Wednesday, 4 November 2015

An Indian Catholic in Catholic America

Did I mention I was Catholic? And that I work with Catholics? And that I'm in the heart of Louisiana that happens to be very Catholic. (Hollywood hadn't prepared me for this.)

So... observations, experiences, thoughts.

1. Mass Etiquette: The Sign of Peace

Well, throughout my life I assumed that the hands pressed together gesture actually was THE 'sign of peace'. I did not realize that it is the Indian namaste adapted for the Church in India. So I come to the US, and people are shaking each others' hands, hugging each other, kissing each other (spouses.. on the lips... IN THE CHURCH.. the horror!) Also a bunch of old ladies make the two finger Jesus-peace sign (as opposed to the hippy make-love-not-war sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll peace sign) to everyone across the aisles.

But apart from repressing the urge to namaste to everyone, the confusing thing is... whom do you hug? (Answer: People you are close to, not perfect strangers... oops) Whose hands do you shake? (Answer: Strangers, and friends who are not into physical affection, or perhaps are more liturgically reserved) How do you know the difference? (Answer: Wait for them to make the first move, and react as if that is what you were planning to do all along. This is a very delicate operation, as you can't wait too long or you'll look like the awkward Indian. Awaiting with reluctance the socially awkward moment when the person I turn tries exactly the same thing, and we both stare at each other, willing the other to make the first move.)

2. Mass Etiquette: Posture and Body Language

In India, it is inappropriate to cross your legs at the knee at Mass. It gives Indians the impression of being a casual viewer, the audience at a movie theatre or a show, not particularly reverent. I was trained into this by my mum who worked hard at getting my siblings and me to 'assume a more prayerful posture' at family prayer as well- no lounging about, feet tucked under us, etc. In Catholic congregations here, many people lean back with their arms around their (respective) spouses, legs crossed. Sometimes there is applause after the last hymn. It definitely makes me feel like we're at a performance.

3. Catholic Dating Wardrobe

 One of the girls living here was going on her first date weekend with someone with whom she had an online long-distance relationship, and invited all the girls in to help her decide what to wear. It was quite the experience for me-about six girls viewing and commenting on each outfit... VERY unanimously. They spoke with one voice. The details of discerning date outfits was something they had obviously worked on many times before.

It sounded from the conversation that every young Catholic woman had the same set of clothes in her wardrobe, which included such items as a flannel shirt, boots, a black dress, dressy sweater, a variety of scarves, black and gray leggings, and such categories as casual but classy, meeting the parents and ordination- appropriate, but also meeting-the-guy-friends-at-the-pub appropriate, Fall-outdoorsy-cute not trying too hard bonfire outfit, etc. Maybe it's because I don't go on dates, or because I have a much smaller set of clothing options (my dress style is 'Gospel poverty' aka shabby/ repetitive), but I have a feeling it would not have taken me that much time or mental energy or friend support to make those kinds of decisions.

4. First All Saints' Day Party aka Holyween.

Super fun Catholic controversy is whether or not Catholics should celebrate Halloween (glorifying evil or 'O Hell, where is your victory, O Death, where is your sting?') My peeps here ignore the whole argument by having a saints dress up party which includes a LOT of candy (known as sweets/chocolates in India). Catechesis plus candy = win-win. We had decorations with lots of saints cards hung everywhere, games, stigmata cookies (not even kidding), etc. I live with about 70 or so very Catholic people, of which about 30 are kids. EVERYONE was very into costume- creating.

So we had multiples of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and Mother Teresa, randoms like Saint Philomena and Polycarp, extremely recents like St. Zelie and St. Martin (St. Therese's parents, canonized a few weeks ago), famous biblical characters like Queen Esther, and assorted animals from Noah's Ark.

And then you had the Lamb of God. She occasionally said, "Behold," and gambolled and pranced a little.

And of course, for my very first All Saint's Day party I went as... 'That Unknown Indian Woman who Made It to Heaven But Noone Ever Officially Canonized Her or Made Saint Cards with Her Picture.' Patron saint of humility. She was so humble, noone ever heard of her.

Whatever. I bin busy.

Anyway I loved that part of Catholic America, remembering and honouring the members of our family who have gone before us. We don't do that much in my Catholic world in India. I'm bring All Saints' Day parties back home!

Okay, more later. Buh-bye.

P.S. Sorry I haven't written in SO long. It's apparently one of the busier times of my life.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

India vs America Diaries

Hey guess what? I'm in the US of A. Or in Umrika as us desi people put it. Hai na? (See how hard I'm trying?) I'm here in the heart of the swamplands of Louisiana with the organization I belong to to get some experience with the yearly training programme they run here, so I can help start something similar in India.

This is my second time in the US, the first time was five years ago when I was a nervous 24 year old who had never lived away from home, never been on a plane and never left the country. When I first came, EVERYTHING was strange and different. *I* felt strange and different, not really like myself. This time I was interested to see what would strike me as different, after having learned to become more comfortable with changes, living in several new homes in the Philippines and India, and then living and working with Americans over the last five years.

Of course I decided to document my observations. You're very welcome.



Road Chaos vs Road Discipline

So when I ride my bike in India, I'm a rule follower. Even so, all the rules involved with being on the roads in the US are so confusing to me. Granted, I don't KNOW the rules. But when an Indian sees a space, they go for it. All the pausing at stop signs, slowly circling parking lots, dawdling before switching lanes, well, even the existence of REAL lanes, is befuddling to my chaotic Indian driving soul. Of course it is nice to feel like you don't have to be trying to to protect your life at every moment. But everything takes so much longer when you can't just go from Point A to Point B, and expect everyone to just look out for themselves.


American Confidence vs Indian Diffidence

Americans seem to be brought up to be adventurous, to confidently stride into situations and feel like they have every right to be there, and demand the assistance that they require. I don't see Americans (in the USA or in India) self consciously wondering whether they are fitting in. Indians on the other hand- we're so self-conscious! We don't feel like we belong, and we carefully watch to see that we're doing the right thing, not being culturally inappropriate, not sounding ignorant or uncouth. Even in India, when I enter a new situation, I'm not entirely sure if  'it's allowed'. If you're American, the good thing is that you're much more likely to try new things, you have the boundless confidence that all things are possible. You might come across as brash or insensitive though. If you're Indian, you are much more sensitive to cultural differences, but you may never leave your home to find out because THERE ARE SO MANY POSSIBLE MISTAKES YOU CAN MAKE!


American Courtesy vs Indian Awkwardness

So this is totally a Southern thing, but complete strangers keep asking how I'm doing, and my Indian awkward introvert self isn't sure whether they actually want to know, and even if they do would it be rude if I just smiled, mumbled something and walked away? My awesome friends took me for a girls' trip on Labour Day weekend, and we stayed at a nice resort in Mississippi. But everyone kept chatting to each other. Small talk, small talk every where! In my city in India, we don't even make eye contact when we don't know each other. It's weird to have people so chatty and courteous here, but mostly nice. I'm just not good at responding. Or initiating. It's like everyone wants to be your friend, but I'm all like, "Me? Are you sure you want to talk to me?" I think it's probably connected with the confidence diffidence point above.


Personal Boundaries vs No Personal Boundaries

So in India, we don't make eye contact or small talk, but we are quite used to sharing our space with a lot of people. We LITERALLY rub shoulders when we're walking on a street, in a shop, travelling by bus or train (well, on a Mumbai local during rush hour you're rubbing a lot more than shoulders. Okay that sounds kinda creepy. But it is kinda creepy.) Now in the US I'm constantly afraid I'm going to get into someone's space accidentally, because when I pass someone on the stairs, with more than a foot of space between us, they say 'Excuse me'!!!!


Hot Summer Experience vs Hot and Cold Summer Experience

So in India, when it's summer, it's just hot. You wear your thinnest cotton clothes, take a lot of showers and try not to move too much. In the Deep South, it gets hot alright. I was surprised at how hot it was.

But here's the thing- air conditioning is everywhere. So when I dress each day, my body is so confused. Jeans and a sweater? Or shorts and a t shirt? I step outside the house for a few minutes and I'm suffocating. I step back in and I'm freezing. My body can't decide how to adjust!

More to come in further posts. If and when I have time.

What differences have you noticed between Indians and Americans?

Monday, 24 August 2015

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

I came across a couple of interesting articles:

Two Hard-Won Tips For Your Discernment

The whole discernment anxiety thing is largely a Catholic problem- what is God calling me to?

Priesthood or Married Life? Consecrated Single Life or Religious Life? Diocesan Priesthood or Religious Priesthood? Religious Life or Married Life? Pick one! Quick!
Although I'm pretty sure God doesn't want us to stress out about it, I think it's a good sign that singles actually are willing to consider more than the default married and two kids. In Catholic circles where I live, most young people aren't even encouraged to seriously think of religious life as an option. Plus most people are brought up on a steady diet of romantic comedies, romance novels and the expectation that by your late 20s you are going to 'settle down'.

 One way or another

Anyway. Assuming that for some people, through retreats or Christian youth movements, they have come to a personal experience of God's love, and a belief that He cares about their life, the choices they make, and has a beautiful plan for their life, the question is.. what is that plan, and how do they move towards it?

For some, the question can paralyze them- how do I KNOW? If I am attracted to someone, that probably means I am called to marriage right? But maybe I am just choosing the easier path? When do I have to make this decision? Can I not think of it right now? But I need to know! What if I make a mistake? I haven't heard a voice from heaven or anything, so how do I know????

The article gives a couple of cool insights:

God Loves You and Wills Your Happiness. Period, Full Stop. No Matter What You Decide. Always.
God isn't trying to make you miserable, or hiding this SUPER IMPORTANT CODE that you need to unlock the answer to life, the universe and everything. If you sincerely desire to do what He wants, and are being faithful in what you DO know He is asking of you, He'll work it out. Also, getting married or becoming a priest or a nun isn't really the key to happiness. And if you did not discern your vocation, and got married, you don't have to worry that you missed your path to happiness. GOD HIMSELF is the key to happiness. And He can write straight with crooked lines.

But that still leaves an important question

If there is a plan, I've not yet made a decision, how do I know what it is, and how do I move towards it?

There plenty of cool resources, articles and videos, like this one:

I think all Fr. Barron's tips work for any vocation, not just for discerning the priesthood-

1. The test of JOY

2. Pray pray pray- ASK GOD! (He wants to guide you) Ask for signs.

3. Read the bible attentively

4. Go to Mass and be attentive

5. Be attentive to the people who know you well

I would add

6. Be faithful in the little things, the daily duties of your life.

Now supposing, you think you know what God is calling you to, what next? The article says:

A Time Will Come In Your Discernment When You Must Act:
Discernment involves a gradual series of temporary commitments that are intrinsically ordered to the concrete living out of that vocation... 
Like entering seminary or a religious community (making temporary vows), or enter into a courtship. Not just thinking about a vocation, but starting to actually explore it.

 Of course, they add:
Now there undoubtedly many circumstances in which good people may find themselves where they must say, “I can’t even make one of those temporary commitments because of X!” and that can be for many, many legitimate reasons. That’s totally fine, you have to ask for the grace to trust God’s providence that you are where he wants you to be right now.
I think that's where some people I know are at- they are still studying, they can't afford to support a family yet, they don't have a steady job yet. I think that when people are in that position, it's pretty irresponsible to start something they can't finish, or make promises they can't keep. Then also I think some people shouldn't start something because of emotional, psychological or spiritual reasons- like they are not emotionally mature- they are struggling with insecurities and neediness, they are still dealing with major issues like anxiety or anger or depression or addictions, or they have not yet learned how to take responsibility for their own life. All these things can affect their ability to give themselves completely as any lifetime vocation demands.

Obviously no one finishes dealing with all their issues perfectly before they get married. We're all works in progress. But I guess I'm saying we should be 'in progress', not just stuck in a self-destructive cycle that prevents us from loving. Otherwise it's easy to choose a vocation for the wrong reasons (this guy completes me, being in a convent will give structure to my life, maybe having a family will give my life meaning).

But supposing, you're kind of sorted. You are aware of your weaknesses, you're working on them by God's grace, you are living a life in communion with Christ, you are relating in healthy ways to the people around you, and you're done trying to 'find yourself'. And you are ready to give yourself away in a committed meaningful way.

Now what? Make a move! Why does this sound so scary?

Because all commitment, even temporary commitment, involves an element of risk. Our generation hates risk. We are terrified of making the “wrong” choice and losing everything...

But Love is a risk! Always! What do I risk by telling people that I am “discerning priesthood” for example? Pretty much nothing. What do I risk by actually going to seminary? Time, money, my heart, the opinions of others. That’s a lot!

A good litmus test is this: Does my discernment involve a risk to me personally in any way? Is there a chance that this might not work out and I would experience pain? If the answer is no, what we are doing is probably less like discernment and more like thinking and talking about doing something.

So, are you a Catholic man thinking about the possibility of priesthood? Talk to your vocation director about going to seminary! Do it soon!

Are you a Catholic woman thinking about Religious life? Have you investigated good communities? Visited them? If not why not?

Has your prayer led you to a desire for Holy Matrimony? Men, are you asking Catholic women out on dates? If not why not? Ladies, are you open to going on dates when asked? [Read the rest here]

Very related to this, another article that popped up on Facebook was from the Art of Manliness:

Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them

Some good points:

1. She wants you to ask. Most of the girls I know want guys to have enough initiative to just ask. And sadly enough, even with many couples I've heard from, finally the girl got tired of waiting and made the move herself. Didn't do a lot for her confidence or trust in this guy's ability to be decisive. So many marriages where the man chooses passivity, and women feel the need to control.

2. Asking is easy. NOT VIA TEXT OR ON FACEBOOK. This line-
If you’re poking a woman you’re interested in on Facebook, you lose any credibility as a man.
3. Keep dates simple.

4. Prepare for rejection. YES- it's not the end of the world if a woman says no. It's an easy way to know God's will for you. :-) And please please please don't take notes from Bollywood movies and think that persistence (or stalking, or emotional blackmail, or gift-giving in the face of rejection, or being hung up on a woman forever) is the way to a woman's heart. Move on.

 5. Just do it, damn it. Well, pray about it, ask a good friend for advice if necessary, then if you feel at peace, go for it! [Read the rest here.]

Guys, you think this is tough? For girls, it's probably ten times harder. You know what we have to do?


Yeah. At least if we want the kind of guy who is brave enough and sure enough to pursue us.

Okay disclaimer: All this advice is great when you actually have the kind of options you are looking for. It's much harder for a guy to ask if he hasn't met any girls who are on the same page when it comes to faith. It doesn't make that much difference if a girl is open to going on a date, if the guys  asking are very far from what she ever could have imagined as Catholic husband material. What if you feel called to religious life, but you have never come across a religious community in your area (or country) you feel attracted to at all? What if the idea of priesthood appeals, but none of the orders you've seen has the fire and holiness that attracted you in the first place?

I guess we go back to praying, and trusting that God's got it. Thankfully, God alone really IS enough.

Related Posts:

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For)

Life Begins when You Meet the Man of Your Dreams

9QT: 9 Things Christian Singles Are Secretly Afraid Of

7QT: Courtship, Wars and Links

Thursday, 20 August 2015

You Know You Live in a City in India When....

You are visiting one of those few oases of green, a garden, hoping for a little fresh air, silence, and solitude, but every single one of the benches lining the avenue is taken by couple of all shapes and sizes and head coverings, who snuggle into each others' arms, getting closer, closer, more entwined until FWEEEEEEEEEET! The security guy/watchman blows his whistle to announce that SOMEONE has broken the rule: 'Thus far and no farther.' They then spring apart as all eyes are turned on them. But even the potential shaming doesn't stop the next couple, and the next. This really happens.


You read news articles where police are quoted as saying "In true Indian culture, love is not for display at a public place or garden. Hugging and kissing at a public place is not our culture and therefore we are also opposing Valentine's Day. If love is real, you do not glorify it by kissing each other at a public place, but you do it within confined space of four walls."


There is nowhere, nowhere within the city you CAN be alone with your beloved (except in your home, which for most people wouldn't be alone anyway) without the danger of being mugged. This drives all dating couples to leave the city perched on two wheelers, and head for the nearby hills and forts. Where all the other couples head on weekends too. Oh well, you tried. And you could get mugged there too.


You and your group of friends have all gone on multiple monsoon treks to the hills, where you got muddy and exhausted (because that's the only exercise you've done in a year), but felt really cool and adventurous and brave when you reached the top of the hill. (Wait is this only a Pune thing?)


You hear a screech of tyres, a clash of metal, on the road nearby, and everyone falls silent, straining their ears for the probable sounds to follow- raised, angry voices, getting louder and angrier, with more joining in, until a fight breaks out. That's because more often than not the driver of a vehicle that causes an accident is beaten up by a mob. If you hold your breath, and the sounds fade away, you heave a sigh of relief.


Your eyes are scanned for the mangled bodies of dead dogs on the road. Because you have seen them too often. Even if you aren't an animal lover, you are hoping hoping those dumb dogs pick up some survival skills and stop stumbling around in the middle of the street waiting for someone to kill them.


You get on your bike to ride somewhere, see maybe fifteen other vehicles on the street and perhaps twenty pedestrians and think, "Wow, the streets are empty today."

 An empty street


I you are a girl on the street, either pedestrian or bike-riders, you are swathed in scarves that render you faceless. This has multiple possible reasons: to protect your hair from getting greasy with pollution, to lessen the amount of smoke you inhale, to protect your face from pollution- and dirt-induced breakouts, and of course to make sure if any aunty from your neighbourhood sees you clinging to some guy on a bike, or talking to a guy on the street, she'll never know who it was, so she can't go and complain to your parents about your indecent behaviour.


A tiny percentage of bike-riders are actually wearing helmets. As we said, the girls wear scarves, because their complexions are more important than their brains. The men now... many of them carry their helmets... on the crook of their arms, as they ride. Or locked on the helmet lock on the back of the bike. Maybe a few will actually wear one... with the straps undone. 

 The minority


You ride on the streets like you expect everyone to try to kill you. This is the only way to survive. You have very low expectations of everyone else's common sense, desire for your survival, and even desire for their own survival. Defensive driving is a finely honed but essential skill.


The End. For now.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

How To Know You're Failing at Humility

I love talking about humility. Because I know how hard it is. Some people think that because I talk about not being humble, I must secretly be humble. But people who are close to me know that's not the case. Self-knowledge doesn't eradicate the pride.

Still, I'm trying somewhat to work on it. Swallowing the indignation when I'm NOT asked to do something I know I'm good at. Accepting the little pinpricks of being misunderstood. Swallowing the words as the unbidden thought appears too often "I could do that better!"

I think I'm doing better. But then I come across some words of Mother Teresa, on Facebook of course. (That's where I do my spiritual reading.)

Let's take that apart:

These are the few ways we can practice humility:

 Yay, I love practical how to lists, bring it down from the vague and idealistic to the very practical. This should make it so much easier.

To speak as little as possible of one's self.

Oh. Hmm. So constantly telling MY stories of MY thoughts and MY feelings and MY experiences is not a good idea? But but but... I'm amusing! Conversations would be boring if I didn't! People WANT to hear them. Plus everything that happens to me is FASCINATING. So what I occasionally have to fight to get my story in? Everyone will see that it's worth it once they hear it.

To mind one's own business.

Not to want to manage other people's affairs.

Well, yeah. everyone should mind one's own business. (Childhood rhyme that got used a lot: Mind your own business, and I'll mind mine. Kiss your own sweetheart, and I'll kiss mine.) But not WANT to manage other people's affairs? What about when it's OBVIOUS to me how to handle something someone is struggling with? I'm a fixer! What about positive influence?

 (I am totally on the guy's side of this video)

To avoid curiosity.
 Oh, oh. Now that. Come on, what's wrong with wanting to know who is secretly interested in whom, who was the one who initiated it and how, why so and so REALLY left the group, and so on and so forth. I especially want to know what it is people said about me. Just normal conversation, right?

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
I came across a phrase in the book 'Strange Idols' by Elizabeth Scalia which hit home. It was 'the addictive need to be right'. I am always right, and I will prove it.

To pass over the mistakes of others.
The curse of the critical mind. Sometimes all I can see is the flaw, the mistake. And then of course, there is the addictive need to figure out WHOSE FAULT IT IS. And to say 'I told you so'.

To accept insults and injuries.
I've gotten in the habit of muttering 'RUDE!'when I feel like someone has treated me the wrong way. (This happens a lot on the road when other drivers cut lights, or endanger me in some way.) So saint-like. You can just imagine Mother Teresa walking down the streets of Kolkata mumbling 'Rude!'and shooting glares at passersby.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
Ah. Who can accept that? At least when one is disliked, you can puff yourself up into a dramatic victim status. But forgotten? To accept that? To say 'Thank you God that they forgot to invite me to that party' and mean it? 

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
It's so easy to pride myself on my gentleness and selflessness when I'm with other gentle and selfless people. It's easy to be humble when you're with other humble people. Everyone is vying to accept the blame, everyone wants to be the one to wash the dishes or do the dirty tasks. But what if people don't respond in the way you expect them to? What if your efforts are met with suspicion, or even hostility? Can you keep your peace then? Stop the blood from boiling at the injustice of it all?

Never to stand on one's dignity.
When my dignity has been offended, I know it. 'This is not the way' as we say in India. Nobody should be allowed to speak to me in that way. I should be respected! I will not stand for anyone to talk down to me. 

To choose always the hardest.
The hardest what? The hardest response? To deny oneself, kill that immediate egotistical response that rises to the surface, to resist the devil within? 

Okay, so failing a lot of the time. But it's not too late.

This is battle. And it's never really done. But knowing the enemy is a good first step. And as hard as they seem, these battle strategies are going to help.

Let us begin.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Songs That Make You Think 'You're Kidding, Right?'

-- Jessie's Girl--

So catchy, semi-pathetic- 'Where can I find a woman like that? I wish that I had Jessie's girl...' But then you listen more closely, and you think 'How old is this guy? That sounds really immature.'

Jessie is a friend,
Yeah, I know he's been a good friend of mine
But lately something's changed
It ain't hard to define
Jessie's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine

And then you hear these words:

And I'm lookin' in the mirror all the time (That's what you do when you have a hopeless crush. You look in a mirror. At yourself.)
Wonderin' what she don't see in me (So hard to imagine.)
I've been funny; I've been cool with the lines
Ain't that the way love's supposed to be?


Yes, twelve year old boy, THAT is exactly the way love is supposed to be-it's all about being funny and cool with the lines.

But then one has to wonder- was Rick Springfield just having a laugh at the world's expense?

---Two Steps Behind---

Walk away if you want to
It's OK, if you need to
(Passive aggressive, anyone?)
You can run, but you can never hide
From the shadow that's creeping up beside you
(YOU said creep, I didn't)
There's a magic running through your soul (magic, another word for panic)
But you can't have it all 

(Whatever you do)
I'll be two steps behind you
(Wherever you go)
And I'll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around and I'll be two steps behind

CREEPIEST SONG EVER. Also known as Stalker Song. Again, did he do it for fun? Could anyone have seriously meant this for a love song?

---Do They Know It's Christmas---

Okay I realize this song is MEANT to bean act of love- raising money and awareness for victims of a famine in Ethiopia. But but...

But say a prayer, to pray for the other ones, at Christmastime
It's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
(I approve this message....)
And it's a world of dread and fear
(...but everything outside your world of comfort isn't a world of dread and fear)
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears (Okay, drought reference, fine)

And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom (Little dramatic, but we'll let it go)
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
(Wait what did you say? Maybe I misheard you. Let's hear it again...What?)


Yes, THAT is the appropriate response to suffering in the world.... THANK GOD with all your heart that in the lottery of life YOU got to sit in a comfortable first world house opening multiple gifts and sipping eggnog, and that some faceless Ethiopian was the one who got picked to starve in a famine. It's hard to grasp the whys of suffering, the reality of the great divide between the haves and have-nots, and there are no easy answers, but I promise you that THAT is the most selfish response I have every heard cloaked under a thin veneer of gratitude. Blech!

And then...

Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

There IS a world outside of the UK. A Christian world, that knows it's Christmas even when it isn't snowing, or when it isn't  possible to feast in the same style as rich first-worlders. The first Christmas was a quiet affair in the Middle East, and Christmas is celebrated in the poorest homes in all corners of the earth. The birth of Jesus is even more precious to His little, poor, weak ones.

---More Than Words---

Okay, I like this song. I like the melody, the rhythm. It's one of the typical songs that we sing when someone pulls out a guitar. BUT. I'm hearing something more than a simple love song.

Saying I love you 
Is not the words I want to hear from you 
It's not that I want you 
Not to say, but if you only knew 
How easy it would be to show me how you feel 
More than words is all you have to do to make it real 
Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me 
'Cause I'd already know 

Did you hear that? No? What I'm hearing is a boyfriend pressurizing his girlfriend to have sex. "Baby if you REALLY loved me, you'd SHOW me."

THAT'S NOT REAL LOVE. Just saying.

Okay random ranty rant over. Thanks for your patient listening. Feel free to actually pull up the lyrics of the songs you listen to and take them apart too. Don't be sheeple!

7 Ways My Mum is Awesome

So my mother's birthday is one day after my dad's, and it looks like blog posts are the new birthday cards... so here goes.


My mum is one of those crazy multi talented people who can do it ALL. I mean it! She cooks better than most people I know- every meal is a feast, she writes stories and poems- often on the spur of the moment, she sings, she draws, she bakes and decorates gorgeous wedding cakes, puts together artistic cards, is a word game whiz, and is pretty much up to any kind of creativity challenge you could propose. Yes, yes, kind of hard to live up to that kind of awesome. My siblings and I survived by dividing her talents among ourselves. So we each have a fifth of all that genius.

Why yes, she DID make that

And that

AND that!


She is a Story-Teller. Quite effortlessly she can weave a tale and capture an audience, without them ever realizing it. As kids, we would be excited for electricity cuts, because when it was dark, the only thing to do was listen to Mama's stories. There were some so spell-binding we would demand them again and again. I see her weave the same spell with my nieces, and sometimes when she is reading a storybook to children in the presence of adults, adult conversation trails off and suddenly everyone is listening. I have somewhat taken after her in this regard, but only realized after actually being in the middle of a made up story, that it's not the easiest thing in the world to keep a story going while preventing it from boring everyone to tears ("And then... um... he fell down. And then.. um... he kept walking... and walking.. and walking....")


She is a Memory-Maker. She created all these little childhood traditions for us- every night we'd wait for her to spread the bedsheets over us ('fishy-cover') and then sing a few lullabies (Train Whistle Blowin', Chi baba chi baba) which was the most comforting and soothing sound in the world. I'm pretty sure I wished that tradition had lasted well beyond the stage it did. Then of course we had Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, we had birthday mornings where she always got everyone to make a big fuss over the birthday boy or girl- presents, cards, cake, being woken up by the whole family singing happy birthday. She planned and organized theme parties for each of our birthdays, with cakes and games and decorations all made by her- storybook parties, princess parties, Little Peter Rabbit parties, Facebook parties, etc. Inspired by her, we organized neighbourhood fetes and fancy dress competitions, made eucalyptus perfume, built dollhouses, climbed trees, took part in story-writing competitions, sang along to Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, and devoured storybooks.

How my cousins and siblings spent a lot of our childhood


She is Full of Fun- quite the life of the party, though not everyone who knows her knows that. I may or may not have gotten a little bit of my crazy from her too. Yes indeed, back in the day, I was the one getting embarrassed by the weirdness of my mother instead of the other way round. I distinctly remember coming home as a family from a wedding late in the night and my mother singing loudly and randomly. I was caught between embarrassment and wanting to be that free and happy and mad... so that night I crossed over to the other side. 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' I also have many memories of family prayer times interrupted by fits of the giggles which yes indeed, Mama, was as prone to as the rest of us.


She is a Hard Worker. She is one of those Proverbs 31 women who work from dawn to dusk (well, apart from the essential Indian afternoon nap) and does not eat the bread of idleness- late nights helping us with projects, wrapping gifts for Christmas, cooking for parties, working on her catechetical lessons, making elaborate and thoughtful birthday cards, going the extra mile and not grudging the effort. With five kids and the urge to do things well, no wonder she looks tired in most of the old family pictures we have.

 Of course I look tired, I just had a baby!


She is a willing student in the School of the Holy Spirit. She has this special intimate familiar relationship with Jesus that at first I would just observe. How did she hear Him speak so clearly in her prayer time? How did she get so many prayers answered? How could she ask so confidently for the most insignificant things? Little by little I saw that the intimacy of love she knew could be mine too if I desired it. I've seen the possibility and the truth of a real, authentic, challenging, sanctifying relationship with a real, gentle, loving God- because she has that kind of relationship.


She has allowed herself to become a fruitful tree under which many take shelter. In Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II says "The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way.... Thus the "perfect woman" (cf. Prov 31:10) becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These "perfect women" are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations."

Many have found support and strength from my mother. Many have told me they wished they had a mother like mine. I have often directed people to her when I find people who just need someone to talk to, to mother them, to lead them to Christ. She has often served me as a spiritual director. When I have faced spiritual attack or darkness, confusion or doubt, times of struggle and misunderstanding, I knew I could always turn to her for prayer, for words of wisdom and for a Mary-like reminder to 'Do whatever He tells you.'

I love you, Mama. Happy birthday!