Friday, 25 January 2013

Tuesday # 8: "Freude erläbe" (experiencing joy) / mandalas / God in drag

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets. Thanks again for hosting, RAnn!

St Hildegard mandala

Our story for this week was “Die Zauberkugel” by Arcadio Lobato. Manolo finds a magic crystal ball (Zauberkugel) that grants whoever holds it one wish. Before he can make his wish, the townspeople get a hold of the ball and wish for jewels, castles, gold, etc. Before long, the once-happy, peaceful town is rife with envy and ill will. Eventually, the townspeople lament about how they wish things could be as they were before, when they lived simple but happy lives. Manolo uses his wish to bring things back to how they were before.

I have a somewhat (who am I kidding, very) obsessive personality. The previous week, I had spent a lot of time obsessing about how rowdy the children are in my class, to the point that I was dreading our Tuesday afternoon catechism session. In any case, I can attest that the Law of Attraction works. True to form, it turned out to be a pretty stressful afternoon.  I won’t bother recounting the many things that didn’t go well, as I’m taking to heart Joel Osteen’s advice this week to “Remember the Good”. I will choose to remember the following: how the children are waiting for me at the door of the school house, smiling and happy, and carry my bags up for me; how they enjoy our few minutes of yoga; how on-the-ball Cedric was in recounting the moral of our story; how they all whooped for joy when I told them we were making a crystal ball for them to take home (plexiglass ornament balls, glitter, glue, sequins); how glitter makes everything better; and finally, even if I had my hands full trying to abort the game of tag started by my three naughty boys, how happy I was to see the seven other children diligently coloring their worksheets. Oh, and how I love my new Tibetan singing bowl! I am thinking of starting a collection.

Last Sunday, I took Maeve and Olive to Sunday school (on offer roughly once a month in our parish, normal for Switzerland). I peeked into the room. Lo and behold were 30 children, seated at a very long table, coloring quietly. There were two teachers, one at the door, welcoming arriving children, and another standing by the table. How on earth could they pull off 30 kids contemplatively coloring, with no one shouting, swinging from the rafters, or playing tag? What’s their secret? When I pick the girls up after Mass, they each have a chocolate muffin, a coloring sheet about the Wedding at Canaan, and a mandala. I am guessing that, whatever the secret is, it’s not the chocolate muffin. Both girls want to continue working on the mandalas at home. I decide that, for the catechism class next week, I’ll bring mandalas in for the kids to color while we wait for everyone to arrive. When I start searching about them online, I am surprised to find that, aside from being part of various religious traditions, mandalas are also used as meditation and therapy tools for adults as well as children. (Start from the inside going out to tap hidden energies, and from the outside going in for meditation and centering.) I jump the gun too quickly, and buy three mandala books on amazon ("Christian Mandalas" by Klaus Holitzka, "Mandalas from Around the World" by Marion Küstenmacher, and "Mandalas Stained Glass Coloring Book" by Marty Noble). Later, I find that there are hundreds of beautiful designs online for free and that St Hildegard of Bingen illustrated her visions in mandala form. (I have an amazon habit that is bordering on addiction. During a stressful week, I can find myself buying 3 to 5 books, seeking solace from second hand sellers on the amazon marketplace. In any case, following my premature amazon mandala purchases, I resolve not to buy any more books until Marian Keyes’ latest book, “The Mystery of Mercy Close” comes out in paperback in April. Don’t know if I can make it till then. It is a long time till April. My fingers were twitching while reading kkollwitz’s recent book review.) I am looking for a complex, intricate mandala design with Mateo, the most boisterous of my lot, in mind. With my Tibetan singing bowl, yoga, and mandalas, he is going to be a calm, grounded, peaceful kid, coloring meditatively at the table by the time Tuesday # 20 rolls around. Just kidding. Of course, ultimately, I accept that Mateo is "an expression of God" just the way he is. (Thank you, Ram Dass.) After all, as the 14th century Persian poet-mystic Hafiz puts it, we’re all "God in drag". (Thank you, Hafiz, for writing that phrase centuries ago. Thank you, Chuck Lorre, for using the quote in Vanity Card # 400 on a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory and bringing it to my attention.) 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sunday Snippets-- a Catholic Carnival

Thanks again to RAnn at This and That and the Other Thing for hosting Sunday Snippets.

This week, I wrote about


Tuesday # 7: "Träge hälfe" / Tibetan singing bowls / decisions

If you end up reading Tuesday # 7, just to let you know I found my Tibetan singing bowl on Saturday : )

Have a great week, everyone, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you've all been up to!

Saturday, 19 January 2013


I should write about our recent trip to India before the colors fade and I start to forget. What can I remember: Bookstores alive and well. People reading books, not tablets, in the corners. Squeezing 7 people (bottom layer of 2 adults + Luke, top layer of Maeve, Olive, and 2 cousins) into a rickshaw in Mumbai to go to the cinema. Watching Life of Pi in 3-D. The suitcase with Christmas presents going AWOL for 2 days. 16 hours of self-induced semi-hibernation on the bus ride to Goa to cope with car sickness. Very tall and stately trees. Happily eating paneer every day for 12 days (on my own volition). Milk coffee and porridge at the Tibetan Café. Nursing masala chai and avocado lassi at Sunitas slowly enough to read (but not reply to) my emails on my phone with their free WiFi. The vast amounts of time one finds in a day when you don't have easy access to the internet. The little Hindi and Christian shrines scattered all about.
 Needing a motorbike to get beyond Vagator. Having no interest in learning to ride one. Riding behind Ross with the girls (one girl at a time) through the Goan countryside (all over India, if you ask Olive). Cows on the beach. Cows on the road. A baby cow stealing a mango from my beach bag. The gigantic Banyan tree, so majestic that surely there were legends about it. (It’s more likely people just got high there, according to Ross.) How black the soles of the kids’ feet were when they fell asleep. Mornings reading on sunbeds at the beach. The toxic, over-chlorinated pool where the kids splashed away for hours in the afternoon. Wishing I knew more about Hindu mythology. The Rainbow Secondhand Bookshop in Chapora. St. Francis Xavier’s remains in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa. The face of Shiva carved on a rock on the beach. Wanting to buy Ross a Nataraja for Christmas but not finding one. Buying Ross Rabindranath Tagore’s collected works for Christmas and wondering whether he’ll ever read it. Hating haggling for prices. Trying to find the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and getting lost. The colors and scents of the Wednesday Anjuna Market. Ross and I being accosted by ear-cleaners. Both of us utterly convinced that we could hear so much better afterwards! The 23-year old Delhi rape victim succumbing to her injuries on 28 December. The editorials and TV news coverage of this case. Falling asleep while reading random passages from the Bible (placed by the Gideons) most nights, and the vivid dreams they gave me. How two and a half weeks can be so long and so short at the same time. Watching the countryside zoom past on the train from Goa back to Mumbai. Wishing I had more than my iPhone camera to take pictures with. The young men who graciously swapped seats so that all 14 of our group could sit together. Wondering where my Indian sister-in-law finds the energy and patience to take care of everyone all the time. The train breaking down in the middle of nowhere and the panic about missing our flights home. Ross so desperate to get his mind off our flights that he takes the book I’m in the middle of (William Darymple's book "Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India") and starts reading. Ross liking a book I like (a first). Hundreds of homeless people sleeping in the train station. Making it to the airport by the skin of our teeth. How clean, orderly, and sterile Zürich seems after the exotic chaos of India.
Maeve and cow on the beach
St Francis Xavier
best seat in the house (wonderful!)


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Sunday Snippets -- A Catholic Carnival

First week back from our two-week holiday in Goa, and a very light blogging week. There are posts swimming in my head, but they have yet to make it to paper (or the computer). Hopefully next week. In the meantime, here is the post I managed to do this week on

Tuesday # 6: "Danke säge" / balloons on steroids

Have a great week, everyone! I'm looking forward to reading what y'all have been up to.

Thanks again to RAnn at This That and the Other Thing for hosting Sunday Snippets.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Tuesday # 6: "Danke säge" / balloons on steroids

We got back to Zürich from our Goa trip on Saturday afternoon, and got right back into the swing of things. Kids were back at school on Monday. With jet lag working in the right direction, they were getting up bright as buttons at 5am. This week’s Unti session was very sweet. The theme was “Danke sagen” (saying “Thank you”). We had a full schedule: we were to discuss what we are/should be thankful for, read a short story about a boy whose prayer sent by balloon gets answered, write “Thank You” letters to the parents that I would mail, and write a “Thank You” letter to God send via red helium balloon. The parish ordered the balloons and instructed us to pick them up the morning of our class at a local craft shop. At the shop, I asked for two balloons, as I had in mind that these were like birthday party balloons (a little bit bigger than an adult’s head), and perhaps that we might need two to get God’s letter aloft. The lady taking my order was gone for about ten minutes, and came back with two enormous balloons. (Balloons on steroids. Four of these would get Olive flying!) The kids seemed to have enjoyed the session. At some point, I told them that we would be reading a “sehr kurz” (very short) story. They started jumping up and down in excitement. “You like the shorter stories that much better than the others?” I ask. (Story-telling is my weak point, as I am not comfortable paraphrasing German and tend to read verbatim from the book. I know that they tend to get bored quickly with the stories.)  Zoe ignores that question and asks, “What kind of Zirkus (circus) are we doing?” Oh. Sehr kurz / Zirkus, I see where the confusion comes from. It is a bit of a let-down for them that there would be no circus, but they cheer up considerably when we go out to launch the balloon with the letter to God. I really wish I had my camera. Instead, I only have the picture in my mind’s eye, of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder cheering as the balloon shoots up into the unusually clear January afternoon sky.