Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shamassy Irene

It feels like adding a new post to my blog is somehow pushing Eric aside, allowing him to become a part of the past and allowing me to move on with my happy, carefree life. I've been nervous to write anything, but I also didn't want to dwell for too long on the sadness of losing a friend, because rejoicing in who he was and living my life accordingly seems like a much better way to honor him. So I think that I need to acknowledge him one more time in this space, and in some vague way acknowledge what I've learned through his death.

Some individuals who read my blog won't have any idea how the thoughts that follow are related to acknowledging a friend's death, but that's okay, because hopefully my thoughts will still be important and relevant to the lives of those who read this.

My husband is going to officially become a leader in the church (a deacon) this Saturday. The prospect of this is much more sobering than I expected it to be. Of course, we are both overjoyed, and it is wonderful to have people come up to us in church with congratulations and hugs and smiles, and I am so proud of him and I deem him worthy (axios!). But after seeing how power in the church can be abused, I am fervently praying that neither one of us will ever take this role for granted, or forget what it means to be looked up to by many others. Obviously no one is perfect, and we will need to own up to mistakes humbly and with repentance. There is just a part of me that fears the kind of mistakes that never go away, the kind that tarnish the lives of many forever.

I had to have a conversation with a psychologist during the arduous process that comes with the pursuit of church leadership in the Orthodox Church. All of it centered around my relationship with Mike, and whether or not I supported him in this decision. I remember telling the psychologist that I didn't want to anticipate this new responsibility with "rose-colored glasses", but at the time I don't even think I fully appreciated what that means. No, I don't want to be a complete pessimist, and go through life in fear of how we might stumble. But I'm trying to remind myself to place above all else honesty, accountability, and diligence. I find myself praying all the time for diligence. It's not enough to make a good decision or to stick to something now, I have to keep it up. I will never forget one priest's advice about how diligence is a day-to-day decision, although now sometimes I wish that I could forget.

This truly is a fallen world, but have you noticed how that makes the good stand out so much more crisply? Certainly I have known church leaders who continue to show me good, even in times when I feel I can barely find it anywhere. I pray that God will allow my husband and I to stand out crisply, as so many others have done for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


. Eric,

This is how I want to remember you. Having fun and being a goof. Making Mike a little uncomfortable.

I hadn't seen you since the day this picture was taken, and honestly I don't really know where life had taken you in the last year or so. But that didn't make the news any easier. Of course we always say this, but I wish I had gotten to know you better when I had the chance.

What I will remember is riding the train to Manhattan with you and Mike and Jacob, and I said how much I liked Anne of Green Gables, and of course I got blank stares from the other two guys, but you wholeheartedly owned up to the fact that you loved Anne of Green Gables growing up.

And I remember going to that sports bar near the seminary, and complaining about my job situation, and you were great at listening and being sympathetic.

And I remember watching the Simpsons with the regular group in the basement of the Germack building, and every time there was something written, on a sign or something, you'd read it out loud. It annoyed me a little bit. But then I noticed myself doing it, so I ate my words.

Your loved ones are really going to miss you. May your memory be eternal.

Friday, March 09, 2007


This has been one of the popular ads on MySpace lately. It scares the bajeezus out of me every time I see it- I actually try hard to avert my eyes. I don't know what the heck they did with photoshop to come up with this picture, but this girl is barely a human being anymore. She looks like some sort of crazy alien whose fingers could stab someone to death and whose legs are made of plastic. I swear, it really creeps me out.
And what the heck does alien lady have to do with mystery shoppers? The marketing people aren't even trying to hide the fact anymore that sex sells better than anything. This is what I'm getting from the ad: become a mystery shopper and you too can wear slinky black clothing and have long fingers with painted fingernails- even aliens can be sexy.
That's pretty much what every internet ad does these days (although the alien life form part is pretty creative, I'll give them that). It's especially a problem on MySpace. What the heck am I going to do when I've got teenage kids? It scares me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Wednesdays during Lent are typically church days for the Orthodox. In the evening, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated (presanctified meaning that the communion is prepared on the previous Sunday).

I wasn't able to go to Presanctified during the first week of Lent, but I did go last Wednesday. During the service, Lent just kind of crept up and hit me on the head. Of course, I knew it was Lent as soon as Lent started, and many of the changes that come with Lent continued to remind me of that fact, but participating in the Wednesday service brings it all home. The atmosphere (a smaller church crowd, dimmed lights, psalm after psalm being recited, a lenten potluck afterwards), combined with the fact that this service is observed only during this time of year, puts everything into a certain perspective.

This is the sixth Orthodox Lent/Easter that I am taking part in (only the fifth as an Orthodox person), and I am amazed at the progression it has taken in my life. Progression seems like an ironic word to use, because Lent is pretty much the exact same thing every year. In general, all of the Orthodox services seemed strange to me at first, because they don't really change much. The liturgy unfolds in the same way every week, with only a few hymns changing each time. Shouldn't people be bored by this? How do you learn anything? And yet I have learned so much more in the last 6 years than in my whole life. It's the same with the Jesus prayer, a prayer that many use as a meditation (see The Way of a Pilgrim if you're not familiar with it, or Franny and Zooey if you're not into religion books-- just don't pass out trying it). I think it's that sense of focus and simplicity that lend so much to the repetition and constancy. And there is a humility about it that makes it more than just a mindless religiosity.

But I am getting away from what I was trying to say. This time around, I have more excitement for holy week than ever. Yes, I've always had some excitement, but with that always came a little bit of dread about the number of services, and the length of services, especially leading up to the Passion. Now, all I really think about is this week that is so much more meaningful to me than any other time of year. It feels more like the new year than January 1st, because it is the time when I actually feel recharged- spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I realized in reading an article on the Greek Orthodox website that it's pretty ironic (and amusing) that a discovery of bones in Jerusalem would be hyped up during the lenten season. There was a show on last Sunday (produced by James Cameron-- yes the James Cameron who did "Titanic") trying to make the argument that these bones they found were most likely Jesus', and the bones with his were most like Mary Magdalene's. I'm not in too much distress over the status of my faith when all this comes out- partly because I have heard enough of the rebuttal to the show to know how flimsy the research is, and partly because I'm more willing to trust hundreds of years of church tradition than the production of a guy who made a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But the article I just read was titled "Why do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?", a reference from scripture that is said millions of times in church, and is more poignant during this time of year than any other.

In a few weeks it will again be clear that Christ is risen. Truly He is risen.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

confessions of a recovering nanny

I went to the Internet Movie Database website a little while ago in search of something, and an ad for a trailer on the front page caught my eye. It was for the movie version of The Nanny Diaries, a novel (not-so-loosely based on someone's real experiences) about a girl balancing school and a nanny job in Manhattan. As hilarious as the trailer was, I am a little apprehensive about seeing the movie.

I actually read the book while I was a nanny in New York, and I think my emotions about it at the time (a mixture of very very dark humor, profound sadness, all-too-real commiseration with the main character, and jealousy that she still had a life at school) would come back too sharply if I were to re-read the book, or see the movie.

Nannying is an enigma. Most girls I've met who have been nannies have some pretty bad war stories under their belt. The only ones I know who can truly say they enjoyed it (and I don't mean a consistent, part-time babysitting job- I mean either live-in or at least full time) are pretty much off their rocker. One example: I babysat for a baby girl in Denver one time, and part of the reason I was there was because the main nanny was looking for someone to help her out. That's never ever a good sign, when the main nanny needs help. For one child. But I think she was cutting down her hours. So I get there, and she gives me this run-down that is part interview and part instruction. She tells me about all of her philosophies on nannying (or what looked to me like wannabe parenting). When the baby cried, she ignored her for something like three minutes, to establish the fact that crying was not the way to get attention (because an infant has so many options). The baby was not allowed to watch more than 15 minutes of Baby Einstein per day, and must be "stimulated" by a walk around the neighborhood. Then this girl asked me what my zodiac sign was, because I guess your planets have to be aligned in a certain way in order to be a good caregiver. I should have left right then and there, but I agreed to watch the baby for an evening.

When I went to actually babysit, the baby's parents were the ones to greet me- imagine that. While mom was getting ready, she asked dad to show me where the baby food was. Dad did not have a clue where the baby food was, and I ended up finding it for him. I also got introduced to the baby monitor that was actually its own channel on the TV, along with the monitor-of-the-front-porch channel. Then mom showed me the changing table, including the baby wipes that had their own warmer, so baby's butt didn't get cold in the process of being changed. And even though I was almost positive that someone (probably crazy nanny) was going to watch a video of me after I left, I still let the baby watch an entire half hour of Baby Einstein, and I'm pretty sure I didn't ignore her when she cried. I was never asked back. Darn.

Almost none of my experiences were good ones. Once I was left out in a car with a kid to wait while his mom had a drink with her friend at a restaurant. That same mom had apparently hired me while she was visiting her sick mom in Denver, and had not told her husband that she hired a nanny because he was I guess very much against it (he told her this while he was in rehab for alcoholism), and when we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel she was staying at, she thought she saw his car and completely flipped out. She started swearing and told me to stay in the car and come up with a story as to why I was there. It turns out her husband wasn't there at all (as that would have required escaping from rehab), but I was pretty much done after that. I also had the parents who were way too worried about their kids- like making sure they only ate whole grain pasta, and not painting their nails because of the chemicals. And then there were the parents who didn't seem to understand that they had to be the responsible ones, and as a result their kids pretty much climbed the walls and screamed all day. Within my first 10 minutes of watching 3 kids, one of them had gotten so mad about something that he crushed a Christmas tree ornament in his hand.

Most of these were temporary jobs, or jobs that only required 10 or so hours of my week. But then I decided to take on full-time nannying when I graduated college in order to pay off a chunk of loans and have the ability to live in a big city. Yes, I did pay off a good portion of loans, and yes, I got to see New York in all its splendor, but I really doubt I would do it again if I could go back. I was a live-in nanny, and for 5 days a week, usually about 6:30am to 6:30pm, I was responsible for 4 kids. It was without a doubt the worst time of my life. I should have known that I wouldn't like it, because I had never really liked any nanny job. I don't understand why parents would have kids and then be gone so much, or why a couple with two kids really needs a babysitter so they can go grocery shopping. My mom trucked all 3 of us along when she went to the store- it's manageable. So why in the world would I take a job doing something I disagreed with? I can't answer that question. All I know is that I was capable of breaking down into tears at any moment of any day- and I did, often. The kids were fully aware of the fact that they barely saw either of their parents, their life and their rules were inconsistent, and I barely ever felt like I had any control of any situation. I don't want to get into too much detail, because that wouldn't be very nice of me. And part of it was on me, as I didn't tell the parents a whole lot about how I was feeling. But I was supposed to commit to a year in that job and I only just barely lasted 10 months. It was bad.

So- this nanny movie coming out- I hope I'm able to laugh at it. I'm not yet at the point where I can laugh at that last nanny job. The warmed-up baby wipes, yes; the 5-year-old screaming on a regular basis that she hates her mom or hates me, no. I still notice myself sometimes getting very angry very quickly at petty little things, and I don't think that it's a coincidence that that started after that experience.

But Scarlett Johansen is in the movie, and she's cool.