Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fleurophile*

*I just made that word up.

Last Friday, I woke up with lilacs on my mind. 
When spring comes, I become obsessive about lilacs. Men think about sex every six seconds; Alexe thinks about lilacs. I had yet to see any around the neighborhood, so I did some research and found that there was a lilac garden about 35 minutes away from Portland, up in Washington. And on Friday morning, I woke up before 7 am bursting with energy. Because it was lilacs day. 

I got there right when the gate opened, and spent about an hour just wandering through the garden.  And then Beth called me on her lunch hour, and we talked about everything and nothing (like always), and the sky was blue and the flowers were perfect and I was just really, really happy. 

 These flowers. My mom and I spent (not exaggerating) at least ten whole minutes on the phone the other night, talking about nothing but these flowers. Basically it was just me trying to describe them to her, and her having no idea what I was talking about. Until I hung up, sent her a photo of one, and got a quick response that they are called......shit. I can't even remember. Some type of hyacinth. Grape hyacinth? Yes. I just looked it up. Anyway, we've always had a few in our yard back home that I absolutely love, and out here they. are. everywhere. They grow like a weed. And I've picked at least 15 from neighbors' yards in the past few weeks. 


 Perfection.


 They had varieties with double and triple petals, and they were FANTASTIC.






 I would like these branch flowers at my wedding. Take note, future Alexe. 



 Bored yet? I could stare at these all day long. 







 And a field full of forget-me-nots, because of course there was.

 Fiddly. 

 I'm not a huge fan of bleeding hearts. They just don't do it for me like they do for everyone else. They remind me of the '80s for some reason? 

After I was finished with the lilacs, I got in my car to head back home when I noticed a sign advertising a tulip festival down the road. Can't pass that up, right? It was genuinely one of the most incredible things I have ever ever ever seen, and maybe will ever see. People in the pnw act like it's no big deal, and I do not understand. I could have stood in those fields for a week and not been sick of it.






 I actually think this black and white photo is terrible, but I can't bring myself to delete it? 



I'm lucky enough to be heading to another tulip festival this spring, one that is sure to make this one look like some small peas, but I'll never forget that Friday in Woodland, Washington. God bless flowers. No, really. I've always loved flowers, and have known for a while that I want to make a career of them, but the pacific northwest spring has been a whole new world for me. All anyone ever mentioned was the rain and the moss. They forgot to say anything about the flowers. 

A slight deviation from nature photos

A few weeks ago, Allie and I were having a conversation about religion and about how a few of her friends still feel enough Catholic guilt to go to church each year on Ash Wednesday. It got me thinking about the concept of Catholic guilt, what it means, and how it has affected my life. Being raised in Catholic schools means I know a lot, lot, lot about Catholicism. However, I've always felt sort of distant from it, and have rarely ever said "I'm Catholic" to anyone, ever. Toward the end of high school, I began to seriously dislike the religion, mostly because of ignorant teachers who refused to accept other schools of thought. No, really. So when I went off to college, I went through a period where I wanted nothing to do with religion, at all. But I accepted that this was probably just a phase that I needed to go through, after having religion figuratively shoved down my throat for so many years. Many of my peers admitted to having these same feelings, which made me feel much better about the whole thing. But then I kind of just stopped thinking about religion altogether, which I don't think is necessarily healthy. Faith rules so, so much of our world that I think it's necessary for each and every one of us to have a good handle on what that word even means to us. I remember on Christmas Eve, having a conversation with my boyfriend at the time about religion and what it meant to him. Basically, he had never had to think about it, and knew very very VERY little about Christianity as a whole. I was so baffled that I ended up sounding rude and condescending when I explained to him how important I think it is, not Christianity necessarily but informing yourself about religion and how much it factors into our world. Shortly afterward I realized how hypocritical I was being, as I hadn't stopped to think about my own religious feelings in a long time. So over the course of the last few months, I've made a conscious effort to think about religion, both very vaguely and pretty intensely, to determine how I feel as an adult who no longer has any association to religion at all. So the other night I finally sat down and wrote about it, mostly for my own satisfaction, to get the words out. And this is what I came up with: 

Letting go of my Catholic Guilt 


I was raised in a non-religious family. My dad grew up vaguely Catholic, but gave it up early in his life. There was no formal denouncement, he just stopped going to church as soon as he had the option. My mom was raised with no religion, and transitioned into a believer in energy healing as an adult. That isn’t to say that a person can’t be religious while also believing in the energetic power of life; she just doesn’t ascribe to any formalized religion. The extent of religion in our household consisted of a nativity scene set out at Christmas, the “Now I Lay me Down to Sleep” prayer from time to time, and a Bible on the bookshelf, just because.
However, despite this lack of religion, my siblings and I attended private, Catholic schools for thirteen years apiece. From kindergarten through senior year of high school, I was exposed daily to Catholicism in all its various forms; religion class, all-school Mass, prayer before sporting events, before the school day started, before we could leave for lunch, before we could go home at the end of the day.
I can remember perfectly the first moment when it crossed my mind that not everyone took Catholicism at face value. It was after school one day, in kindergarten or maybe first grade, and my dad had picked me up and taken me home. I was telling him about my day, and mentioned that we had read the story of Noah and the Ark that morning. My dad responded with something along the lines of, “Oh that’s good. But you understand that it’s a made-up story, right?” Well, no, actually. I was six years old and trusted my teachers implicitly. I thought it was as true as math and phonics and learning how to spell my own name; I had no idea that there was a facet of my education that was not necessarily historically factual. And from then on, I wrestled with the ideology of Christianity, trying to understand what I believed and what I didn’t, and having no idea whether that indecision was acceptable.
In the Catholic religion, confession, or reconciliation, is one of the sacraments. In our school, this meant that roughly twice a year, our class walked over to the church and, one by one, confessed our sins to the priest du jour. This consisted of reciting the Act of Contrition from memory, then spouting off a list of the sinful things we had done in the last six months. The priest would then absolve us of our sins and give us a penance; as in, go back to your church pew and recite ten Hail Marys, and you’re all good until next time. This sacrament is practiced for the first time in first grade, when children are roughly six or seven years old. Seven year-olds are (for the most part) not very sinful. I said the same things each and every time, reciting my list of sins from memory just as much as I recited prayers. “I fought with my brother and sister, I didn’t always respect my parents, I stayed up past my bedtime reading, and I didn’t go to church every Sunday.” The average person would read these “sins” and laugh, thinking they are the perfect example of the innocence of young children. However, because of what I was taught in school, I believed they were real sins that I would one day, at the end of my life, be punished for. For five or six years of my life, until sometime in middle school, I absolutely positively 100% believed that when the time came, I would be going to capital-H Hell, because I didn’t attend church with my family every Sunday morning. I believed this because my teachers taught it as fact. Not attending church on a weekly basis is considered a mortal sin, because the sinner is aware of what they are doing and knows they shouldn’t be doing it. In this instance, it was the absence of an act – not attending church—that would send me to the fiery underworld. I was an innocent, happy child, but I was convinced that I was headed to hell for not being born into a devoutly Catholic family.
I am now twenty-four years old, and I haven’t willingly attended church since our last all-school high school mass at age seventeen. I’ve attended Catholic weddings and funerals, and will for the rest of my life, but my attendance has nothing to do with a belief in God or Jesus or the Holy Trinity, and everything to do with my love for the person being married or buried. None of my three siblings were married in a church, and I won’t be, either. Religion is not part of my adult life, and although I believe in many of the tenets of Christianity (the Golden Rule, kindness, charity, etc), I don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins, thousands of years before I even existed.
But here’s the really messed up part: even writing that sentence, admitting that I don’t believe in a formal God, still makes me feel just the slightest twinge of guilt. Not because I don’t fully believe what I’m saying, not because I’m on the fence, but because I was taught, for thirteen years of my life, that not believing was not an option.
I’m not trying to say that I think Catholicism is bad. I’m not saying my teachers and priests were evil, or that they ruined my childhood innocence or something like that; I fully believe that they fully believed every bit of what they were saying, and that’s okay. I also understand that my family was paying tuition for me to attend those schools, and my attendance carried with it the assumption that I was a Catholic believer in Christ our Lord and Savior. There are many beautiful parts of Catholicism, and much of the Bible makes for lovely reading; I just know, with my full heart, that Catholicism is not the religion for me.
Consciously, I recognize that I am not a religious person; however, learning to let go of it subconsciously has been incredibly difficult. For instance, Lent. I have always hated Lent. I hated the idea of giving up something I loved, I hated the antiquated rule about not eating meat on Fridays, I hated having to honor the hours between noon and 3pm on Good Friday, since they were designated as the three hours when Jesus was dying on the cross. But I still did those things dutifully, each and every year. This Lenten season, at age twenty-four, is the first year of my life where I haven’t even bothered to pretend to give up something for Lent. I haven’t once remembered on a Friday that I’m not supposed to eat meat, and then done it and felt guilty about it. For the first time in my life, I can feel the Catholic guilt seeping out of me. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
I believe in treating those around me with respect, and I believe that kindness is the most important attribute a person can possess; but finally, finally, I don’t believe that it makes a difference whether I go to church on Sundays or not, or whether I eat meat on Fridays or remember to keep Christ in Christmas or give ten percent of my income to the church. Those things, which are basically just rules of religion, do not dictate whether I am a good person or not. It has taken me almost twenty-five years to learn that, to really truly believe it, and I thank (the potentially existent, potentially non-existent) god for that. I am not going to go to hell because I don’t go to church; none of us are.

There is, admittedly, one vestige of Catholicism that has carried over into my adult life, and that is prayer. I don’t feel it is something I have to do or that I should do; I simply find the act of prayer to be a beautiful form of meditation. When I say a prayer (always in my head, never out loud) before bed, or when I’m flying over an ocean and the plane starts to get a little bumpy, I don’t actually think of it as me sending up a request to a higher power; I just think of it as a comfortable ritual. I don’t get on my knees and pray, and I don’t get mad if I fall asleep halfway through. I do it exactly as I want to, because that’s what it means to be an individual. It’s the one piece of Catholicism that has stuck with me, and I don’t feel guilty about that at all. I don’t think I’m being sacrilegious or inconsiderate for being a non-religious person who prays. At the end of the day, it is up to each of us individually to decide what we believe in and how we want to celebrate that, and for me that means meat every day of the week if I feel like it, and doing my best to be a good person. Whether or not that story about Noah is true.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I'm baaaaack

You guys thought I was gone, didn't you? HERE I AM! I was not going through any sort of emotional trauma or something; Penny ate both of our g-d computer chargers. So I had no computer. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new one, that I will keep under lock and key. Do you guys know how expensive MacBook chargers are?!?!? Stupid Apple. Also, side note, that store is so so SO overwhelming. Holy shit. I was in there for less than five minutes, but it was still too much. The employees are weird happy robots, and all the customers look so clueless, and I just feel like those stores could be laid out a whole lot better. Apple needs to start focusing less on their dumb updates and more on their feng shui. (Pretty sure that's the first time I've ever written those words.)

ANYWAY. Here's what's up! 

 The beach! Yesterday I drove out to Cannon Beach after work, because out here in Oregon, you can work a full day and still make it to the beach in time for sunset. I like how within Portland, the changing of the seasons is so obvious, but out at the beach, it's pretty much the same year-round. And by that, I mean sandy and windy and COLD. 

 I'm that person at the beach who takes 5 photos of the ocean, but then turns around and takes 15 of the hills behind it. Something about those layers of fog and pine trees is a killer.

 Didn't quite turn out, but you get the point. 

 The last seconds of sun.

 I wonder, if I didn't know this was taken on the Oregon coast, where I would think it was from. Mexico maybe? Anyway. Oregon is full of surprises, eh? 

 Those waaaaves. 

Okay that's the end of the DSLR photos. Now time for my actual everyday life via iPhone. 

 Still confused about this. 

 Wooden blocks are the best toys, until the kiddo throws them against the wall. 

 One of us is a natural blonde. 

I usually say that lilacs are my favorite flower. And they pretty much are. I look forward to lilac season almost as much as Christmas. But. But. Forget-me-nots. They're my secret favorite flower. They are literally perfect. They sort of almost look like weeds, and I think most people overlook them, but I have an extra sense when it comes to forget-me-nots. And for the last few weeks, I've constantly had a stem of them on my bedside table. Thank you for existing, little guys. 

 One of the best pieces of television ever created. 

 In a word, absolutely fucking yes.

 Girl Talk on the record player, like a bonafide hipster.

 I took a photo of myself. Because last week I went to a 3 hour Korean cooking class! I loved it. And got advice on how to make my giardiniera spicier. And I made two friends, because I was drinking Lagunitas and they decided I was cool. And now I just want to make kimchi stew every day. 

 Textures. 

 Pretty in pink. 

 Evening walks have become my favorite thing. But I end up with way too many stolen flowers. 

 So the other day I was laying in bed reading about how, back in the dayyyyyy, when horses were an actual mode of transportation, there were these horse tie-up ring things all over the city. And then in the '70s when they started to remove them, people went apeshit. So they stayed! And then later that same day, out on my walk, I found one. Kind of cool. We live in the oldest neighborhood in the city, so it's nice to know there's some history there. Or something like that. Also, dirt and standing water.

 Portland, Oregon: where you can leave your cute little bike out on the sidewalk and it's fine.

 They died pretty quick. But god were they pretty for a few days. 

 This little billboard hangs on the wall at our local burger joint. So wonderful. Almost too wonderful. 

 Sometimes I eat real food, promise. 

 My buds. We've been outside all week, and it has been fan-freakin-tastic. Except somebody figured out how to open the screen door, which isn't great. 

 SEVENTY-NINE DEGREES!!!!!!!! (And a full tank of gas!)

 Kid in the grass. 

 I know it's blurry, but the colorsssssss! 

 Spring spring spring please stay here always. 

 We went on a two-loop hike. She ran for the first loop, and then basically crawled for the second one.

 Verdant is the word that comes to mind. This photo is unaltered. Bonkers. 

 My dear Kari was here all week! We had so much fun. Maybe too much fun. She got a good tour of all my favorite places, got to put a toe or two in the ocean, and I let her take over my bed for FIVE NIGHTS. Friendship, sheesh. 

No thanks!