Monday, March 31, 2008

The Tale of Two Easters

If you're a churchgoer (frequent or otherwise), or just like to go for Sunday brunch, you probably know that last Sunday was Easter. Although I received ashes on my forehead over 40 days ago, however, my Lent marches on; my family and I won't be celebrating Easter until April 27, per the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar.

I was raised Pentecostal, in an Assembly of God church. Pentecostals, for those unfamiliar with this Christian denomination, are the "baptized in the Spirit," fire-and-brimstone breathing "crazy" Christians typically depicted as caricatures in popular media. My Sundays were spent in a 3-hour worship service, complete with men speaking in tongues, women dancing in the aisles and weekly "altar calls" to be saved. I went to Tuesday night youth group, Friday bible study, and spent one Saturday each month traveling for Bible quiz competitions. I don't think I fully bought into Pentecostalism, however, since shortly after going off to college I started going to a Catholic church and converted during my sophomore year. My grandparents were thrilled, since I was the first grandchild to join Catholicism. The morning of my wedding, for example, the three of us celebrated mass together at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis; it's a memory that will stay with me forever.

My wife, on the other hand, is Greek Orthodox, as is Gabriel. Like Catholicism, Orthodoxy is a very traditional faith and can trace its roots all the way back to the infancy of Christianity. It also doesn't carry the political history or stigma of the Catholic church. Since getting married in 2000, we have celebrated Easter with the Orthodox church, and I have participated in the Orthodox Lenten fast (no meat, although fish is allowed) for the last several years. However, I like starting Lent with a Catholic Ash Wednesday mass; the Orthodox Lent starts with little "fanfare" on Great Monday, 40 days before Easter. (For a week after Ash Wednesday, Gabriel kept pointing to my forehead asking where Daddy's black mark was.)

What this all means is that when we showed up at J. Christopher's for our weekly Sunday brunch last weekend, we were part of the minority dressed in jeans, not our fresh-from-Macy’s Easter clothes. Fundamentally, I'm in a religious limbo. I still consider myself Catholic, since that was the conscious choice I made over 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I only attend Catholic mass once or twice a year and, instead, am a member of the Greek Orthodox community in Cumming, GA. At the same time, however, I'm not allowed to take communion or vote in church meetings since I'm not actually Orthodox. Limbo.

Do I consider converting to Orthodoxy? Yes - it's important to have family unity at church - but there are a few things holding me back. For one, I know it will upset my grandparents. I know they should just be happy that we're raising their great-grandson in any Christian faith, but they'll be upset nonetheless. I also don't want my conversion to be a "big deal," which I'm worried it will be for my in-laws. Finally, at a more dogmatic level, the Catholic church is very clear about what it believes. It's all written down in the catechisms of the church, where you can find stances on everything from the meaning of communion to birth control. The teachings of the Orthodox church, on the other hand, are much harder to find. What I *am* excited about is our priest; he was raised Baptist before making the choice to convert to Orthodoxy and joining the priesthood. If anyone can relate to my religious history, he can.

So, for all those who celebrated Easter a week ago, Happy Easter. In three weeks you can wish me the same while I eat bowls of avgolemono soup in between bites of lamb.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"Daddy on the Internet!"

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"See you later, alligator!"

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"Bookstore makes Gabriel happy!"

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I’m back in the saddle!

Although I started ramping up my cycling a little last week, today I decided to leave work around 4 and hit up the Silver Comet Trail. I realize I left somewhat early, but it’s not too early if you consider that usually get to the office around 6:45. I digress.

Although the SCT isn’t the same as riding actual roads, it’s a fantastic trail. For one, it’s paved with asphalt, so you’re not hitting a cement seam every 5 feet. It’s also not clogged with pedestrians; very few people use the SCT for leisure walks. When I ride the Alpharetta Greenway, in comparison, I usually have 1 or 2 near accidents with people not paying attention to their surroundings. Note to Alpharetta Greenway users – I’m not trying to be a dick here, but stay to the right! I have zero desire to slam into you at 18 mph just because you’re a dumbass. I digress again.

My goal today was a solid 20 miles – Nothing too heavy, but I haven’t done a 20-mile ride since October. I suited up, prepped my bike but decided to leave my iPod behind; I wanted to focus on the ride, not the music. Plus, I had just listened to Ultra.10 and had the song Raindrops playing in my head. This should not be confused with Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head… Two very different songs.

About 4 miles into the ride I noticed someone coming up behind me, probably to pass. Instead, he decided to draft. I figured my weak 16 mph pace would prove too easy for him and he’d leave me soon enough. Nope. Rather, he stuck with me for several miles until we hit the first light. We exchanged hellos, and he thanked me for letting him draft. Absolutely, I said. The light turned green and he continued to stick with me. I had found myself a drafting buddy… I’ve never had a drafting buddy! He drafted with me the rest of my 10 miles out, then we swapped and I drafted off him for the 10 miles back.

It was a great workout… I pushed us pretty hard (for me, anyway) on the way out, keeping up 17-19 mph on the uphill grade with a pretty solid cadence, and I really felt it. My lungs burned, my legs ached, it was wonderful.

At the end of the ride, Kevin and I introduced ourselves and exchanged business cards. Apparently he works in the building across from mine and gets out to the SCT several days a week. A workout is always best with a buddy, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet up again in the future.

I also decided to block my Outlook calendar from 4-6 twice a week so I can get out and go riding.

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"Cozy up!" Gabriel's way of saying "let's cuddle" before bed.

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"Squeezy, tappy, rubby" as in the types of hugs Gabriel gives... Big "squeezy" ones, ones where he taps you on the back, and one where he rubs your back.

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gabriel's Word of the Day

"Awesome time!"

Mobile post sent by _itguy using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Monday, March 24, 2008

I have thoughts... And I hope you want to hear them.

Dear Diary,
Dear Interwebz,


I have thoughts (apparently!). For sometime now I’ve been thinking about joining this general community of bloggers. It’s not that I have complex thoughts, necessarily, but just enough random musings that I’d like to get them on paper. I considered getting a journal, one of those nice leather-bound Hemingway jobs, but it’s not like I’m planning to write the next great novel. I’m no Dostoyevsky, as you'll soon realize. Plus, I’ve been reading lately that we’re becoming an increasingly paperless society.

(Note to self – Switch to online banking, start using e-tickets when I travel, and cancel my subscription to the NY Times.)

Thus, a blog.

I actually finalized my decision to start a blog while on a bike ride this past weekend. Until recently, my rides consisted of a few miles on the Alpharetta Greenway, which is about 10 miles of paved trails for jogging, walking and biking. For whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to start riding on actual roads. However, one of my goals this year is to get more active in my cycling, and there’s no way I can do that and also constrain myself to the easiest 10 miles I can find. If I decide to try a half-century ride later this year, I can’t go from a 10-mile trail to attempting 50 miles of real road, complete with uneven surfacing and (gasp!) hills.

Plus, now that I’ve decided to start cycling on the “mean streets of Alpharetta,” I find myself with more thoughts floating around since I don’t think it’s wise to play my iPod when (1) cars are zipping past me at 50 mph and (b) the road simply requires more concentration than the trails. (As an aside, did you know that even paved roads are sometimes bumpy?)

What struck me during my ride this week was how much of Alpharetta I’ve been missing in my car. For example, I honestly didn’t realize there was a pretty large park only 2 miles north of my house. I’ve been living in Alpharetta now for three years and never noticed the giant park staring me in the face! What a shame. I also didn’t realize how hilly our landscape is; it’s much more noticeable when you’re on a bike going 32 mph downhill and trying to bike up the subsequently steep incline. It was a “forest for the trees” kind of ride, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of Alpharetta on bike. If you’re a cyclist, chances are you’ve had similar thoughts; if you’re not, I challenge you to think more like a rider when you’re on your next Sunday drive wherever you live. And don’t forget to share the road.