December 30, 2009

ah, the hours drag… and it is only 10:00! we really should just be closed this time of year. i’ve spent the last few days explaining to the occassional caller that, though we may be open this week, only 6 of the 33 employees are in the office (most of them snoozing at their desks – no joke!).

to be sure, this blog would not exist were it not for the great lapses of activity here at work. but i suppose it is better that i churn out some meager words here than keep perusing aol news. right? right?

my relationship with technology oscillates furociously – some moments i am amazed by all you can do and learn and read through it, other days i am sure it is marking our demise as humans. i was lamenting to mark last night that i come home each day so thoroughly drained and tired even though i have done nothing but sit and stare at a computer. it makes no sense to me. all i want to do at night is remain horizontal with cookies, books, and movies.  its like this lifestyle is flattening me (literally) at times.

luckily, however, i have a loving husband who gets me moving and a cozy apartment that keeps me inspired. monday night mark met me at work and we walked up to the north loop, armed with a gift card for a cozy italian restaurant and the intention of belatedly toasting my birthday. we slowly stuffed ourselves with garlic and carbs and wine (it was seriously such a beautiful meal) and mark gave me a sweet little gift: pretty, colorful wood jewlery and a scarf – the sort of thing i would hover over in admiration at a store but never actually buy myself.  its such a wonderful thing to have these bright moments in the midst of the dead winter.

the day before christmas we got an onslaught of beautiful christmas cards from so many dear friends and family and now they are literally covering our window sills, vying for space and attention and providing much needed motivation to keep crafting. its hard to lie around reading when aubree’s christmas card is staring at you saying ‘hey, finish putting together that package you were supposed to send two weeks ago’.

and so my christmas spirit continues to thrive.

which is good because in the Catholic church it is still christmas! how swell is that? just when you think you failed to attain to the heights of holiday cheer, you get a few extra weeks! i love it. bustling into st. peter’s on monday morning before work i was so pleasantly surprised by the complete takeover of christmas decorations in the sanctuary – softly lit christmas trees scattered in the aisles, huge bright poinsettas gathered around the icons, and a ginormous nativity set. great fodder for distracting me in prayer but also so great for filling my heart up with joy. if that doesn’t make you want to go to church, i don’t know what will.

i suppose i have rambled enough. lest we don’t meet again before the new year: all manner of well-wishes and happiness to you, friends, both in your midnight celebrations tomorrow night and throughout the new year!


the silence

December 28, 2009

there is this old ingmar bergman movie called ‘the silence’ that i watched years ago about two sisters staying in a hotel with a young boy. it was a pretty good movie, not in the sense that i remember it well, but that i strongly remember the feeling it evoked –  just hallways and hallways full of silence that make you feel as if these three are the only people in the world.

and this is what it feels like at work today…hallways and hallways of silence that make you feel as if you are all alone. i must say, i don’t quite mind. after a busy holiday weekend, i’m quite fine with hanging out, emailing, and online [window] shopping while the few souls who did decide to come to work, clean out their offices (and then proudly show me the inboxes they found under all those piles).

the christmas weekend was wonderful, though busy. i must say i silently resent all the running around it required, though this reveals my depravity. i should be far more thankful for the blessing of an abundance of loving family. we spent christmas eve’s eve and christmas eve with mark’s dad and brothers, drinking beer and eating lots of food. our marital status was confirmed at the larger franzen family holiday get-together as i progressed from last year’s quiet prayers that i wouldn’t have to talk to certain family members to this year’s active avoidance. in the end, i escaped drunken rants and being force-fed seafood successfully.

christmas morning was spent with my family before my mom’s loud italian siblings arrived in the afternoon (with me, still shamefully in my pajamas since ‘christmas in connecticut’ is a lot longer and more engrossing than was expected). we ate a lot of pasta and dessert, reasons for my love of my nationality, and played some weird games my mom made up. all in all a good holiday.

and then, of course, there was my birthday, trailing eyeore-like behind the rest of the holiday festivities. i’m always too zapped of energy by the time the 26th rolls around to care too much but my lovely family always puts on their best faces and muscles through the day. this year, we did a brewery tour near my parents house which was 80% interesting and 20% confusing (i don’t drink beer because i like chemistry, that is for sure) and then went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, which mark and i have been wanting to see since before thanksgiving.

to my great delight, i was showered with SEW many great gifts, including books and patterns and new, exciting tools. by sunday my mother and i were thrown into complete needlecraft frenzy, visiting this beautiful little fabric store which sells all sorts of vintage fabrics and beautiful patterns, and rotary-cutting like crazy. we began a picnic quilt for an engaged friend of ours, my mother verbally worried about me cutting up/sewing through my hands, and i began to fantasize about acquiring the skills necessary for me to take quilting classes at the aforementioned fabric store (which, i assume, is thousands of yards of quarter-inch seams into my future). tortilla soup at mark’s dad’s girlfriends house that night provided a delightful end to a very delightful weekend that then feeds into a delightful week because of its brevity! thank the good Lord for holiday vacation time.

wintry mix

December 23, 2009

well, after the false busyness created by the 758 christmas card mailer i was put in charge of here at work, all is now quiet on the western front. which means that i have nothing to do but surf the internet (ie. page through random blogs, the new york times, and curiously search for murder mysteries). and so i land here.

i have come to a place where i am really thankful for this job – not just in theory either. this may have something to do with the fact that christmas in corporate america is like some form of adult halloween, everyone exchanging huge boxes of chocolate or (to my great delight!) cookies. but i’m hoping this peace will endure past the sweet bustle of the season.

indeed i have been very blessed by those-whose-calls-i-answer. so far i have been given nearly $100 in gift cards and a bottle of wine, which is much more than i deserve for screening calls, scrambling names, and hanging up on telemarketers for everyone (however, ask me on any other day and my tune might be quite different). it’s not a bad life.

in fact, it’s a wonderful life! which is what mark and i watched last night while drinking said bottle of wine. i forgot how much i loved that movie, despite how overplayed it is this time of year. i only regret that this is the first christmas movie watched thus far. hoping to quickly remedy that despite the fact that we go to mark’s dad’s house tonight and will likely be forced to watch loads of ultimate fighting instead, per the brother-in-laws’ influence (and when i say forced, i refer to myself – it appears that no man in mark’s family can defend themselves from the lure of this crazy sport).

what are the holidays about if not swollen, bloody men pounding each other?

at any rate, it really will be good to spend time with family despite how unprepared i feel for gift-giving and group mingling. this week i have felt like one big slug, perpetually lacking sleep and movement. planning (and hoping) to get a mixture of both in the next few days.

and also planning on avoiding the internet like the plauge for the next few days as well!

with that, merry christmas to you, dear friends.

christmas on kimbark

December 22, 2009

to be sure, i simply CANNOT believe that christmas is about to be upon us. the time flies! i feel like it always takes me such a long time to work up some “christmas spirit” – thus, by the time i cultivate a chubby little heart of cheer, the season ends.

ah well. i suppose a chubby little heart of cheer is good no matter what the season.

this year in particular i have felt the standard pull of busy-ness and quiet – wanting to do so much, buy so much, but also longing for some open space and peaceful hours. like a good newlywed i’ve thrown myself into christmas cards and decorations, stockpiled cookie recipes (most of which probably won’t be made) and diligently plotted out elaborate sewing projects. our apt. has felt really christmas-y, to be sure.

but another part of me has been constantly drawn to the nativity, generating graphic elaborations in my mind of what Christ’s birth was actually like (much messier and emotional than the little silver nativity on our icon table).  i’m increasingly falling in love with the holy family – with the faithful mother, the dutiful father, the divine Son – and having plenty of ‘ah-ha’ moments about why the Catholic church venerates Mary. the nativity reminds me of the posture i am supposed to have towards God – one of openness, faith, love. though rather simplistic, this lesson has been of particular importance in a year when my thoughts have been alternately dominated by anxiety for the future, for schools and jobs, and for the ever-gnawing fear of starting a family (intentionally or unintentionally). openness to God’s direction, submission to His will, faith in His providence, and patient love in the midst of it all are easier said than done for me most of the time. and of course, the holy family do not represent an easy road – parenting the Son of the Most High was by no means a simple task – but yet we call them blessed. because that is what they are.

our church had its annual “lessons, lights, and carols” christmas mass on sunday evening. the church was dim and beautiful, the music angelic, and as we passed the christmas light from one candle to another, cheeks were wet with joy and hope.

i very much wish i could hole myself up in a monastary this time of year and not deal with anything else.

but there are good things to deal with. like sugary treats. and christmas parties. and family. this week has actually been quite full of all three already: christmas party at the office, time well spent with my sister and some dear friends, watching my dad ice skate at millenium park (by himself, because the rest of us didn’t want to wait in line for skates and he, of course, had his in that duffle bag he was carrying), and generally enjoying cookies throughout all of that. i simply don’t know what i’ll do when people stop baking and start resoluting for the new year.

anyways. i’m feeling very grateful for gifts both spiritual and physical in this life. it seems to me that there is a lot of good to be found when you look.

laid to rest

December 11, 2009

i suppose to some degree, blogging rule might say that posts should entail life details. and so i will. there have been some good moments to note.

as perhaps afore mentioned, thanksgiving this year was spent in colorado with mark’s mom and was generally very vacation-y. we enjoyed a wonderful holiday, with just the family (+ steve) played games and drank. and then, late in the evening, mark’s brother convinced us to try both at the same time…with some IPAs. not the best of ideas.

the following days were filled with hikes and runs (or, jog/walks for my plump italian self) taking in the beautiful Colorado landscape and weather. we climbed to the top of the flatirons, through ice and snow and passages that could only invoke the phrase “oh f*** me” for how very terrifying they were for my clumsy self (its not good to be clumsy on a mountain). it made me think of entering into a dialogue, here with the mountain, where the hermeneutic of the other is imposed on you and you do your best to navigate through it. it was nice to be the passive receiver of a landscape that you had to actively work through. maybe that doesn’t make sense. but it was relaxing and invigorating all at once. and then i slid down most of the way on my ass – partially by choice, partially on accident.

the days were a mix of physical activity and reading – a great combination to be sure – and even though my muscles ached, i think it was the first time in my life where i could honestly say that i felt good – like physically good. the kind of good that they say you are supposed to feel after working out or being active. i never usually feel that. but that week i did.

this past weekend we went to our first Bears game – very exciting for mark because he loves the bears and for me because i found a great Gwendolyn Brooks quote on one of the outside walls (for no explicable reason). we enjoyed the thrill of an easy victory and drank hot chocolate while quietly bear-ing (no pun intended) the crazies around us (quote of the day from man in row 30: “the more guns you have, the more freedom you have.” yikes).

since then, it feels like we have slid right into christmas. in proper newlywed fashion, we bought a tree (on the rainiest/sleet-iest night we could find). its a little guy, covered in mis-matched lights and some weird decorations i made years ago, but its ours. and we love it. it gives our house a cozy little glow and makes me think about keeping it up until it actually dies.

mark is in the midst of finals fun which means that he is constantly toiling over books and i am constantly wringing my hands in anxiety for him. we are a very good team in that way. at this time of the quarter, i always am thrown into great frustration at not being able to be more helpful, patient, or useful to mark. i worry that he won’t finish his work on time (he often does not), i worry that he will not get the grades he needs (he always does), i lament that he cannot spend much quality time or attention on me, i lament that i distract him too much.

i have been thinking a lot lately about my favorite grandma and grandpa story (my mom’s parents). they were always so sweetly in love with one another and there are piles to say about their young life together that but my favorite tale happened when they were old. my grandpa fell down one day and my grandma was not strong enough to help him up. so she called 911 for help. and while they waited for the ambulance to come, she laid a pillow underneath his head, got one for herself and laid down by his side, holding his hand until help came.

its so simple. but it crushes me so entirely.

undoubtably my favorite thing about being married is sharing a bed (and not in just the sexual sense). it is inexpressably wonderful to end and begin each day in a warm, quiet place with the person you love. to talk and laugh in the dark. to spend so many hours so close to the other, resting and restoring together. it seems representative of marriage of the whole – of that restful solace and peace and intimacy.

i think thats why i like that story. i admire my grandma for the grace with which she admits her limits. for meeting my grandpa where he is. for making a troubling moment into an intimate one. because isn’t that what marriage is about?

and i pray that i may have the grace to do the same. to let go of anxiety and be a good wife, making poor moments rich and scary moments intimate. and always learning from the ones who walk before us.

and it’s advent

December 8, 2009

for the good of my soul, i’m going to stop working for a minute here. and blog. oh, how noble of me.

i have been meaning to write since thanksgiving, more particularly since i read some beautiful words from our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, about keeping an ‘interior diary’ of God’s living presence throughout our Advent journey. He says of Advent:

“It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an ‘interior diary’ of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a ‘visit,’ as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?”

long ago, when i was a young evangelical leaving bible school and certain of imminent backsliding in my future, i promised God (and my classmates) that i would nurture a love for Him by opening my eyes more and more to His daily presence. i wouldn’t box God into scheduled quiet times that i was liable to skip but that i would allow “every instant of my day be designed to wound me with the realization of the world’s insufficiency” so that i would be able to find “God alone in everything” (per the Thomas Merton mantra i plastered everywhere).

sometimes i am good at doing this. mostly i am not. sometimes i catch glimpses of Holy glory in time with a friend or the angle of the sun. mostly i complain about the dullness of life. but i want to work on this. i want to train my eye to find the exact curve of every gesture and to learn to keep my heart propped open.

i was thinking of Benedict’s words Thanksgiving weekend as Mark and his family went running and i, the sloth, walked/jogged faaaaarrrr behind them through a Denver forest preserve. the landscape was the stuff of bob ross paintings with snow scattered over trees and fields, and horses milling about in the distance. and somehow in the quiet of the open land, it felt as if God was pressing in, bursting forward, that there was nothing to do but embrace the whole of the moment and be stuffed with gratitude for love given. 

it was good.

and so far, advent has generally given me plenty of glimpses of God’s living presence. time spent with family, friends, mountains. the healing of a friend’s father. letters from abroad. good books and mini “epiphanys”. a joyful home.

i guess this theme is consistent with my ‘thanksgiving’ thoughts. maybe i’m a broken record. or maybe i have a real awful soul because i need to be told and meditate on the same thing a million different ways in order for it to really sink in. either way, i’m trying.