The one where I try to sum up my 2013

This was the year I regained my senses (at least sight and hearing), became a Catholic, and reconnected with high school classmates that I have not seen in 39 years.

That about sums it up.

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

Ok, if you insist, here are some details. First, the senses thing. The world had very quickly become dark and blurry in 2012. I went to see my new eye doctor (a BCHS grad) and had cataract surgery on both eyes before February. What an amazing procedure – but, I hate to think about the first person who had it, “You’re doing WHAT to my eyeball?”  I also developed some hearing problems that I didn’t take care of right away because I kinda liked having the world be not so loud. But, fixed that in the last couple weeks. I realized that I am more distracted by sounds than sights – hence, the beagle running through the house is OK, but his barking/howling bothers me.

 

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren't so cute.

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren’t so cute.

Second, it took a year for me to become an official Catholic, and I have so much more to learn. I love the Mass and have found comfort and power in the Rosary. I have met amazing people on my journey – Father Mel, Rhonda, Dan and Betty, Gene, and my sponsor, Linda (a BCHS classmate). I find that I love Ordinary Time. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I also appreciate vanilla ice cream, plain bagels with plain cream cheese, black coffee, plain chicken and rice, unflavored potato chips, simple dark chocolate. Ordinary – no frills.

And……I'm in!

And……I’m in!

Now, when I’m asked about my time on staff at an Evangelical megachurch, I can respond, “Well, I’m Catholic now,” and leave it at that. (It was the staff retreats at St. Mary’s Seminary that got me started if you want to know, not the shaming or the pressure to reinvent Christianity every week.)

Third, in a project that went way beyond what I had imagined, I started hunting down and meeting with members of my high school graduating class. I thought, with our 40th reunion looming, and with my returning from Chicago after several decades, what a great excuse to reconnect. Not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone has email.

It's good to have friends/classmates in high places.

It’s good to have friends/classmates in high places.

I found and talked to about 35 so far, out of a class of 109 graduates. We’ve had two small get-togethers and I started a newsletter. I’ve also been so impressed with the changes in my little hometown that I’ve been researching and writing about it (see my blog at www.cynthiahoppe.com).

The summer went by way too fast and I got too few walks on my beach.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

I am discovering other county parks in the area (thanks to Bob, a BCHS classmate). And stay tuned (for those of you who know me at all, you better sit down) – as I start as a substitute teacher (there is, of course, a story). Yeah, just gonna drop that one there and wish you all a great 2014.

 

My October – in brief.

It’s November 1st, and grey and rainy. Where did October go?

It started with a great birthday/reunion on October 4th.

Me and our teacher - now State Rep. Hooker.

Me and our teacher – now State Rep. Hooker.

Had some great sunrises.

One of the many beautiful sunrises this month.

One of the many beautiful sunrises this month.

Got distracted by this dog several thousand times.

Don't be fooled by the cute face! He has a never-ending need for walks, treats, and belly-rubs.

Don’t be fooled by the cute face! He has a never-ending need for walks, treats, and belly-rubs.

Spent way more time on a piece for Byron Center Life than I planned. But, learned a lot.

BCHS Marching Band and Color Guard

BCHS Marching Band and Color Guard

A regular practice.

A regular practice.

Made a last minute visit to Florida to help my stepmother.

My bedroom at Casa Ginny - 15 stories above the ocean.

My bedroom at Casa Ginny – 15 stories above the ocean.

The pool I never got to use.

The pool I never got to use.

Atlantic sunrise.

Atlantic sunrise.

Got to see my brother.

My 6'5" baby brother.

My 6’5″ baby brother.

The 1965 Corvair that took me to the airport.

The 1965 Corvair that took me to the airport.

And now am preparing to officially become Catholic tomorrow.

Cathedral of Saint Andrew window.

Cathedral of Saint Andrew window.

It was a good October.

 

Call at the Cathedral

Cathedral of Saint Andrew

Cathedral of Saint Andrew

Yesterday was a milestone on my road to becoming a Catholic – Call to Continuing Conversion. It started at 9am with a gathering of the candidates and our sponsors for a two-hour retreat. A candle is lit (fake as to comply with fire codes). We heard a reading about time. I don’t think I have ever heard that many phrases using the word “Time”. There were so many dimensions and descriptions of time. In our current world, time is spent, and there’s not enough of it, and it’s always in a hurry. Then we were dismissed for Mass.
We gathered again after and talked about our first Rite of Reconciliation. We had many questions about logistics: where, how long, what do we say, when, what if we cry? I know mine will involve many tears. Will I be composed enough at the end to walk out and face people? Will I find relief from my guilt?
In the afternoon, we gathered with 22 other Parishes at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in downtown Grand Rapids. I have to say that after years of attending churches that have that minimalist industrial look – WOW! I love the craftsmanship and beauty of this place. It was built in 1875 and has high vaulted ceilings, gorgeous stained glass windows (which the sun did its part to show off), dark carved wood everywhere. Huge pipes for the functioning pipe organ. The music was provided by a small orchestra that included a kettle drum. A small choir sang as I imagine heavenly hosts might sound.
During the Procession, we sang Amazing Grace. The beauty of the Cathedral, the music and choir, the pageantry of the ceremony – all new to me yet comforting, as if I had drawn strength from this before.
Each Parish was called and the Catechumens and Candidates walked up to the front to be received by Bishop Hurley. It reminded me that I had been on a church staff for six years and never met the senior pastor. Just another contrast.
We ended with a recessional hymn, The Church’s One Foundation, a hymn that I remember singing growing up.

I will not be officially received Easter weekend with the others in my class – there’s that annulment process yet. But, I will wait. That is one thing (of many) that I need to learn yet, to wait for the right time, for things to be ready and in place.  For everything there is a time…

Learning the customs of the local tribes

I have lived in this house almost 5 months and I am still discovering light switches.
It seems like a simple thing, but when everything is a new thing, it can get overwhelming. Since I moved back to Michigan there is so much to learn – to just get through daily life. The first is the left turn thing. Around here there are few direct left turns; you must drive past the intersection and then make the turn. There is often an extra light involved. At intersections where they do allow you to make a left turn, there is generally a left turn light that flashes red. Handy when there is not much traffic; not so much when really busy. Of course it’s never really busy here. Not like the Kennedy or 294. The first couple months here when I saw the flashing red left turn lights ahead, I always thought a train crossing was coming.
They also don’t use salt on the roads here. In Chicago, what looks like a half inch of snow on the roads is usually just salt. I’m understanding how the population density affects local services. When you have all single family homes, the local tax base is much less than side-by-side hi-rise condos. I never see a snow plow or a police car; not so many can be afforded.
Then there’s learning the ways of the tribes. There’s the ways of the household tribe. That’s for future blogs (and future therapy sessions). There’s my new in-laws. Today, at lunch, I sat and marveled at the delicate diplomacy of what layer of cousins to stop at to invite to the May wedding. This was a two hour process and I am fairly certain it is not resolved yet. Not ever having cousins, I have never had to have this discussion. The rule I formulated in my head was: “If you don’t know if their children are married yet or not, you don’t keep in touch enough to invite them”. But then I am big on making these kinds of rules.
There’s learning the ways of the Catholic tribe. At least they understand and give lessons. I’m learning to trust the process and realize the process is sometimes the whole point. There are many rules and procedures that I want to rush through because I like my rules better. So I am learning to surrender my will – in teeny-tiny bits right now. There are a bunch of good people supporting me in this. And they have quite a job.
And then there’s the Aldi tribe. I’m not an Aldi person; I’m a Meijer person. Aldi is like the old Soviet Union and Meijer is the United States in terms of selection and pure joy of groceries. I’ve been to Aldi several times and have not quite got the choreography at the check-out down. Everything is scanned and dumped into a cart that is not the one you used and then you go over to a ledge and pull the groceries out and put them in the bags you remembered to bring. It reminds me of after you get through security at the airport and you have to hurry and find any surface to put stuff on and lean against as you re-dress yourself. I have yet to do the shopping cart rental process solo. Looking forward to that milestone.