest, I believe was just as exited as I was. It made things nice.

I did my confession the night before and I was expecting the walls of the church to crumble at some of the things I had done. My friend was like, “your young, don’t be nervous”. I was like, “but I have lived like Mary of Egypt”. In the end my Priest was kind and understanding. Maybe not exactly like Mary of Egypt but keeping it G- Rated for the young ones the best I can.

Anyways, I am not sure how often I will blog on this subject maybe as I learn more on my journey I will pop in from time to time to keep it going. This change in my life has literally helped every other aspect of my life fall into place just a little bit better. Note, I did not say easier but better. God Bless.

Finally Orthodox !

Pascha is finished

Christ has risen, truly he has risen. This phrase was a constant during the final pascha services. I did not bring the kiddos to the service even though others did. In the end I found I had made the right choice since sleep after a certain time in the evening is no longer an option for me if I skip it past my bed time. Next year I will be better prepared for this as well. I think personally the service for the littles is way to long and I agree with some of the other members that it is something to be worked into. I will take them to the first part next year and then have them taken home and put to bed.

It was an experience how ever to participate. It was the trinity on a whole new level that I had never experienced before. It was literally a celebration of both Christs life, crucifixion, and his resurrection. It was one of the most beautiful services I have ever seen. It is a very hands on and lots of chanting and singing but its not just about that either. It was beautiful and peaceful, it brought me back to the whole reason I wanted to be an end of life midwife.

I know to the normal and daily observer of life it is what it is. Most people cant bring themselves to think about the end of things but Pascha is very much about the end and the beginning of the end as well as it is about the trinity. I found out later that they do a special service for the dead after they pass. To a non orthodox member it would seem morbid but to me I love the beautiful memorial services. I hope one day to be able to hold a memorial service for my Paro Papu and Paro Yai Yia. There kids should have done it but did not. Well, at least as far as I know.

Almost Done!

Here we are the last week of Pascha and incidentally the hardest week to fast. I however have a plan for next year and I think I will try an execute it little by little through out the rest of the year. I have been studying different types of diets and such because a lot of people don’t do the fast if they have certain medical issues like diabetes an intolerance to gluten. I watched a documentary a while a go where this man who was over wait wanted to cut meat and processed sugars and other foods out of his diet including fish and dairy. I am going do some research through out this year to see what grains and beans I can use to replace some of those meat proteins that we need. The food has to be tasty and it has to fallow guidelines of Pascha and lent season.

I know that if correctly planned as well I could hopefully make more of the daily services for the season as well. This week was the hardest because I have little ones who do not behave in weekly church so you can imagine me not wanting that stress daily. I need a break from chasing them around particularly my daughter who is three years old and has Downs Syndrome. She is cognitively behind about 6 months the average 3 and a half year old.

I have really like the evening services so far. I have only been to the daily Sunday services during the day. I really love greeting the new day in the evening. Liturgy is nice too but I like all the lit candles and the chants for those services. I wish I could be a chanter. I would like to be in the choir when my daughter is a bit older and behaves better.

We shall see what tonight and Saturday nights is like because I will be attending those and then my hubby said he was going to attend church on Sunday with us. I am super grateful for his support on this journey.

I have gained a lot from participating as much as I could. I have learned about forgiveness and sacrifice. It has most definitely changed my perspective of God and Christ. I have even got my oldest into praying at night before bed.

My Pascha as of the lasts few weeks.

I don’t know how Jesus did it but all I can say is, that its harder than it looks. Well maybe back in Jesus time it was easier because he did not have all that much of a diet to begin with. Also, he was going to die for us and he knew this right from the get go from how I understand it.

I did manage to keep from eating all meat except fish for the most part. I accidentally ate it in a garden salad and one other item (cant quite remember what it was right now). I have stayed away from olive oil and wine was harder than I thought. I did figure out why. When you don’t want something the devil wants you to want it more. Or you just want it more because we are human and not perfect and that is what we do.

I did learn that my hubby likes to also want me to want the things I shouldn’t have more. More or less to see how into this religion I am. He said he would do Holy Week and we will be doing it because I am preparing some vegan dishes for us to eat for that whole week. He wont have a choice because I am only cooking for Holy Week and God and the famn damly is just going to have to suck it up. Its hard to cook two types of food for a family. Not only that it costs even more money. We will be having chilly, potatoes of all sorts and types, beans and pasta. I am going make sure to have some snacks as well just to help curb the hungers in between meals.

I have spent less time on the social media and more time at church. I am hoping to be baptized by the end of the summer. I have really been enjoying church and so have the kids. I think the hardest part is picking out a god parent(s). Its hard because their are a lot of good candidates but you have to pick the right ones and they have to be in good standing with the church, and a few other things. So here is to getting through the rest of Pascha.

More to lent than was Expecting

All week I have been participating in what Orthodox Christians refer to as Clean Week. You are not allowed to eat meat, fish, dairy, oil, wine or any alcohol all together depending on who you ask. I started out strong in the beginning. I had attempted to fill my day with stuff to do and tasks to keep me from thinking about the bacon and eggs I had to cook for everyone else for breakfast. It was easy just saying no to cheese and creamer in my coffee.

I made salads and drank lots of water. I even cheated and had some soda since their was nothing about not eating any processed foods like chips and the like. I found myself finding ways to bend the rules just a bit. Tuesday I even told myself they didn’t have beer back in those days so I had a couple of beers. Wednesday night came around and I found myself sneaking a piece of meat off of my sons plate. Thursday we had gone to the store while the kids were in school and I made sure to get things I would eat for the rest of the lent season.

I had started out so good and I was determined to do the entire week clean in order to get closer to God. I even made a lentil soup which turned out really good but I had to freeze the other half in order not to waist it. Shaggy, my oldest even liked it. I had had such high hopes and also ironically I had stopped reading my lent book for a few days. I picked the book back up after my shameful acts of heresy.

I picked up the book and started to read yesterday while doing laundry and another light went off in my head after a couple of chapters. Light number one, its going to be a challenge in some ways. I had forgotten that the closer we get to God the more challenging things can become. I was still just going through the motions and not grasping the full concept. It was also explained to me through the book that if you do not normally do the lent season in full force on a regular it is not going to be easy to cut out all the foods.

Alexander Schmemann also suggests taking it a little at a time. Not getting hard on yourself if you make a mistake. He also makes other suggestions like, cutting out social media and TV. Or at least cutting it down. Reading a book and enjoying the silence. People don’t know how to be silent any more and it makes sense. Our society has made it OK to have back ground noise or a movie at our finger tips. I probably shouldn’t even be blogging but I am not going to be hard on myself this year.

He talked some more in his book about the communion and the debate as to whether or not you should take it if your only taking it during the lent season. The argument is one I know too well. Previously when I was LDS both my mom and my mother in law would offer up to take the kids to church because it would be good for them. I had made some compromises with religion and family because I thought that’s just what you do. I had a strong feeling come over me and I just couldn’t shake the thought of, how my kids would feel if they learned that according to the LDS faith I would not be able to be with them if they were not baptized in the church. I could not bare to have them feel bad, and since I am a big fan of not paying lip service here we are.

I realize my kids may not get baptized in orthodoxy either but at least they have the piece of mind that we are all held accountable for our own choices. I still may find myself accountable for them not getting baptized, I do pray that they choose to be baptized and be able to take communion with me. They live the life style with me by going to church and learning the gospel and praying.

What Schmemann says about the communion argument ultimately is that it gets miss interpreted. Its good to take communion and do confession as well. Communion is our way of asking God for forgiveness and you should do it as often as its presented to you but most people only participate during lent season. He explains that the reason for that is because the church in some places and in some ways has become more relaxed. Also the thought of only participating once a year has unfortunately become the norm in some places.

The biggest thing I have taken away from this week of fasting is this, it is OK to be human. We are supposed to make mistakes and learn from them so we can move on and get closer to God. The more I participate in church, lent, prayer, family etc. the easier it will become. If I take it slow and get stricter and stricter each week I might just make it to Pascha. Still I must keep in mind that I am only human. Next week I will be making some meals in advance. I got a book from the library on how to cook with grains. Currently I am soaking some wheat berries for lunch time.

Greek Girls Can Be Blonde

Once a pone a time their was a Papou who arrived off a big boat with his uncle and worked really hard. They and other Greeks help each other and build a church and community. He owned a candy shop and married a nice girl and had some kids.

He would one day have a great grand daughter by adoption. He would tell her stories when she would visit and pull dollars out from behind her ears. He would show her how to play little ditties on the piano and give her hugs and even wipe away little tears.

One day she would visit and he would whisper this saying in her tiny itty bitty ears, “blood isn’t thicker than water, and Greek girls can be blond, my dear”.

I tell this little story because this Papou died while the girl was still young. She never thought any different, she always thought she belonged. Even though her father tried to help her understand what Papou said. The little girl was a little lost and got confused in her little head.

Some said (or consistently pointed out) that she was adopted, she would reply, “that cant be true, blood isn’t thicker than water and even Greek girls can be blond too”. The words were a constant and she lost what was true. She lost her self, she lost her path, like a dropped call the connection fell through.

She gave up and went searching for a dead end with a nice view. She would meet new people along the way, made a friend or two. One day she found her “blood” and thought that they were nice too. However she still felt something was missing, still wasn’t right. She stopped looking and thought, it wasn’t worth the fight.

Years later when her own kids would be young, they would ask her, “where spiritually do we belong”. Mind you the girl had gone through a rigorous spiritual journey and still found nothing. It seemed from near and far the world heard the children and would say, “we will take them down are path, every which way”. The girl said, “no no that can’t be, I guess I should be a better parent and take them on my spiritual journey with me”.

Her oldest didn’t buy it because he knew his mother to well. The middle son was curious about this man named Jesus with a beard. The youngest was to young, she didn’t really have a point of view. This girl who was now a mother surely knew, she was in trouble and did not know what to do.

As per a regular every year not thinking any thing of it. She went to partake in Greek food and loved it. She drank coffee and said hi to her aunt and her uncle. She happened to be their during the introduction of the new Priest.

There was a tour of the church she had always wanted to see. She convinced her sister to go and they are besties, so that was easy. The priest gave a history of the art on the ceiling. He had a guest book (guess who signed it) and she thought, “no one ever uses these things”.

She was wrong! a month later she would get a strange (not really that strange) message on the phone from the priest. He would thank her as he did all the guests of the feast. She was taken a back, this was not regular. However it gave her to contemplation to say the least.

She decided after a few weeks she would go to her first week of church. She had no idea what she was getting up to and had no idea if that would work. She called the Priest and got the down lo on how this church thing worked.

She dressed her kids on Sunday and went to the Litergy. They didn’t understand it but strangely was able to fallow along. Did I mention that when she walked in the church during the tour she instantly felt like she belonged? The kids behaved, she didn’t burst into flames. She liked it, no she loved it and all was glad they came.

They knew her Papou and told her stories and made her feel like she belonged. She eventually made friends, became a catichuman and now she knows she belongs. She finally realized her Papou’s little phrase and what it met, whispered in her ears so long ago.

He was saying, “God blessed us both”. So our blood is of God we all come from the same stock, adoption or not. You could have been born in Greece, Russia, America or even Hong Kong. Doesn’t matter where you hale what matters is this, “blood isn’t any thicker that water, because your a child of mine, if your a child of his”.

So if you ever doubt where you come from just remember, “blood isn’t any thicker than water, and Greek girls can be blond”.

Temptation rears its dreadful head in a Five Guys.

Saturdays of lent according to the book I am reading are not just for the living they are also memorial services for the deceased. Schmemann said, “Its about the journey back to the source of the holy scriptures”. He reiterates that both lay people and clergy have forgotten what the true meaning of this journey is about. I think that is sad. In Reiki there is a period of a similar type of fast. Where before you can ask the universe (god) in aid to perform Reiki you are supposed to fast by not eating any meat, processed food, refined sugars or drink any alcohol of any kind for a few days previous to a session or getting an atonement. Its supposed to help clear the Chackras and make you a better conductor for the energies.

Today I went to my sisters house to clean. Its a nice little side job and it helps her out, she is a full time hair dresser and it pretty much takes all of her time for the most part of the day. I had to leave to go pick up my oldest from school because it was a half day and decided I probably wouldn’t have any time to get the kids lunch so I stopped at a Five Guys to get them something. Also I was really craving their Cajun fries. After ordering for my kids and realizing I could not just live off Cajun fries alone I had to make a quick decision. Do I break and eat an amazing burger filled with all the trimmings? Or do I order the Veggie Sandwich?

I did the right thing (as far as I was concerned) and ordered the Veggie Sandwich, no onions and extra jalapeno’s. It was OK. I am not gonna lie a burger bun without meat is not a burger. I went away feeling like I had triumphed though. I did not give into temptation but I am also learning to be more conscious of where I stop to eat and if its worth stopping at all. When you think about it their are tones of overly processed foods at restaurants both fast food and not.

Well that is all I have, I also want to say I am not trying to say I am striving to be better than everyone else by doing the strict Lent fast. However I have also never been one to half ass a learning and growing experience. I was interested also to find out today that my husband does still consider himself Christian which means he still believes in God.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits is a really good article on the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Sweet Breath

Today after my daughter came home from preschool I smelled something sweet like honey or perfume. She I thought at first thats what it was but the more I investigated the smell I realized it came from her breath, the saliva in her mouth to be more precise. I am hoping it is not what I dread which is diabetes or hypoglycemia. They say you can keep them in control if you have a proper diet. So I have decided to add Evi (my daughter) to the same ascetic fast as myself.

She has always been pretty adaptable and go with the flow kind of gal. I wont obviously have her do the total fast because that would not be good. Also I guess this means I will also have to cut out food trips to Mac Yucks and the candy still left over from Halloween. I have an appointment on Saturday to have all this checked out for sure. I am nervous because diabetes is common in kids with Downs Syndrome.

That really is all I had to say today. I am still in the middle of a chapter in the book that I am reading and am finding that this week so far has bee fairly easy but we will find out when the real lent season starts and I am out of this prep week.

My little Family

Greek Lentil Soup for the soul

Today I worked at the Mortuary. I sat with this gentleman who had lost his wife. She felt tired last night, and that was it. She had just been diagnosed with Cancer a few days ago and was told she would have a year or less. When older people come in to attend to the funeral needs of their significant other it always makes me the saddest. Even though she had gotten to skip all the pain and anguish that cancer can bring she still left a sadness. Her mother and her husband sat and told me beautiful stories about how and where she grew up and what kind of person she was when she was alive. The husband told me how they met, “she thought I was a pretty good bowler”. He also told me about their first dinner together, “she made me a frozen dinner and I ate it even though it wasn’t cooked all the way”. I told him how nice it was and his reply was, “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings”.

Fakes Soupa aka Lentil soup is a comfort food I never got to eat in my home growing up. It gets served a lot during the lent season. I did not read today about lent but instead I decided to read recipes on lentils and soups. I felt like a comfort food and what better comfort food for lent than Fakes (fak-hess). A friend of mine at church told me that if its made just right it can be really tasty so I gave it a try tonight while my hubby and kids made beef and barley soup. Food is a big part of who we are and I can see why only eating certain foods is permitted during a ascetic fasts. If you think about all the processed meats and foods we put into our bodies on a daily basis I am surprised we are not all dead now.

Fasting isn’t just for spiritual reasons as we are finding out, intermittent fasting can actually be like a recharge for your body. The Orthodox Christians have been doing it for thousands of years because it brings them closer to god. I find this very interesting indeed. Still in the week before Cheese Fair Sunday which means that most things are ok to eat all but meat. I am finding these first three days more about consciously remembering not to eat meat more that thinking, ‘how can I live without that,’ yet.

In my line of work I often find myself needing a comfort of some kind. Either a nice warm blanket, a good home made herbal tea, or comfort food of some kind. I think Fakes may be that new go to comfort food. Death and food go together very well. During memorial services at church they serve food and wine. No one ever takes to much and there is a vibe that I still can not explain. its not necessarily happy or sad. No one is crying about the deceased or angry either. The room knows that an individual has died and yet life still goes on. They realize we need a moment and its a humbled moment. That moment may last one hour or maybe four but that is what it is, a moment.

I am finding that after an individual passes their is a forty day memorial service done after they have been gone for that amount of time. I am still learning but some how this ties into Pascha. Maybe when I am in my class Saturday I will ask the priest about this. Until then lets talk more about this soup.

Normally the recipe for the soup is pretty basic, lentils, tomato past, onion, garlic and a bay leaf. However I had a fridge full of veggies that needed to be used and I felt this would be a good time to use them. My soup was made with carrot, leak, green onion, garlic, chard, mushrooms and lentils. It was a lot but I could not waist an opportunity to use up good veggies that probably would have sat for a very long time and just gone to the chickens. Today since I worked I did not eat at all I only drank coffee and a glass of milk for lunch. I ate Flakes for dinner with crumbled feta cheese, and had a glass of whit wine. Comfort food at its best.

3

Already I F’d up the fast…..

I woke up this morning and got kids ready and took them to school. Romeo my middle son mentioned he was hungry after dropping shaggy my oldest off at school. Now I am pressed for time but in a pinch Mac Yuck’s as their Yai Yai would refer to it would have to do. I don’t now what I was thinking and obviously I was not. I ordered a ham and egg sandwich meal for all of us. I ate it like it was going out of style. Didn’t think a damn thing of it. I am still irritated about it and have no plans on sharing my shame with the hubby (insert face slap here). Irony would have it that I happened to bring my book and note pad. So while I wait for my Romeo’s teacher to come out of the school I could read and instantly be reminded of my sin.

Today I read that their are two types of fast: A total fast, which is abstaining from all food and drink for a period of time. Ascetic fast, which is abstaining from certain foods and a reduction in dairy intake. Both fasts are used in Lent. Alexander Schmemann refers to the total fast as “an opening up or state of preparation”. He talks about how we fast before the Liturgy but the Liturgy is not allowed during Lent except during the Liturgy of the pre-sanctified gifts. It also is allowed on our Sunday services during lent. I am under the impression after reading this that we are too do a total fast every Sunday and that the Eucharist is to be the first food to partake in of that day.

He also talks about how the ascetic fast is to “liberate man from the unlawful tyranny of the flesh”. Its to remind us we need more than mere food to survive. I really liked that part of the chapter. He also writes that when the church was new thousands of years ago the Eucharist was taken every day but obviously that would change over time with the religion and the more people taking part.

Today’s meal is a sinful broke fast ham an egg sandwich and a hash brown. Lunch was literally skipped to write and work on blog, and tonight’s dinner will be fish. Last night I did not eat dinner at all which is probably why I wasn’t thinking when I ordered breakfast. The annoying thing is that I looked at the fast day before I left to take kids to school.

Some of the other things I am trying to do is the Small Compline, which I have been told I need to do every day and I am trying to make it to Monday School since we are learning about the Liturgy. I was able to get the Small Compline printed out and I am to bring with me every Monday. I am also learning about the chants and hymns because I really like them and I also want to learn those as well. One of the many great things about our priest is that he prints everything off in both Greek and English. I am also trying to learn Greek. Got a lot on my plate. I also lucked out and a friend of mine from church was going out of town and needed to unload some veggies and she unloaded them on to me. I will need them and will most definitely eat them.

Also I think I will do a vlog at the end of every Sunday to go over what I have learned throughout the week and what I have encountered with recipes and such. I have heard great tails of a lentil soup that gets made in church every year and am super exited to try it. I am also super exited to make something like it.