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Showing posts from 2016

Faith As A Crutch

One of my sons has taken up atheism with a vengeance. It's a bold and provocative life: claiming God does not exist. That way, you have nothing to live up to. Wild, huh?

He accused me, on Christmas Day, of using faith as a crutch. At first, I was offended. But now: yeah, it's a crutch.

When I was 16, we took a family trip up through Canada and down through New England. One of our stops was the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal. In one of the chapels, and lining the hallways, were hundreds, if not thousands, of crutches and canes cast off by infirm visitors who found some form of healing there. It was rather remarkable to see very old crutches along side aluminum ones - clearly, this had been going on for a long time.

When I lost my mom, I was holding it together at the funeral home pretty well until two of my oldest and dearest friends came in. I literally fell into their arms. And I remembered back just a few short years before, when one of those friends lost her husband qui…

Secret Santa!!

Too old for Santa? I think not.

Yes, there are discussions as to whether we should "lie" to kids and tell them that Santa brings them gifts vs. We can't lie to the kids; it's wrong.

There is also the "Christmas is about Jesus" vs. "But Santa is magical!"

You know, we have so few magical and joyful moments, and less and less as we get older. Santa is fun. And the kids usually figure it out, and no one I know was ever scarred for life for believing that Santa brought them and every child everywhere a toy for Christmas.

It's the magic of looking up at the sky on a clear December night, thinking "I'll wait up to see Santa" and later, as you fell asleep at the window, being in your daddy's arms as he carries you to bed.

It's the magic of putting out cookies and milk (or beer, because Santa does like beer) and maybe some carrots for the reindeer, and then checking in the morning to make sure the food was all consumed.

It's…

Be Grateful!

I have this note on my work station: Be Grateful!

I tend to be a bit pessimistic, always waiting for the next calamity to strike. I lose sight of the good things. This little note helps to remind me that God has blessed me abundantly, and continues to do so.

What am I grateful for today?

This amazing rendition of "O Holy Night" by the incomparable Jennifer NettlesSecret Santa (So far, my Santa has gifted me some colorful gel pens, a case of sparking water [which I guzzle by the gallon] and dark chocolates.) What an awesome thing it is for co-workers to make each other's day a bit brighter!Dark-Haired Daughter's Happy Adoption Day. We alway celebrate the day our kids came home. What a blessing!I'm grateful I have a reliable vehicle during these winter months.I'm grateful we found a new place to live that we really, really like If you tend to be a bit gloomy like me, perhaps a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder to be grateful is the nudge you need. Be grateful!

A bit of poetry for your soul: Maya Angelou

I'm a bit drained. Work is busy (good!) and we are in the midst of packing and purging.

Part of the packing process feels like an archeological dig: the book one kiddo made in the 5th grade, mementoes from 1st Communions, a forgotten photo from an ordinary day. It is bittersweet. I keep reminding myself that the memories are not in the things.

I thought this poem from Maya Angelou summed things up well.

"Touched by an Angel" 

We, unaccustomed to courage 
exiles from delight 
live coiled in shells of loneliness 
until love leaves its high holy temple 
and comes into our sight 
to liberate us into life. 

Love arrives 
and in its train come ecstasies 
old memories of pleasure 
ancient histories of pain. 
Yet if we are bold, 
love strikes away the chains of fear 
from our souls. 

We are weaned from our timidity 
In the flush of love's light 
we dare be brave 
And suddenly we see 
that love costs all we are 
and will ever be. 
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Advent Brokenness

It was a lovely May evening, the kind we in Michigan savor like honey. After the brutal cold of winter, flowers blossomed, grass greened, mosquitoes flocked. School was almost done for the year - just the formalities of 8th grade graduation were ahead.

Why not saddle up the horse and go for a ride? Why not, indeed. So my sister and I did. I took Prince out across the road from our house, to romp through the weeds on a path my father mowed for us. The view from horseback on a spring night - well, nearly Heaven.

Until Prince bolted. He spooked. I fell. And my arm broke. Compound fracture.

My dog, a collie, had followed us out. He was not particularly trusting of Prince, as Prince would never allow himself to be herded, and this vexed my collie. My dog, channeling his inner Lassie, ran home without me.

My sister had been in the yard with her boyfriend at the time, Gary, waiting for me to come back. Instead, it was just the dog loping across the road. That didn't seem right, so my si…

Bad Mom

The past year has been one of loss for me and my family. Right now, we are in the midst of losing our house. We are moving in a month - because who wouldn't want to move in the middle of January in Michigan???

I've lived most of this year in physical pain. After rounds of doctor visits (from my family doc to the university hospital), I finally got some answers ... but no solutions. Even the top-rated docs at U of M didn't want to touch the source of my pain.

It was suggested to me that I try for a spinal stimulator. While this seemed like a great idea, it set off weeks of phone calls: pain clinic, doctor, insurance and round and round and round. I'm in the midst of a trial and it looks good, but the permanent implant may be weeks away .... and we are moving.

Then last week, one of my kids dropped a bit of a bombshell. I didn't react very well. It feels like another enormous loss to me. I did a horrible job of trying to make myself understood, and my child reacted …

Missing Mom

It's been almost a year since my mom died (Dec. 2 is the actual anniversary.) I didn't think it would hit me this hard, but all I really want to do right now is retreat into a cocoon of blankets, tea and a rosary.

Dear Husband and I were with our spiritual director last night, and I spoke of this. She said, "You know, my parents have both been gone for over 20 years, and I still have moments where I think, 'I wish you were here." And she went on to speak of the "body experience" (which is a very Franciscan thing) of missing loved ones: the longing for the touch, the voice.

I don't want Mom "back." I pray her soul is at peace with God. But her voice, her hug. Whenever I visited, she would stand at her door as I was leaving and wave. "Call me when you get home, so I know you're safe."  I'm 50 years old, and she still worried about sending her baby out into the world, where so many bad things can happen. How can I not miss …

Huh. Didn't see that comin'

If I were to write an autobiography, I believe it's title would be, Huh. Didn't See That Coming. A few examples:

A proper Catholic girl who fell in love with and married an agnostic. (He converted later.)InfertilityAdopting 5 kidsStaying sane raising 5 kidsSpeech therapy, psychological therapy, occupational therapy...A parade of social workers who always knew better than I didThe incredible implosion that puberty had on my kids' brains. I could go on. And I shall.
About 18 years ago, we bought a "dream house." A great place to raise kids. Lots of other kids in the neighborhood, on a quiet cul-de-sac. Perfect.
Until things went so completely, utterly and horribly sideways.
Eldest Son was far more troubled that we knew initially, and eventually was removed from our home. Our "perfect home" became haunted for me - I felt guilty for not seeing what was right under my nose. 
As our kids grew older, the chemicals that their birth mother had implanted in their…

My Constant Prayer Right Now

Holy wound in the side of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the cruel insult Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee, my Jesus, for the love which suffered Thy side and Heart to be pierced, so that the last drops of blood and water might issue forth, making my redemption to overflow. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of Thy most holy humanity, that my soul may enter once for all into that most loving Heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, and never more depart. 

Eight Years

Multiply that by eight years.

Eight years ago - 2008. The US elected a man I did not vote for nor like. His administration rammed a health care package down the throats of the American people that forced many of us to pay for birth control and abortion, which we find morally repugnant. He spoke of "freedom of worship" which is far different than "freedom of religion" - a fundamental right of Americans. His presidency will be remembered by some of us for going after the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns founded in 1839. They provide end of life care for the destitute. The president for the past 8 years believed these women should provide birth control and abortion for their employees, which is a direct violation of their religious freedom.

I could go on.

Eight years.

For the past eight years, I have fought like hell for a daughter with special needs. I have been told by "her" social worker, a state employee was charged with my daughter&…

Post-election Blues

Actually, I'm not really all that upset about the election. I didn't care for either of the major party candidates and judging by FB today, we are just as divided a nation today as we were yesterday. No, my heart is heavy for a lot of different reasons, none of them political.

For those of us who struggle with depression, we know it is a constant battle with the beast. Some days, just getting out of bed is a monumental effort. Got dressed? Bonus! Went to work? Double-bonus! Did not put  your head on your desk and weep? You win a trip to Aruba!! (If only...)

We have instituted a "family dinner" once a month, but it's never the whole family. Got too many wounds, too much turbulence, too much mental illness. I cherish these days, but they hurt too.

I'm worried about a medical procedure I'm supposed to have done. It's kinda radical, but also hopeful. But will it work? I dunno. But it will require some down time, and this year, I've missed so much wor…

Holding on to a kid for dear life

Maybe you know this. Maybe you've done it. But if you haven't...

As parents, we know that someday, we must let go of our kids. They have to grow up. You relish those moments of cuddling them after a bath, of snuggling on the couch on a rainy day, of watching them learn a new skill.

But that moment when  you have to let go? We'd rather not.

Maybe it happens when  you drop them off at college that first time. Or that first time you hand them the keys to the car. Or when they get their first real job.

Maybe it's when they tell you (in utter sincerity) that they've learned a lesson you've put before them all their life, but NOW, it finally makes sense.

Sometimes, the letting go is not a happy one. It is not because they have reached a new height, or have grown up, matured. No, this letting go is ugly and sad and harder than anything you've ever done.

This letting go is because your child has made horrible choices. It's drugs or alcohol or the addictive beh…

Happy Feast of All Souls', the Day of the Dead And Why You Should Celebrate

One great thing about being Catholic is that we are always celebrating something. Halloween? Yes, please! Feast of All Saints'? You betcha! Feast of All Souls? We are in!

One thing that nearly all world religions have in common is some sort of attention to ancestors. It's common for Buddhist to have an altar or shrine in the home,  with a scroll in place listing the family ancestors. Both the Chinese and Japanese have a time of year when ancestral graves are cleaned, decorated and there is food prepared - both for the living and dead.

As Catholics, we celebrate All Saints' and All Souls'. I kinda wish we had more attention paid to what we can do in our homes to celebrate - our celebrations are pretty much limited to church attendance, unless you're more of a zealot. (And I consider myself one, so I do not mean that in a pejorative sense.)

Now, if you want to see these celebrations done right, head to Catholic Mexico and the Day of the Dead. This is a marvelous exam…

Walking By Faith, Catholic Zombie Edition

We walk by faith, and not by sight: 
No gracious words we hear 
of him who spoke as none e'er spoke
yet we believe him near.

We may not touch his hands and side, 
nor follow where he trod; 
yet in his promise we rejoice, and cry, 
"My Lord and God! 

I'm running on less than 3 hours sleep. It's cold and rainy and dreary. My office is a bit nippy, so I'm typing with fingerless gloves on. And I've had it "up to here" with God.

(I am a firm believer that it's okay to get angry at God. I know the trials and tribulations in my life are not His fault, but I gotta unload on someone, and He's got very sturdy shoulders.)

The answer I thought I had for my chronic pain turned out to be a bust. That was a day of tears and anger. There is another possible solution, but I am afraid to hope. I'm sort of in a "I'll believe it when I see it" frame of mind.

Youngest Son has broken my trust and faith yet again, in an incredibly hurtful way. I am scr…

Love Me Some World Religions

A long, long time ago, I went to college. This was back in the olden days when a slightly naive but studious Catholic girl didn't have awesome choices like Magdalen College and St. Thomas More College. My parents dropped me off at Alma College, which was founded by the Presbyterian Church. A priest friend of theirs told them he felt confident that my faith life would be safer there than at any "Catholic" college available to me at the time, as most of them had joined in the post-Vatican II meltdown of the '70s.

I had planned to be an English major (and graduated with enough credits, but did not fulfill all the department requirements.) But I had a true epiphany as a freshman, in a class called "Religion in America." One of our readings was Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From Birmingham Jail." It knocked the breath out of me. I had never heard the Gospel proclaimed in this way - the Word of God as a basis for justice. (Gentle reader: Yes, I …

Feeling Smart and Stupid, all at the same time

It's an interesting time to be alive, isn't it? And American to boot. Thought I'd make a few notes because my brain is getting a bit scrambled....

What I Know:

I know that I am a card-carryin' member of the Catholic Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. (Presidential elections notwithstanding.)

I know how to cook. And I'm pretty good at it, when I do it.

I know I am loved by my siblings, and I love them in return.

I know I survived raising 5 kids with a lot of issues. And I'm really, really proud of them.

I know that the older I get, the more I like cats.

I know that big families are a big blessing.

I know that the saints are my friends. Deo gratias.

Now:

I don't know how I'm going to vote in the upcoming election. It's like a choice between food poisoning and a life-threatening allergic reaction.

I do not know how my kids managed to survive me as a mom.

I do not know how to keep my kids Catholic (but if I did, I'd be rich. …

How to be a good mother when you just can't

I hesitate to give this piece any more advertisement than it has already received, but just so we are all on the same page, here goes.

Marie Claire magazine, which is pretty standard fashion/ads/young women in America stuff, recently printed an article about women who were miserable as moms. MISERABLE.

"The regret hit me when the grandmas went home and my husband went back to the office and I was on my own with him," she says. "I realized that this was my life now—and it was unbearable." And:
"I wish I would never had kids [sic]. I realize I am not mother material, and I am terrified thinking how I am going to be forced to take care of it." And:
She envies friends not for their spontaneous vacations and naps, but for the time and space they have to think. "I hold a lot of data in my head," Ananya says of constantly keeping on top of all the details that go with small children: doctor's appointments, weight, height, most recent allergies, toys t…

Being faithful in the midst of pain

When we are in pain, it seems as if the whole world revolves around us - or should. We only pay attention to our immediate situation.

When our kids were younger, Eldest Son had a lot of problems. There was a time - months and months - where his issues seems to need all of Dear Husband's and my attention. I clearly remember thinking one day, "Whoa - I have GOT to pay attention to the other kids." It's not like I was neglecting them ... no, I was. Maybe it was necessary; we were literally trying to save our son's future, but it didn't make the realization hurt any less. And I couldn't get the time with them back.

Maybe it's a job. Maybe it's a health issue. Maybe it's caring for a child or an elderly parent. Whatever it is, we get sucked into a situation where hurt is involved and we begin to act like an ER doctor - plugging holes, clearing airways, keeping the person alive. That's it. We are keeping the situation alive.

Then things quiet d…

Anointing of the Sick and a mission I didn't ask for

At Mass, this past Sunday, we celebrated the Anointing of the Sick. I've never figured out why more people don't avail themselves of this sacrament, especially since it's one where the recipient really doesn't have to DO anything (other than pray and receive the grace - easy peasy!)

Anyway, "K," our pastoral associate, asked if I'd like to receive, and I said yes. (Actually, I nearly shouted "yes" but we were in church right before Mass started. I contained my enthusiasm.) She told me there were two other people, and she would seat them next to me in the front pew. One was a older lady bent over from osteoporosis, who told me she was nervous - "I've never done this." I tried to assure her that it was not only painless and easy, but quite helpful.

Father began his sermon  by announcing that we were celebrating this sacrament following the homily. Then he said that the sick - whether it was an illness of mind, body or spirit - were …

Suffering: Not about courage

I was awake at 5 a.m. this morning. That netted me about 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is pretty good for me these days. I was sleeping in the recliner in my office, a common deal for me now, as the recliner is more comfortable than a bed. (One weird sidebar of this whole "tumor on my spine" thing is that my leg and foot often fall asleep if I'm in bed. Who knew?)

Right across from my recliner is a crucifix, then an icon of the Nativity, and finally a print from Assisi showing four holy places of the life of St. Francis. If you're awake at 5 a.m., and you're not feeding a baby or getting ready for work, you have the luxury of talking to Jesus for a bit. Having a crucifix there is a good conversation starter.

I was talking to Jesus about how He managed to carry that cross. Just the physical trauma of it; I know He was God, but He was just walking around in human skin. He had no Superman powers. He stilled stubbed His toe and it hurt. He got headaches (can…

Sleeping on the floor with Jesus

I live the Franciscan life by choice - after all, Dear Husband and I are in formation with a Franciscan order of sisters, they've been our spiritual advisors and  have been for many years. I've said here before I'm not a very good Franciscan, as I own far too many shoes, but Franciscan spirituality is in the marrow of my bones.

Youngest Son and I were talking yesterday about Franciscans, and I told him about how "hard-core" the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are. I told my son that when I went to the March for Life a few years back, I walked most of the way with some of these Friars. They were barefoot. In January. In DC. And singing joyfully the entire way.

They sleep on the floor. No pillows, no mattress. They truly don't own anything. They are in service to the poor in the radical way St. Francis was. My son thought this was crazy, and it is. Crazy in that it's radical love for Christ, and that always looks crazy to our sin-steeped world.

Little did…

Learning from Mother Teresa

I admit: I never had much of a warm, fuzzy spot for Mother Teresa. I realize she's a holy woman, a saint, and I admired her work while on earth. But, you know how it is: just like we warm up to people here on earth and find our besties, we do the same with saints. I never considered Mother Teresa one of my heavenly besties.

Because of my job (which includes writing a blog post every day and finding good stuff for the company's social media), I've spent a lot of time reading about Mother Teresa, and learning from her directly via her letters and diary.

[Just let me step aside here for a moment and remind you of the world's most frightening prayer, from St. Ignatius of Loyola.]

I know in my head and in my gut that I'm supposed to do God's will. I know that if I choose this, my life will be better than any plans I could come up with. And yet ... I'd still rather do things MY way.

Heal me Lord! I'm in so much pain. Just heal me. I know you can.

Fix my kid, J…

So close to Jesus

This past Sunday, at Mass, Dear Husband and I had the great good fortune of having a dad, toddler and infant sit next to us in the front pew.

"Good fortune?" you say. Sounds horrible. Kids are so distracting. Put 'em in the nursery.

Nope. We sit up in the front pew, and always invite parents with young kids to come and sit with us. Having raised 5 hyper kids, we can pretty much ignore anything, plus kids do much better when they can see what's going on.

I have to admit, I wanted the toddler to act up a bit so I could whisper to the dad, "I'll watch the baby if you have to take him out."

Instead, we saw something rather remarkable.

Oh, the toddler (not quite 2) was a toddler. He was a bit anty. He wasn't quite sure that he liked seeing his mommy in front, cantoring, where he couldn't get to her. He whined and fussed a bit.

But during the Consecration, his enormous blue eyes locked onto the priest. That baby boy saw Jesus up there. You could just…

Can you be a wimp and a saint?

Hubby and I spent about 6 hours in the car yesterday to go see the neurosurgeon at the university hospital about this (non-cancerous) spinal tumor I have.

The appointment basically consisted of him telling us that, in the last 3 months, the tumor has not grown, and beyond that, he doesn't have a clue. He's sending me to another specialist.

The last week has been especially painful. I not only hurt, but it makes it difficult to make plans, because I simply don't know how I'm going to feel from day to day.

It seems as if all the stories of the saints and martyrs tell us that they are all very stoic and brave in the face of pain and death. Now, I know that can't be true. At least one or two of them must have been a LITTLE whiny or scared or bossy or short-tempered. I just can't seem to find any of those stories to bolster my own weakness.

For instance, I just learned that St. Gemma Galgani (who I confess I knew very little about) is the patron saint of those who …

Fading Into Friday

It's been a long week. Monday was just ... bad. I ticked off our IT guy at work by opening up one of those d*%$ emails that as soon as you click on it, you think, "Oops." So I trotted over to his office, and he promptly yelled at me. Like I was a child. Or stupid. Or a stupid child.

This was after I found out that every imaginable driving route from my home to office and back home again is under construction. Can't get there from her. Orange barrels. Must as well sleep in the office.
This, combined with the fact that I am now the ONLY person on the planet who stills checks their blind spot before changing lanes, makes me want to quit my job and go live in a yurt.

Our health insurance company sent us these gloom and doom letters that Dear Hubby and I HAD to go online and fill out a health assessment NOW or OUR INSURANCE WOULD BE CANCELLED!!! They were SERIOUS! So, I went online Wednesday. Their system was down for maintenance.

Tried again yesterday. I swear I could n…

Learning to love and protect a little girl, a Child of the King

This little girl is five. She does not like the curls in hair, because it means sleeping in curlers, which are pokey and they hurt. She loves her new dress though, even though it's itchy. She's a little sad too, because her sisters both get to wear long yellow dresses that their grandma made for a wedding. They get to be in the wedding, but this little girl does not.

She's also happy that she has learned to read. All of a sudden, one Saturday morning, the letters on the page of "Little Red Riding Hood" suddenly made sense: they were words! And she could read them, not just recite what she knew from memory! It was the beginning of a love affair with words and language and books and writing and reading.

Her best friend is her sister. They are wild: they escape the house early in the morning and run and explore and create and imagine. When they finally must return home, their mother meets them outside, and pulls burrs and bugs from their hair before making them tak…

Broken Mary: Putting the pieces of faith back together

I just finished reading "Broken Mary." You should read it, too.
When I was in high school, music was a HUGE part of my life. However, I depended on my friends being able to scout out the really good stuff: the Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, U2. I lived in a rural area, and the only radio station my mom and dad listened to was WJR out of Detroit. Yeah...
Then I got to college, and my new friends introduced me to WLAV out of Grand Rapids. It was the mid 1980s, and great music seemed to be everywhere - and LAV had it all. 
Kevin Matthews was the morning guy. He was raunchy and risky and funny and clearly loved the music. His fans were "Kevheads" and they were wildly devoted to him.
It's more than 30 years later, and LAV still gets played in my house. It's different now: "classic rock" which sort of translates into "stuff you listened to 30 years ago." My tastes and sense of music has changed and broadened, but LAV is still there.
But Matthews…

If you're ill, don't shy away from God.

There was a time when lepers had to carry bells and loudly announce their presence, so that the "clean" people would have time to seek shelter from them.

Illnesses were blamed in parental sins, or even farther back the family chain. When the AIDS epidemic first struck in the 1980s, they were those who were convinced that this was God's way of dealing out "justice" to homosexuals.

Illness can sometimes seem like an additional cross from God: "Great, I just started a new job, and the kids have different schools this year, and I haven' even thought about a summer vacation and sorry, what's that? Lupus. No. No, you don't understand, I don't have time for that.,,,,

That may be true. YOU don't. But GOD does. For whatever He also int our lives is good and life-giving. Facing any serious illness, chronic or life-threatening, is not something anyone puts on their calendar. It can also make things very difficult to explain to people.

Oh, people …