Posted in Inspiration, Nature, Spirituality

Ascension Day: Salvation, Memorials, and Butterflies

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Yesterday, May 25th, 2017, was Ascension Day, the fortieth day of this liturgical year’s Easter celebration.  In the following, I attempt to give a brief explanation of this Christian feast day then reveal my spiritual encounter in regards to ascension. I say attempt because it is so hard to describe the indescribable. This is a condensed version of what I witnessed, felt, and believed following the passing of my father, Frank Thomas Snyder, lain to rest on June 8th, 2006.

My father earned seventy-six years of being an earthy man full of passion for all things living, all that moves and grows in humanity and nature.  He swiftly fell back into the earth while mowing his lawn, grooming the ground, the backyard that hosted his frayed yet favorite lawn chair where he read many westerns and dreamt of cowboys.  

Although his outdoor death was so shocking at the time, I believe it was the way his body was meant to return to his own Heavenly Father of whom he placed his utmost faith.  Forty days later, his soul soared.  May his Memory be Eternal!  

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***

Symbolically and spiritually, forty days represents many biblical tribulations, reconciliations, transformations, and probations.  The fortieth day of bodily death is highly important to the Christian who believes this to mark the departed’s judgment day. Specifically relevant to the soul is that the fortieth day commemorates Christ’s Ascension after His Resurrection.  Ascension Day is when the recently deceased may ascend to be taken up in the clouds to meet the Judge, our Savior, and Master, and thus be with Him forever (1Thes. 4:17).  

Ascension Day

According to Scripture, over the course of forty days (prior to the Ascension) the Resurrected Christ appeared to his eleven remaining apostles, multitudes of disciples, and followers.  He also stood alongside disbelievers and doubters.  He arrived as proof to try to convince the world that He is indeed the Son of God who trampled death.  He shared tales of His Father’s Heavenly Kingdom and instructed others to spread the word.

After the fortieth day, the one perfect human being, Christ, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.  This concludes His passionate thirty-three year-long journey to save imperfect sinners and raise them to be with their Father.  This is our salvation.  

As a mere mortal, I can only make assumptions about what I deem a mortal’s soul does for forty days prior to judgment.  As many ideas as I have on this span of time, I am no theological expert, so beyond these few words, I will keep quiet on the matter.  I don’t know enough about purgatory, toll houses, soul sleeps, and other theories of what a soul immediately does without the body.  

I simply have faith that God is good, forgiving, and wants us with Him.  I have faith that Heaven is indescribable beauty, peace, and joy.  Life after death is truly a mystery that I have no authority to attempt to explain.  Only Scripture, tradition, faith, actions, and love can give us a true sense of accepting what is beyond our understanding.  It’s a big, magnificent secret treasure that I humbly pray to discover when it’s my time.  Thy will be done.  

***

I believe one of the most important memorial services for the soul is on the fortieth day, and that’s when we held my father’s first requiem in July of 2006.  In our Serbian Orthodox church this special service is called a parastos (pronounced pah-rah’-stus).

Such a glorious, yet humbling parastos was offered up to my father as our church abundantly crowded with loved ones celebrating his life and death with heartfelt remembrances and meaningful prayers. The multitude of candles lit for his soul dripped with tears of sympathy.  What an emotional mourning that fortieth morning.  

A lovely family luncheon was held after this memorial service.  Following the gathering, my husband, kids, and I drove 100 miles north to return home. Cara was aged four and Elena aged two.  

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When we got back, I didn’t unpack and do laundry like I usually would after a weekend trip. I needed to unwind and be away from checklists and chores.  I joined my family and Italia, our three-month-old golden retriever, at our patio and swimming pool.

The bursting thermometer and cloudless backdrop inspired frothy servings of smoothies and colorful sno-cones.  Cara and Elena, our giggly little loves, splashed and played, drenched and sprayed.  Pup Italia lapped liquid bullets while tempting the girls to squirt-gun her down, mafia style.  

While refreshing my feet poolside, Cara kept squirting Italia’s furry breast as I spied the black butterfly hover then merely skim the water.  This plain, yet somehow extraordinary, silhouette had become a part of our summer patio company, and his presence mysteriously captivated me.  He, whom I perceived as male, seemed as thick as midnight yet lightly fluttered about like butterflies do.   

 

I averted my gaze to this particularly unremarkable fella flickering around for his brief interludes.  With just a sheen of bluish-green scales outlined in ivory specks, his velvety shadowed wings had little décor. I always expected butterflies to personify rainbows, but I discovered that a less colorful, simpler design can also serve as a spectacular specimen.

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Sailing above and then lightly diving to the earth, he lingered brushing my cheek with a kiss.  As he resumed his winged dance to the sky, I burst out of tranquility and jolted with a stifling thirst:  I needed him.  I had to hold on, or I’d dry out from my tears that could potentially flood the pool.   

I frantically jumped up screaming, “Get the net!  Where’s the butterfly net?  We have to catch that black butterfly.  He belongs here!”  Our puppy nearly rolled into the pool, while my stunned husband and daughters froze.  I chaotically shuffled through a basket of outdoor toys for the prized Dollar Bargain butterfly net.  I grasped it and leaped and stretched like a clumsy majorette trying new baton tricks.  I scooped nothing but the wind. Of course, I couldn’t catch him and had to watch him disappear into the endless sky. I whispered with humble faith, thanks, and love,  “Thy Will be done.”

In various spiritual circles, butterflies represent the spirit of the departed.  The butterfly dies as a caterpillar, is buried in the cocoon, and enters a new life.   As a majestically changed creature, it takes flight in earth before breezing through heavenly clouds.

On that fortieth afternoon after my father’s death, my grief began.  I finally accepted that he physically left this world forever.  Eternity vs. Nevermore comprise the greatest extreme opposites of time that challenged my clock that somber summer.  I could barely consider these temporal concepts and felt like I was drowning when contemplating a soul lasting forever and a body being used again never.  

***

Nearly eleven years later, I still grieve the loss of my father, but I take comfort that he is with God who opened up the heavens to mankind on Ascension Day, when Christ was taken up to heaven.

I also continue to perceive occasional visits by the black butterfly as something special and granted by God. My personal connection and journey with the black butterfly continues to strengthen my spiritual beliefs. I know there is no doctrine or proof in my experience, but when a beautiful black butterfly shows up precisely when I need an “extra” lift, that to me is a divine gift to encourage or reward my faith.

Many people have their own signs, symbols, and things they believe is contact from a lost loved one. Besides the black butterfly, I have felt other spiritual touches in nature via bunnies, birds, dogs, and flowers. If it leads me to spiritual thanks and praise, I consider that faith. God bless us, everyone.  

What special encounters have you had that cause you to connect, remember, and give thanks?  Memory Eternal to your lost loved ones.

Posted in Friends, Socializing, Women

Bunco Invite

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Bunco is a simple dice game that can be played by people of all ages. I started playing in a Bunco over ten years ago, when I was in my thirties.  I taught my daughters how to play when they were in elementary school.  My golden years mother still plays with a group of  friends at Silver Sneakers.  Although you can roll with two or more players, the game best lends itself to a group of twelve women.  If you are interested in playing Bunco, starting a group, or learning more about this fun dice game, read on.

I played Bunco as a substitute and permanent roller with the same wonderful group for over eight years.  The group eventually broke up, and after a couple years of missing Bunco, I decided to start a new group that would like to play once a month.  The following is an invitation I wrote when I resurrected the game of Bunco in my life: 

Dear Ladies,

I am inviting you to a game of Bunco at my house on INSERT DATE AND TIME.  Most Bunco nights will run for three hours, but the first one requires teaching the game of Bunco (easy but necessary to understand the rules and scoring).

This is a dice game of luck and prizes played by twelve people.  I’m starting a Bunco club that I hope can meet once a month.  You are the fun women I thought might like to join. You can decide after playing if you want to be on a permanent player roster, substitute player list, or an I-can’t-commit-but-keep-me-in-mind list.

Come enjoy an evening filled with drinks, food, conversation, and some light gambling. The object of the night is to have fun while breaking away from the weekly routine. There are over 700 hours in a month; Bingo players know this and love the thrill of getting out of the house and testing their luck among good company and refreshments. Bunco players can do the same in a more intimate and friendly gathering.

 

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Here is how it works:

  1. The hostess provides the space, decor, plates, napkins, and drinks for the night.  
  2. The players bring a dish, side, or dessert with a serving utensil  Take home or share what doesn’t get eaten.  My family loves the plates of goodies brought home from Bunco.  (No time to prep food?  Suggestion: Order a pizza or breadsticks or buy baked goods.)  
  3. The players bring $10 for the Bunco ante to go to the night’s monetary prizes.   
  4. The hostess is exempt from the $10 ante and instead provides a door prize (homemade or bought for 10.00 or under — don’t overdo it).  
  5. The hostess should keep the Bunco playing area free of children and husbands.  Furry friends are welcome (unless allergic Bunco players request otherwise).  
  6. If you say you are going to play, please show up.  If not, try to find someone to take your spot (There should be a sub list to pull from.)  
  7. Help welcome each other.  You will get to sit with every guest at some point during the game.   

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Bunco Eve Agenda:

6:00 – 6:30   Social ½ hour.

     — Eat, drink, meet, and greet old and new friends.  

     — Set out your dish (plug it in, uncover it, heat it, slice it…)

     — Put your 10.00 ante in the basket.

     — Sign up to be a hostess for your favored month if you can (i.e. I love making fall drinks and have good space for a summer Bunco near the pool, so I prefer to host during those seasons.)  

6:25 — Warning bell to get drinks, snacks, and seats at one of the tables.

6:30-7:00 Teach the game and rules.  Answer questions.  Play a round for no credit and fun:  teach scoring and clarify misunderstandings.

7:30-9:15 — Roll those dice, keep score, play the game, wear the crown, get cards punched… Have a Bunco Babe Partay! Take a food and refreshment break after a round of rolling: ones through sixes.

9:15-9:30 — Add scores and Buncos, give out prizes, remind each other of next hostess meeting place, share leftovers.  The next hostess takes Bunco game to her home.

Post Bunco – Friends laugh about the night on their way home and can’t wait to get together to do this again.

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***

Our Bunco Babes have a blast together.  Our group is fun, energetic, and loud.  We have had some creative theme nights such as: 80’s Night, Luau, and Wear-Your-Crazy-Leggings Bunco.  

Feel free to use or tweak my letter for your own Bunco party.  If you have any questions about Bunco ask me or check out the following links for more about the rules, scoring, and supplies needed to play.  

http://www.dicegamedepot.com/bunco-rules/

http://www.easy-party-ideas-and-games.com/bunco-rules.html

http://howdoyouplayit.com/bunco-rules-play-bunco/

 

Posted in Messy Rooms, Parenting, Teenagers

My Teenager is Sort of Raising an Ant Farm

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I just walked in on little sister Lena in Cara’s room looking for candy. She was rifling through Cara’s Easter baskets — FYI, Easter happened three Sundays ago, but Cara still has a stash left. Anyhow, I was also craving something sugary, specifically chocolate, so I came in to see what Cara had.  Lena found a package of M&M’s that we would share, but then I pulled out a box of bite size milk chocolate, peanut butter stuffed bunnies and chicks, Sarris Candy Brand.  I took out a bunny and ate it.  

“Mmm,” I euphorically sighed. “Lena, these are better than those M&M’s. Here.”  She took the box and dumped some out.  “Don’t take all of them,” I warned.  “Save some for Cara.”  

“Okay, I just took a bunny and chick.  I can’t believe she still has these. They’re the best!”  

“I know.  Let me have one more.”  I was weak.  

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Lena screamed.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I screamed because Lena screamed even though I didn’t know why she screamed.  

“There are ants! There are ants on these bunnies!” and she dropped the chocolates like she got caught stealing candy from an Easter basket.

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“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  I probably ate some!  I’m dying!  I cannot believe this!”  Lena bolted from the room (with the M&M’s).  “CARA!!!”  I screamed.

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“What, Mom?”  she asked.

“COME HERE!”  

“I’m busy though. I’m playing Skip-Bo with my friend right now.”  Her boyfriend was over for a day date, and they were playing cards. Although I’m a fan of board games and cards, this could not wait.

“NOW!”  skip bo

She begrudgingly showed up to her room and said, “What is it?”

“Ants!  You have ants in your room,” I revealed.  

“Oh yeah.  I forgot about those,” she claimed.  

“You knew about these ants?” I was incredulous.  

“Yeah, I saw some, but didn’t know what to do about them.  They really weren’t hurting anything, so I forgot about them.  There were just a few.”  

“Well, now there is an army!”  I moved the trunk on her floor to prove their omnipresence. They partied on her name brand chocolate, danced together, dined some more, mated, and multiplied in her bedroom.  Sickening!!!  

“Wow!  How’d that happen?”  She seriously looked puzzled.  

“Go tell your friend that you have to exterminate your room a bit and you’ll be back when I give the ‘All Clear!'” 

“Okay, I’m sorry, but they’re really harmless, sorta like the mockingbird in that book you keep telling me I must read or you will go to my teachers and try to improve their circus.”

“Improve their curriculum,” I corrected. I was momentarily distracted that she even listened to what I told her about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird masterpiece.  It didn’t excuse her and the unapproved picnic she was hosting in her room though.  She sleeps in a loft bed, so what does she care about her floor.  “I’m pretty sure I ate some of your ants. I guess you’ll have less to sweep and suck up with the vacuum.”

She laughed and swept. Why does this kid laugh at everything?!  If I were more positive I could’ve looked at this as a business venture, but I’m so damn itchy I can’t even.  Do you know that ants are sold online for ant farm kits?  I think we could’ve collected enough to crawl through at least ten kits. Maybe I’m old fashioned and don’t want chocolate covered ants and would prefer my kid to earn money by babysitting or baking or anything besides bug breeding.  

How do I stay sunny and sane (albeit part-time) while mothering teenagers and ants for another 70,000 years?  How are you surviving?  Are you eating ants too?

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If you want to buy or raise you own ants, check out these sites:

https://www.amazon.com/Live-Ant-Farm-Ants-Shipped/dp/B00GVHEQV0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494186321&sr=8-1&keywords=ants

http://www.antsalive.com/shop/ZAA

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Teaching, Teenagers

Getting Sent to the Office – A Mother and Teacher’s Tale

Disclaimer – I know my reaction to the following scene was an overreaction, and that is an understatement. Although I am a part-time sunshine who tries to keep a positive outlook, I am also a full-time nut job who can fall into a vat of emotional turmoil in a single breath. Come hold my hand and breathe with me…

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The loudspeaker blared throughout my school interrupting first period.  “Mrs. Lucas, please come to the office. Paging Mrs. Lucas.” In case you didn’t know, I am Mrs. Lucas, high school English teacher.  image

I pushed my classroom call button connecting me to the office and said, “I’m in the middle of class.  Do you need me right now?”

The secretary replied, “Yes. Your daughter’s school is on the phone for you.  Mr. Jones can cover your class.”  

Whoa!  The secretary already called for classroom coverage. This didn’t sound good. And why did she page the whole building instead of just my classroom?  I felt like a kid getting sent to the principal’s office.  It is alarming to get jolted out of class for a surprise phone call, especially one about your own child. Since students can’t be left unattended, teachers realize whoever wants to speak to us has an immediate, important concern.  

Mr. Jones quickly arrived, and I raced down the steps as fast as I could in my new navy high heels. Clip-clop, clip-clop. Who called, I wondered? The high school or middle school?  Which daughter was this about: Cara or Elena?  Was she sick or hurt?  Was she in trouble?  Oh my my!  Did she cause trouble?  My concern from the loudspeaker, turned to anxiety as I hurried to the unknown caller.

I sped down the deserted halls to the office which seemed further away today, like it relocated to the moon. Finally, I pushed through the teachers-only door where a substitute-secretary warmly greeted me. It was as if she had been waiting for me the whole four minutes since she paged me, eons ago.  “Mrs. Lucas, I’m sorry I used the school intercom, but I was confused on how to page your room for you.  Here, you can sit at the desk to talk.” As a fill-in, maybe she was afraid to lose my call.  Or maybe she was just polite and letting me use her chair while she stretched her legs. Or maybe this was a huge emergency. 

I accepted the seat and pushed the red blinking answer button.  My caller spoke with a friendly, high-pitched voice and chirped, “Mrs. Lucas?”  

“Yes, this is she?” What were the chances the secretary got confused again and my caller was actually an extra-appreciative parent who wanted to tell me, voice-to-voice, how thrilled she was with the lessons I taught her teen?  

“This is the school nurse at Cara’s high school.”

Dang it! It wasn’t a thankful parent.  “Hi. What’s wrong?” I asked.  

“Cara had an accident in gym class and hurt her finger. She was doing box jumps and somehow slammed her hand into the box.”

“Oh, nuts and bolts!  Will she be able to throw the javelin and discus tomorrow for her first track meet?”

“I don’t think so. Her finger is a little crooked.”

“Crooked?” I asked looking at my own shaky, sweaty, but not crooked, fingers. “Can I talk to her?”  

“Yes, she is sitting right here with an ice pack.”

Cara chuckled,  “Hey, Mom!”

“Cara, why are you laughing?  Are you delirious?”

Still giggling. “I don’t know what that means, but it was so funny. Bella and I were doing box jumps, and then I accidentally hit my hand off the box and now it looks like a hook finger. It was so random.  We were cracking up!”

“Are you messing with me?  Are you seriously hurt?”  Cara is a prankster who celebrates every  April Fools’ Day and obnoxiously loves joking around about things mothers don’t find funny.  

Cara, quick to profess her discomfort, said “Uh, my fingers look like the letter ‘W’ and the bent one is throbbing.”

“Oh, I bet it hurts.  What’s your pain on a scale of one to ten?”

“I’m going with W!”

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“Why are you being so silly, Cara?”

“Lighten up, Mom.  I’m the one with a bent finger. When you come get me can we stop for some chicken nugs? The nurse wants to talk to you again.  Bye!”

The nurse got back on the phone and convinced me that the finger was a serious injury and probably broken. “I recommend you take her to the emergency room and get it checked out. She can’t straighten it.”

“Oh boy!  I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I uttered. The anxiety that started with the intercom got worse, and that crooked finger was enough to push my panic button. My heart beat out of my chest and my stomach swarmed with butterflies.  We aren’t a bone breaking family.  We have our share of accidents but nothing that cracks our skeletons.  From my chest up, my flesh burned with nervous electricity, and my ears rang with piercing dog whistles that muffled the school bell.  My nerves zoomed from zero to ten to ‘W.’

“Okay. See you when you get here. Drive carefully,” the nurse advised.  

“Umm. Who am I coming to get again?  Cara or Elena?”  Add short-term memory loss to my list of worrywart ailments.  

To be continued with “Reconnecting with my Teenage Daughter in the Emergency Room.”

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