Being a Godparent

Last week my nephew, affectionately called my neff (as in Hey yo, Neff!) because it annoys my sister, was baptized into the Catholic Church and in addition to the privilege of being his aunt I have the honor of being his godmother and his sister’s aunt and godmother. This may be a surprise to some people, especially those who have seen my act. Yes there are things about the Church that I don’t agree with like a woman’s right to choose, its treatment of the LGBTQ community, its mishandling of the clergy molestation scandal, and let’s not forget its silent consent of the slave trade, its platform of non-involvement in the Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition. And yes, I poke fun at the Church in my act.

On the flip side of this coin, I think there are a lot of things that the Church gets right. I agree with Jesus’ message of love and tolerance. I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are a good framework for anybody to lead an upright life. I believe that principles like honesty, fair dealing, and respect for others regardless of their race, nationality, social status, etc. are important. I believe in having a personal relationship with God. I also believe that going to church every week and giving your tithes doesn’t make you a good person. Your character does.

See, that’s what I plan to teach my niece and nephew. You can sit in that pew every week… well religiously and still not be a good person. There are people who go to Church every Sunday but tell the homeless person they see on the street to get a job, kick the stray cats that cross their paths, and then go home and beat their kids, their spouse, and their dog. Then again there are people who don’t go to Church who buy a cup of coffee and give it to the homeless person they see on the street, leave food and clean water out for the stray cat population, play with their kids no matter how tired they are, treat their spouse like gold, and spoil their rescue dog. The difference is character, not how much time you spend sitting in a pew.

My godchildren are going to learn as they grow up that I belong to a charitable organization, that I donate my time to an animal rescue, that I would never ignore a crying child, and that I would never stand idly by and watch someone be abused or bullied. They’re going to learn that I will raise my voice and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves because someone has to do the right thing. I am someone. I can sit and teach them with words, but as they say in Game of Thrones, words are wind. Kids don’t really learn from your words. They learn from your actions. That’s why when my niece was three one of her favorite toys was an old washcloth that she would use to play clean up. My sister cleans a lot and often. My niece was imitating my sister’s actions through her play. Incidentally when she got her play kitchen, she used it only for washing the play dishes until she was four. Then she cooked a little and made hot beverages before playing wash the dishes. What can I say? She’s my sister’s child.

A godparent’s responsibility is to assist a child’s parents in their religious upbringing. I understand that and all jokes about the Church aside, I take it very seriously. The most important thing I can teach them is to be kind and the best way to teach them is by showing kindness. However I also think it’s important that they learn that God has a sense of humor and if all else fails you can do a deathbed retraction. It worked for Chaucer. If they grow into kind, caring individuals I’ll call that a win and anyone who messes with them better pray really hard that I don’t find out. I’m not just their godmother. I’m also their crazy aunt that you may have been warned about.

New Years Resolutions

’Tis the season of resolutions and people asking you what your resolution is. Most people make a resolution to lose weight. This causes me to have to wait a damn hour for a freakin’ treadmill at the gym where I’ve been a member for two years. I joined in September 2014 because it was starting to get cold and hell no I’m not running outside in the winter in New Jersey. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy.

Over the past couple years I’ve noticed that the die-hard resolution makers no longer show up come February. Funny how that works isn’t it? There could be any number of reasons for this phenomenon but maybe it has something to do with making a single resolution for the year. When you make a resolution, you’re setting a goal. Goal setting is something that takes place every hour of every day. We find ourselves saying I’m going to finish this task by X o’clock today. I’m going to finish task A by the end of the week. Most of the time we set goals without really knowing we’re doing it.

So instead of saying your New Years resolution is to lose weight, why not get specific and take it in steps? Maybe in January I’m going to see my doctor and talk to him/her about how to get to a healthy weight and use that information to set a goal weight to get down to by the end of the year. In February I’ll make a change to my diet and join a gym. In March I’m going to stick to my diet and raise my physical activity from working out 0 times per week to twice a week and well you get the idea.

When you take your goal and break it into individual steps it prevents you from becoming intimidated by it and giving up. Also point of fact, if you’re sick of making the same resolution year after year and constantly starting over, I have a helpful hint for you: STOP GIVING UP! While we’re at it, stop making excuses and coming up with ways of talking yourself out of completing your goals. Stop thinking about what you want to do and start doing it.

You can apply these principles to any goal. Want to get a new job? Beat the pavement and get your resumes out every day or get a certification to increase your skill set and qualifications. Want to learn how to play a musical instrument? Get lessons and practice every day. When people tell us we could do anything we set our minds to, they’re not just blowing smoke up our rear ends. They’re just leaving out the part where they explain that actually doing what we set our minds to is going to take hard work and sacrifice.

It’s not all grit and discipline, though. It’s important to stay focused and stay productive to reach a goal but it’s equally important to stop every now and then, take a look at how far we’ve come, and pat ourselves on the back. Progress is progress and the more you acknowledge it the less likely you are to get discouraged.

Whatever your resolution is this year, more power to you. I hope you stick to it and reach your goals. Now about that treadmill…

Krautmas in Peril!

Story time! I warn you this one is not for the faint of heart or stomach, but I’m posting it here anyway because I figure a little bathroom humor never hurt anyone. If you’re good with poo jokes please enjoy having a laugh at my expense.

My sister decided that Christmas Day is only for immediate family (i.e. husband and kids) and not extended family (i.e. aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s different from what we grew up with, but it’s not wrong. It’s just different. It has however left a gaping hole in my holiday schedule and those of my mom and my aunt in the form of Christmas Day. So, we decided to start our own tradition which we refer to as Krautmas.

My mom and aunt come over and are served a German dinner of sauerbraten, sauerkraut, schpeitzle, noodles because my mom isn’t a fan of schpeitzle, a nice glass of Riesling, and apple strudel for dessert. With the exception of the apple strudel, all the recipes are ones I learned at the feet of my German grandmother in her kitchen which is incidentally the same place I learned what “scheisse” means. In case you’re wondering the apple strudel recipe I use is courtesy of the fine folks at Google.

Krautmas begins on the 20th with placing the meat for the sauerbraten in a brine made of vinegar and other ingredients which remain a highly classified secret of House Barton. It also involves cleaning my entire apartment from top to bottom to pass my mother’s white glove inspection which for some odd reason includes opening closets and drawers. Apparently in my mother’s mind this is a totally normal thing to do in someone else’s home. My sister and I have made a game out of leaving items in certain places to mess with her. She’s not nearly as amused as we are.

This year, events conspired that put Krautmas in grave peril. Twas the Monday before Krautmas and all through the house I spent 36 hours on the porcelain telephone talking to Ralph. In other words, I contracted what I can only describe as the most hellacious of stomach viruses. You know it’s bad when you’re sitting on the porcelain throne with a bucket in your lap. I was unable to make the brine and place the meat to soak it for the customary 5 days of Krautmas both for fear of infecting my loved ones with a sickness I wouldn’t wish on the cockroaches that infest my worst enemy’s place of dwelling and also because I couldn’t lift my head without feeling nauseous and no, children the secret ingredient of the House Barton sauerbraten is not vomit. Sorry to disappoint.

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The Knight Bus

Nevertheless, my polite requests for someone to shoot me were denied, and the following evening things began to look up and I found myself able to stand and even speak coherently. It was wonderful! I used these abilities to talk my significant other through making the brine and placing the meat into it since he dodged the viral bullet, the bastard. Krautmas was still on! However it would face its biggest challenges the following night which proved that the virus was not done with me. Oh no! Not yet! I still had to endure hours of going to the bathroom every twenty minutes to expel liquid fire. You know it’s bad when you reach a point where you go and there’s nothing except poo dust. It was like my backdoor coughed and sputtered its last breath.

Naturally I was a bit concerned so I called the doctor in the morning. When I told them my symptoms they said that what I had was the Sydney norovirus. It’s called that because it originated in Sydney, Australia which is further proof that everything that can kill you comes from Australia. I was told not to come into the office since there’s really nothing they could do, let it run its course, drink fluids, don’t be alarmed if I don’t bounce back right away, and call back if it gets any worse. They also told me to eat bland foods. I hung up with my gurgling guts feeling like lead. Bland food? That would eliminate like ½ of my Krautmas menu! Noooooo!!!

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The Burrow, aka the Weasley house because Dickens Villages are for normal people.

However undaunted and because I was desperate for relief I drank unknown amounts of water and Gatorade and rested at home instead of getting up to my normal evening activities like the radio show and martial arts training and woke the next day to the sudden realization that my guts were not gurgling, I had no pain, and I had slept an entire night without once getting up to expel something truly awful. I didn’t celebrate yet. I kept my composure until around mid-morning. I took a constitutional and *gasp* IT WAS SOLID!!!! I wanted to dance, but feared that my sanity would be questioned or someone would be convinced that I was having a seizure and call 911. However, I couldn’t contain my joy entirely so I texted my mother in all caps “I HAD A SOLID BOWEL MOVEMENT!” I don’t know what was funnier, the fact that I actually sent a text to my mother describing a bowel movement or her response which was “Praise the Lord!”

And so it came to pass that the virus from hell returned whence it came from and there was much eating of German food and rejoicing. It was a Krautmas miracle!