Tag Archives: Church

I need a little recharge time

I guess I’m becoming a fuddy-duddy in my old age. Mrs. Poolman and I have been traveling or otherwise very busy for the past three weeks. Even our weekends have been full of either travel or out-of-town company. I really shouldn’t complain. Except for the event last weekend in Atlanta, which was work-related, these were all voluntary “play” events. We could have said “no.”

The last couple of work weeks have been busy too. Counting tonight, when I will read for a “Living Stations of the Cross” production, I will have been at our church for six of the past ten work-nights.

On top of that, Mrs. P decided now would be a good time to wean me off of artificial sweeteners. Since I practically live on Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, this also means cutting out caffeine. (I have never been a coffee drinker. My morning and mid-day caffeine hits have come from a 12-ounce can.)  So I feel a little like a small child who missed his afternoon nap

Tomorrow is Saturday. Both Mrs. Poolman and I are off. We have our income taxes and yard work on tap for tomorrow.  Then I believe a few people are coming over for dinner Saturday evening.

Sunday is looking like a low-energy day for the kid. Mrs. P is scheduled to work Easter Sunday. (Unfortunately, they can’t just send those preemies home with their parents and tell them to bring them back on Monday.) I’m scheduled to read at 10am Mass and then, of course, I’ll fix a nice Easter dinner for Mrs. P. Otherwise, I may let the rest of the world get along without me. A chair on the patio with a book in my lap sounds very inviting.  It’s time to recharge.

 

 

More perils of teaching 5th graders

For the second week in a row, we were hit with an awkward question during last night’s 5th grade CCD class. We had been covering the Sacrament of Matrimony. My co-teacher, Sherry, said she was anticipating and absolutely dreading a question about gay marriage, but that never materialized. Instead, the question originated in a passage in our text.

“The deacon or priest asks the couple three important questions…Will they lovingly accept children from God and raise them in the faith?”

“So Mr. Poolman, suppose it’s not a good time for a couple to have children? Like maybe one of them is in the military and is being sent away. What can they do then?”

I stammered and stuttered, and looked over at Sherry for help. She signaled that I was definitely on my own for this one. Thanks for the help!

There are two problems in trying to answer that question.

1. As I mentioned in a post last week, the students are 10 and 11 years old. We’re not sure what they have been taught about sex by their parents. I really don’t want to open things up to additional questions like, “Mr. Poolman, what’s a condom?”

2. And that is because we do not have a mandate or permission from the students’ parents to get into a discussion of sex. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me to have such a discussion, but absolutely not without the parents’ involvement.

So after thinking about it for a moment, I answered that the Church does not approve of artificial means of birth control, but there are other, natural means a couple can use. And then I said that we really don’t have permission from their parents to get involved any more deeply in that kind of subject, and strongly suggested that they talk with their parents.

It probably wasn’t the best answer, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

Fortunately, there were no additional questions on that subject. Whooo!

We are going to discuss the Ten Commandments for the next two weeks, so we should be safe. Oh, wait! They do include that adultery thing, and coveting your neighbor’s wife. Maybe I’m not out of the woods yet.

Talking God and religion with fifth graders

For eight months of the year, for the past seven years, I have spent nearly every Wednesday evening in the company of about two dozen 10 and 11 year-olds. I volunteered to teach the fifth grade CCD class at our church. This is a religious education program for the kids who do not go to a parochial school. In a Protestant church, it would probably be called “Sunday school,” except we have the classes on Wednesday evenings.

Mrs. Poolman is not at all certain why I continue to do this. I’m not really sure myself. I am a practicing Catholic, but I’m not a particularly devout or religious person. I do get some sense of satisfaction from filling a definite need in the parish. While I don’t think I’m a particularly good teacher, I do show up with some reliability and fill the space. Our CCD coordinator, Paula, is not overwhelmed with people knocking her doors down to teach a class.

I think I’m also providing a service to the students. It is been clear over the years, that for many of my students those Wednesday night CCD classes are the major source of their education / indoctrination in matters of God, religion, morals, ethics, values and life. My big question is: “How much of this is actually sticking with the kids?” I don’t have an answer to that. I suspect the answer is “very little.” We don’t have much time. Nor do we have the repetition to drive it home. Those 45-50 minutes a week are easily lost in the midst of busy lives of school, sports, school activities, dance, friends, and so on. I try not to dwell too long on that depressing note

Mostly, I think I like the kids and the discussions we have. The curriculum for this grade is to cover the sacraments.  It leaves us lots of time to talk about all kinds of subjects. Once they get comfortable in the class, fifth graders are not at all shy about asking questions and offering their opinions. I have a co-teacher, Sherry. Between the two of us, we try to get the kids engaged and maybe thinking about things that they haven’t thought of before.

By this point in the year, we have gotten to know the students fairly well, and they have gotten to know us. We know who is quick to raise their hand and those who we to be coaxed into participating in a discussion.

During our class this week, we covered the Sacrament of Matrimony. While this sounds innocent, it actually is fairly tricky. The Catholic Church teaches that a wedding vow is permanent, and divorce is not an option. (The issue of annulment is much too involved for this age group.) This fun part is to teach the kids that this is what they should seek to achieve in their adult lives, without appearing to criticize their divorced parents, cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles, etc.

The other interesting issue is we are never quite sure how much our students of this age have learned about sex from their parents, school, friends, TV and so on. If we were dealing with 13 year olds, we could be fairly certain they have at least been exposed to “Birds and Bees 101.” But for ten and eleven year-olds, we aren’t as certain. It makes it difficult to answer a question about a pregnant bride, which is one query we received last night. To make life very interesting, it just takes one student to ask, “What do you mean that they had sex before they were married? What does that mean?” Then we have opened a can of worms, and they are crawling all over the place.

We are fairly certain one girl was trying to “work us” last night with this exchange.

Her: I see all the pictures of the brides here are wearing white dresses. Why do brides always seem to wear white?  

Me: It’s a tradition, but you can wear whatever color you like.

Her: Even black?

Me: Yes, even black.

Her: But why do they usually wear white?

Me: It symbolizes purity or innocence.

Her: Innocent of what?

Sherry (jumping in to help out): It symbolizes that she is a virgin.

Her: A virgin? What’s a virgin?

Sherry: You know the answer to that.

Her: No, really (laughing). I don’t know. What is a virgin?

Sherry: Ask your parents.

We have just a few more weeks of class remaining for this year. This has been a good group. I’ll miss them when we break for the summer. Then I’ll take my chances with a fresh class in the fall.

Right to the point

Last Wednesday, Mrs. Poolman and I attended the Ash Wednesday evening Mass at our church. Normally on Wednesday evenings, we have CCD class, but last week,  that was replaced by the Ash Wednesday Mass. Since I had strongly encouraged my students to ask their parents to take them, I figured it was a good idea if I went also.

It was obvious that our pastor, Monsignor C, was trying to keep down the length of the Mass. The distribution of ashes alone took at least ten extra minutes.  So when it came time for his homily, Monsignor walked to the pulpit and had this to say:

“I’ll try to express my homily in as few words as possible.

It’s Lent.

Shape up!”

As he turned from the pulpit, he got a rousing round of applause. Way to go, Monsignor!

What a difference a year makes!

Last year this time, I was moaning and whining about my class of 5th grade CCD (religion classes for kids who do not attend a Catholic school) students.

Last year’s class was quite a handful. When I was asked to come back and teach again this year, Mrs. Poolman reasonably asked me if I had lost my mind. I agreed to return for year #7, and I’m glad I did.

This year’s class is a large one – 25 students on a full night. And they have their moments, both individually and as a group. There are at least two boys, whose mothers tell me, are ADHD but they are trying to deal with it without using meds. I applaud the effort, but it can make Wednesday nights interesting.

Overall, this is a nice group of kids. They are active and full of energy, but I have been able to keep them more-or-less focused and engaged on whatever we are discussing at the time. They are full of questions, occasionally to an extreme.  Sometimes we have had to arbitrarily cut off discussion simply because the “what if…?” questions just become outlandish.

For the most part, I don’t really mind it. We don’t have a strict schedule of topics we must follow from week to week. So if they want to talk about something that is vaguely related to Catholicism, religion, God, morality, or just issues they encounter in their daily lives, we run with it.

Last night was interesting. When I arrived, the director, Pamela, handed me a sheet of paper with seven or eight guidelines to teach the class to help them avoid becoming abuse victims. (Think Penn State.) I went over these guidelines (good touch, bad touch, etc.) with the class, and then the lid came off the can of worms.

It was obvious this is something they have discussed with their parents (as they should) and their friends. Everyone had a question or a comment. It was active and rowdy, and while there were many times when three or four students were trying to contribute simultaneously, the comments and questions were all related to the main topic. What I expected would take five minutes ran on for 35 minutes, and could have gone to the end of the class.

I have an outstanding co-teacher, who is also the mother of one of the students. She is “the bomb.” She isn’t really interested in doing much teaching, but she actively participates in the discussions and is a major help with “crowd control.”

We may not be teaching the kids everything we are supposed to, but hopefully, they are learning something important. And we are having a good time.

Life goes on

It wasn’t a very exciting weekend around the Poolman house, but it was busy all the same. Mrs. Poolman has been in a death-struggle with a head and chest cold. I’ve just been trying to stay out of her way. Even in marriage, some things just aren’t worth sharing.

I started off Saturday by attending a program out our church on the upcoming change in the “Roman Missal. “ Starting the first Sunday in Advent (late November), the Catholic Church in the US will begin using a new translation of the original Latin Mass. Apparently, the general consensus is that the Church didn’t do a very good job in translating the Mass from Latin to English back in the mid 1960s. This move is an effort to correct it.

It will mean some slight changes to some of the responses and to the prayers most of us can recite without even thinking about it. No longer. I like some of the changes, but not all of them. Of course, the Pope didn’t ask my opinion. In any case, since I both read at Mass and teach 5th grade CCD, I figured I’d better make an effort to get up to speed.

Writer Princess and Son-in-Law were moving out of their one-bedroom condo and into a three-bedroom house. They are still staying close to us. They are roughly a five minute drive away, and right around the corner from WP’s best friend. Mrs. Poolman went over to help them move on Saturday morning. I check in after leaving the church session early and was dispatched to Home Depot for some blinds and to Popeye’s to pick up lunch. We spent several hours helping them move their kitchen stuff.  Mrs. P donated our collection of laundry baskets and beach towels to the cause, which was fine until Sunday afternoon when I needed to do three loads of laundry. Sigh.

I took a rare Saturday afternoon nap-on-the-couch, while half-watching the Alabama-Arkansas game. The Gators came on at seven and went to 4-0, beating Kentucky for something like the 255th straight time.

On Sunday, I was back at 9 o’clock Mass. I had received a call on Friday afternoon asking me to read at that Mass. The Knights of Columbus (of which I am a sometime member) were receiving an international award, and the Knight officers wanted as much of a showing as they could muster.

The rest of the day consisted of errands, laundry and a little yard work. Our pool temperature has dropped into the low 80s, much lower than Mrs. P likes for her soaking. We put our solar blanket back on in the hopes of pulling a few more degrees of heat into the water and maybe getting one or two weeks of pool time out of the season. Much will depend on the weather. It has been cloudy and rainy for much of September. If we get some good sun this week, I might be able to get the pool back up to around 90. Mrs. P would be most happy.

One less thing to worry about

Last night Mrs. Poolman and I spent the night on cots at our church, as overnight hosts for two homeless families. This is part of a program called Interfaith Hospitality Ministry. Our parish take two or three weeks of the year and provides overnight housing, breakfast and dinner for two or three families. Other churches pick up the other weeks.

I didn’t sleep that well, so I’m a little raw today. This will be a short post.

I thought that the reason I didn’t sleep well was the uncomfortable cot and the unfamiliar surroundings. I was wrong. Apparently I was worrying about the new etiquette for gay weddings.  Marlo Thomas has all the answers for me.

I’ll rest easy tonight.

A little OCD can be good for you

Mrs. Poolman thinks I am slightly neurotic. She is probably right. I am a little obsessive-compulsive. Most of my OCD revolves around turning off hot appliances. An hour or more after using it, I’ll ask myself…

“Did I remember to turn off the oven  /grill / iron?”

Mrs. P makes fun of me, but actually there have been a number of times I have discovered the oven left on overnight. Usually this has been when one of our children had been using it, or we had a party and a guest used it to heat up a dish. All the same, I may be neurotic, but I’m not completely crazy.

I have a way of compensating so I don’t drive Mrs. P or myself totally bonkers. When I turn off one of these appliances, I “tell myself” to remember that I have done so.

“You are unplugging the iron, Poolman. Remember this later.”

I’ll have a solid memory of performing the act to fall back on.

As I have told Mrs. P, “Not all neuroses are bad.”

I thought of this last Sunday, when I sat at Mass and listened to the lector read an entire set of readings that were entirely wrong. I felt sorry for her because she was the only person in the church who didn’t realize she was “on the wrong page.” She read the readings for the same Sunday in the next annual cycle. She wasn’t off by a week; she was off by a year. Ignorance is bliss, at least for awhile. She probably figured it out eventually.

I’ve had just about everything go wrong that possibly can go wrong when I have been a lector. Painful experience has encouraged me to get to the church early and double check everything — the Gospel book, the announcements, and especially the page-marker in the lectionary. I hate unpleasant surprises in front of large groups of people. So I”m pretty OCD about making sure everything is lined up properly.

I don’t know if a little OCD can be contagious. Why should I be selfish and enjoy all the benefits?

A slow Saturday

It’s a slow weekend here at Casa Poolman. Mrs. P is working both days of the weekend, including Mother’s Day, which she just loves (not.)

I am spending Saturday taking care of miscellaneous chores around the house.

I took a walk for exercise this morning and ran into my across-the-street neighbor, Judy. This was the first time I have laid eyes on Judy since last fall. She lost her husband to cancer several years ago, so she lives there alone. She has a son and his family here on the island and a daughter and family in North Carolina. She filled me on all her news, including a grandson in North Carolina who was born at 26 weeks gestation, but is now doing well. After about an hour of the update, it was time to get moving again. I excused myself and continued with my walk.

I ate some lunch and cleaned up the back yard. We have the solar cover still on the pool. The water is around 85 degrees, which is just getting to the temperature Mrs. P likes it. Hopefully, she’ll soon get the chance to enjoy it.

I am taking a two day course in “Communicating Science Effectively” which is being held on our campus this week. The problem is the course requires I show up with a functional laptop and a bunch of Adobe software. Our IT guys tell me my clunker of a computer won’t handle those programs. (I am due for a new laptop in July.) So I arranged to borrow Poolboy’s computer for the course. I am spending the afternoon downloading and installing trial versions of a bunch of software. Fascinating work. He will want his laptop back tomorrow, and then I’ll take it back again on Tuesday. What a pain.

I am reading / lecturing at 5:30 pm Mass this evening. I am just planning on a Papa Murphy’s pizza for dinner. Mrs. P really doesn’t like a big meal when she is working back-to-back shifts.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, but Mrs. P is working again. I’ll have a nice meal of barbecued ribs, hash brown potatoes, etc ready when she gets home. It’s the least I can do.

And a week later…

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, I wrote about how disappointed and discouraged I was with the chronically bad behavior of the 5th graders in my CCD class. Well, the word got out and it had a positive effect.

I maintain a second blog that is directly primarily at the parents of the students in my class. I update it weekly with an account of that week’s lesson, announcements, etc. Last week, I posted my “discouragement rant” on that blog also in the hope that some parents might actually read it and follow up with their child. The director of our CCD program took it a step further. She printed it out; made copies; and sent it home to all the parents in my class, along with a note from her.

I heard from a few of the parents, but, apparently, even those who did not contact me had conversations with their children.

Last night, the students were well mannered and engaged. I also had the services of my assistant teacher, aka “the enforcer,” to help keep the little darlin’s in line.

We have just a few weeks left in the year. Hopefully, we can maintain the momentum.