Lessons from the lunchroom

I wandered into the lunchroom at work today, grabbed my frozen mac & cheese and headed for the microwave.

Two women (whom I don't know except by sight; they work in another department) were talking. They were both complaining about their adult daughters. Apparently, one family was thinking that the daughter and her toddler son were going to move back in.

"She's just miserable; she's made a mess of her life."

"My daughter would be so much happier if she lost some weight. I keep telling her that." [Ouch.]

"She just doesn't understand how to take care of her son."

Ooph.

Yeah, I've complained about my kids. I've been mad at my kids. But I don't talk smack about my kids to co-workers.

I was thinking, as I waited for my lunch to get hot, that I almost lost a daughter four years ago. Really - she was abducted and gone for 48 hours.

I was thinking about how beautiful my oldest daughter looked at her wedding this past summer. So young. (And yes, we fought about everything - but it was a lovely day!)

I thought about my sons - the struggles they have, the heartache they've caused.

I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change them.

The lunchroom made me sad today: two moms (and yes, I'm sure they love their kids) who were so caught up in the negative. I hope I remember the next time I open my mouth.

Easter Miracles

"He is Risen" - artists Frances and Robert Hook
We spend Easter Sunday with our beloved Franciscan Sisters. We enjoy a beautiful Mass together, and share a brunch afterwards (and you should all be jealous you weren't there: the food, oh my!!)

During brunch, we have a tradition of sharing our Easter Miracles: miracles, big and small, they happened to us during the past year. Sometimes it's as simple as a child with a disability who has now learned to read, and other times, it's a sister hitting the 5-year mark of being cancer-free (the 5-year mark is considered cured.)

One of our friends had a terrible accident with a table saw, and is struggling to get healthy, and work with a hand that won't ever be the same. However, their family stilled shared a miracle of all the help and prayers they've received - their family life didn't skip a beat; there was always someone there to jump in and do what needed to be done.

I started thinking about the miracles in our family this past year. It wasn't a good year for us, but miracles abounded. Dear Husband - despite a horrendous outcome from an "outpatient" procedure - lived, didn't lose his arm, and is overall very healthy now. Our daughter was married to a young man we love. I was able to spend the last three weeks of her life with my mother.

My Dark-Haired daughter continues to be the biggest miracle of all. She has been the victim of such horrible, evil crimes, and she chooses to be a survivor. She chooses joy. She chooses life. She chooses love. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I still struggle with forgiveness and anger, but I'm working on it. I know there can be a miracle in my heart, and I expect nothing less.

The Annunciation, Mom, And Faith

The Annunciation - artist Maurice Denis
Friday would be my mother's 91st birthday. She's been gone almost 4 months now, and I still have to catch myself calling her on the way home from work at least once a week.

I want to tell her about my new job and how much I like it. I want to tell her about planning a trip to Ireland (which she and my dad made possible by their Depression-style savings and generosity.) I want to tell her about the kids, and the house, and Tiger baseball and Jeopardy and well, everything.

Her birthday falls on Good Friday this year, which feels quite right to me. Part of the grieving process. Usually, on March 25, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, but the feast is moved to Easter Monday this year.

I always thought it was wonderful that Mom's birthday fell on this feast, this celebration of one woman saying "yes" to the will of God and thus changing humanity forever. While the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, I imagine all the angels in Heaven leaning forward, holding their breath (as it were) in anticipation of Mary's answer.

I have several of my mom's prayer books and missals. There are prayer cards in them from grade school retreats: a girlish hand writing "To Elizabeth, from Lorraine, in memory of our grade 7 retreat." I pray for both Mom and Lorraine now, hoping they are catching up in Heaven.

One of the prayer books is a Mother's Prayer Book. It's pre-Vatican II, so the language seems quite formal and a bit stilted, but I know my mother prayed many of those prayers fervently. Now, so do I.

My mother's greatest possession was her faith, a faith she fiercely loved. She set a very high bar for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in that regard - a legacy.

This year, my hope and prayer is that her birthday will be celebrated with her Heavenly Mother, rejoicing together in the epic story of passion, death and resurrection. Happy Birthday, Mumma.

Being honest about mental health

Artist Toby Allen
I was in the beauty shop last night (where women really go for therapy!) and had an interesting experience.

First, my hair dresser has been doing my  hair for a long time. We know each other pretty darn well. She runs her beauty shop with such a huge heart for Christ - she really thinks of it as her ministry and not just a place where people go to get their hair cut.

A young lady (early 20s) came in, a friend of my hair dresser's. She started talking about her experience recently of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and what a scary time she'd had after a particularly bad panic attack.

I spoke up and said, "I know exactly what that's like. I had to check myself into [insert local mental health hospital here] a few years ago."

We had a great conversation. She said that she wished people talked about it more; she would have sought help sooner if she'd felt more comfortable talking about it.

If  you read my blog at all, you know I'm a HUGE proponent of better mental health care, but also that we TALK about mental health. People with mental illness often suffer far too long and needlessly - mostly due to shame, ignorance and embarrassment.

We need more voices in the fight for mental health care in this country. We need to help those who suffer by letting them know they are not alone, and that there are many of us who walk in those shoes.

I hate to think of any young person suffering silently, hurting for far too long, just because they don't know that there are so many of us who understand and that help IS available.

St. Dymphna, pray for us!

Trying to make sense of injustice

I am flawed. I have a big mouth. If you ask me what I think, I will tell you. I do not mince words.

Given these traits, I am not always easy to work or live with. I know this. Yet, I consider myself a good employee, a good sister. I give 110%, especially when I am working on ideas that stimulate me, that I'm passionate about. However, I try my best to work just as hard on the mundane things as well.

I left a job last year. I did not leave under good circumstances. It was made clear to me that I was no longer considered a useful employee (I realized this when I was told the best task they had for me going forward was folding programs for upcoming events.) I have, thanks be to God, found a new job, where I am valued, treated respectfully and professionally, and I am quite happy here.

I just found out that three men who I hold in high esteem were also "forced out" from the same organization that I left. As I understand it, they were treated, at the very least, poorly, and at most, in an evil manner. It makes me very angry, as this organization purports to hold itself to a very high standard.

This is unjust. Injustice is a cruel thing, because it generally denies the dignity of a person. It treats that person as a thing, a tool, an object to be used and/or discarded. It is bullying, all grown up.

Is there anyone who has ever been treated more unjustly than Christ? God-made-Man, sentenced to death for no reason. He had no guilt - never had done even the smallest wrong to anyone.

In the face of injustice, especially when it involves people I know, I want to scream and fight and blow the whistle. But in this season of Lent, I believe I shall instead ponder Christ on the Cross: "Forgive them. They know not what they do."

Can a mom just ... quit?

Well, at least there's still hope for me as Mother of the Year
I was ready to quit last week.

Quit being a mom.

With only one kid at home now, you'd think things would be easier. But no. I had one kid who was playing a stupid passive-aggressive game of "Let's tell mom things I never told her before and then when she gets upset, tell her she's being crazy." I had another kiddo (the one who is still at home) who needed a re-run lesson on "Please tell us where you are and who you are with, just as a point of courtesy." And for the finale, another installment of "Remember, you're not talking to the kid; you're talking to the addiction."

I was done. Pounding my head against the wall seemed to be more productive. And less painful.

My sister said I couldn't quit, but she did give me a bit of time off. Not much, though.

My kids are no longer kids, but they are not adults either. They are not all ready to take responsibility, to recognize their own methods of self-destruction, or keep a plant alive. That's ok - except when it's not. And Dear Husband and I are still expected to pick up the pieces (or shards of glass).

We had a "Come To Jesus" chat with one child: no more money. None. If you need shoes, we will buy  you shoes. If you need food, we will buy  you food. But no one here is under any illusion on what you'll do with cash, so you're not getting anymore.

I had to tell another kid: Hey, newsflash: Mom is human. Quit treating her like your own emotional punching bag.

For now, I'm trying a new tactic. (I don't know how long I'll be able to hold out, as I'm Irish.) I'm keeping my mouth shut (other than the occasional "Oh, uh-huh" or "Yes, I see...) and I'm just praying. And praying. And praying.

One of the treasures my mom left me is an old prayer book for mothers. She marked a few - apparently she wanted to quit a few times as well. And those prayers are coming in handy. Other times I just look up at Jesus' precious face on the crucifix and say, "This problem is yours now."

I still might quit. But not today. At least not today.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're stil...