Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Christmas Season

My mother used to say that she had to make a big deal about certain things or nobody would know that they were important. Christmas was her favorite time of year and she made a HUGE deal over it. It would really drive us crazy. I remember once as a girl crying after gifts and dinner. I remember thinking that I had everything my little heart could have desired and more. And still I felt empty. I remember asking God, through sobs and tears, if this meant that I was a selfish little girl who only wanted more. Christmas was over and I was disappointed. Weeks of hard work and anticipation were used up in mere hours and the only thing to show for them were scraps of wrapping paper on the floor and cold leftovers. Disheartening indeed.

Was I selfish? No. I would have given up any number of toys (though not the bike or the books "Heidi" and "Little Women" to have had a less 'perfect' Christmas and a more prayerful one.

So what do I think of Christmas now? How do I try to celebrate it with my children?I think it should be magical. I want to provide them with a joyous season filled with advent wreaths, cookie baking, and yes, gifts. I want to dance with them while listening to (and singing) Christmas carols in a flour-coated kitchen. I want to see the sheer anticipation in their eyes as they tear open a gift and play with the bow instead of the toy.

Am I going for a 'picture perfect' Christmas like my mother did? I don't even have the energy to try. But I do make a big deal about it. Because it's important.

I don't mind the hard work. I don't mind cleaning the kitchen several times in one day because of a baking frenzy. (I love baking!) I don't mind working alone in a kitchen for hours to provide a feast for my extended family. Do I care that some people do nothing and just show up for the food? Ladies, I don't even care if they show up late. It's not about me. They'll just have to eat cold food. But I DO care when people start complaining.

My husband asked if, with all of the hard work I did, I ever had the chance to think of the 'true meaning' of Christmas. I told him YES! I thanked God for the gifts of my children while I was wrapping their gifts. I praised God as I was preparing a huge meal because not only was the family together but we had plenty of food to eat. I did not take up a labor that I could not do joyously. Would I work so hard for so little recognition normally? Absolutely not. But for our Lord's birthday? How could I not celebrate?

Some things are important. We have to make a big deal about them. The wise men left their homes and followed a star. The shepherds left their sheep defenseless because they heard the angels rejoicing. We are the late-comers. We have had everything revealed to us. We know that Jesus was born for our redemption. Do you honestly think that I am going to let something so trivial as 'propriety' or a 'picture perfect Christmas' get in the way of my celebrating? Were I to hear angels proclaiming the coming of our Lord I would grab my children and dance in the streets. Until then I will continue to celebrate Christmas as if it were the dress rehearsal for the heavenly banquet.

Have a blessed Christmas season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mary's Song of Praise

Luke 1:46-55 NRSV

And Mary said,
'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, 
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'

Ladies, I love this passage of the bible. How are we, as women, wives, mothers, to emulate Mary? Many times Mary is shown as the perfection of humility. And she is. But what does this mean, practically speaking, to us? I am finding that every time I read (or sing) this passage that I learn something new. Each time I find something new about myself that keeps me from God.

So what does it mean to be humble and why is it so important? According to the Oxford English Dictionary 'humility' means:


[mass noun]
  • the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance:he needs the humility to accept that their way may be better

Ouch!  No wonder humility is not a virtue in our society. Don't we, as women, continue to be told that we are worthless or lesser because of our gender? So what gives? What makes Mary's humility different than the suppression of self-worth?

God found Mary worthy. Mary did not look to others to bolster her self-esteem. Neither did she go through life hard-headed and stubborn, confident in her own capabilities. She knew that she was small in comparison to the greatness of God. She knew that she was small in comparison to the greatness of her nation or the Roman empire. Yet God found her worthy. And she believed Him.

Mary had dreams and ambitions for herself. I'm sure she did. And her dream were probably small and humble, just as her life would have been had not God intervened. Yet she gave up even those to follow God's call in her life. Was it easy for her? Well, she was born without the taint of original sin so that must have helped. But I'm glad to have her as a model and guide. Because, Ladies, at times, I don't want to give things up - even for the greater glory of God. Sometimes (like now), I just want to be right and vindicated in my dislike of certain other people who, I assure you, deserve it.

But then there is that humility thing again. And, like Mary, I am challenged to admit that God's way is better than mine. To admit it, to have faith in it, to believe it, to live it. Ouch.

Unlike Mary, I am not called to greatness. But through the grace of God I can be called to something greater than myself. And who wouldn't jump at the chance to say "I was there! I was there and it was glorious!" Who wouldn't want to transcend one's own fears and weaknesses, secure in the knowledge that one is deemed worthy? What would it be like to not to have to prove one's inherent worth to one's self or to others? Not to have to argue or be right? What would it be like to be able to love, to be loved, all the time?  This is what it must be like for the saints in heaven.

Ladies, I will never be great. My name will never resound through the ages. I doubt I will ever be called 'blessed'. Well, not by anybody who knows me. (In fact, my son has taken to calling me "you mean old thing".) But I can choose, in the small mundanity that is my life, to say 'yes' to God. I can choose to be loving instead of being right. And through the grace of God, I may even transcend my own limitations. Isn't it worth the effort?

Sit Deus Nobis (May God Be With Us)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Living A Dream (Advent)

Hello Ladies,

Have you ever been in a situation when you didn't know that you needed help? You're just chugging merrily along and then somebody gives you a word of encouragement or affirmation and then, Boom! Somehow something deep inside of you changes.

Something like that happened to me the other night. (The first night of advent come to think of it. I wonder if it's significant?) I was sleeping when I started dreaming of Our Lady. She came to me, took me by the hand, and told me that she wanted me to see her son. In my dream I was extremely nervous. I tried to imagine what Jesus would look like and if I was wearing the appropriate clothes to meet my Lord. (Yeah, I know. Clothes. Pathetic.)

Mary let me to a garden. I stood nervously when I heard a cry of sheer joy and delight. I looked up in time to see a small child running to me with arms wide open. I sat down in time to catch Him in my arms. He snuggled comfortably in my arms just as my own children had done countless times. Once again I felt awkward. What was I supposed to do? Then He smiled up at me, wrinkled up His nose, and shook His head. I leaned over and rubbed noses with Him and He squealed with sheer joy. Ah, now this was something I recognized! So I tickled Him and kissed Him and He put His fingers in my hair. We continued like this for a few moments more. When it was time He got up from my lap. Now He appeared older, perhaps around six years of age. He turned to me and said "you do this for the least of my people. You give them joy. When you kiss them you're kissing Me. Thank you. Tell the others." He then skipped off.

Ladies, I woke up with a profound need to share this because I know that the 'others' are you - simple mothers like me. We cannot do everything. We shouldn't even try. But perhaps what we manage to do we can do with great love.

This advent season, let's keep in mind whose birthday we are celebrating. There is nothing wrong with Christmas gifts and decorations. But make sure that Jesus would feel comfortable at His own birthday party.

Sit Deus Nobis - May God Be With Us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All Saints, All Souls, Death, Purgatory, Hell, Heaven. (Phew!)

Hello Ladies,

In honor of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, which were November 1st and second respectively, I will be writing about the Catholic beliefs about death and explain what I mean when I say that it is a mother's duty to make her child fit for the kingdom of heaven. Let's go!

All Saints' Day

When I was growing up I wasn't all that impressed with this feast day. To me, a saint was someone who died horribly hundreds or thousands of years ago. Sad and tragic? Certainly. But I certainly wasn't going to be killed for refusing to marry a rich pagan. Sure, the stories were cool but it was more like reading folklore than finding anything in common. And to ask for intercession from these people? Why not go directly to Jesus?

Ok, so the Catholic church is really, really old. And people have gone through a lot to live their faith for a long, long time. You would think that I would have been a bit wiser in my assumptions but I wasn't. I just wasn't all that interested.

Until my beloved grandmother died. Ladies, she was a remarkable woman who turned the most isolating, hopeless situations into opportunities to do good. As a child I thought it was easy for her to be virtuous because it was her. It was only when I was a young woman that she admitted her fears and weaknesses to me. She told me of the times when she thought she couldn't cope. She told me of the dark days when she was literally battling for her life and she still had to raise her children and keep a farm running by herself because my grandfather worked and there were no close neighbors. She told me of the time when she had to carry two young children over a mile to the nearest busy road because her daughter was choking and she had to hitchhike to the nearest hospital to save her daughter's life. And it wasn't easy. Not one little bit of it. In short, she taught me what it is to have true, profound faith in God. She wasn't perfect. She didn't try to be. But she was faithful and it served her well.

I realized that this woman, who nursed me while I was sick and taught be about grace and forgiveness, would continue to do so after her death. I know that she was ready for her suffering to end but not to leave those she loved so much. What would heaven be for her if she had to leave us 'for good'?

The communion of saints suddenly made sense. I know that my grandmother, who struggled so much in life, is now in a place where she can love and guide me more freely. I firmly believe that she guards not only me but also my own children whom she never had a chance to meet in this life. I believe that she knows all about them and takes great joy even in their tantrums (which is more than I can say for myself).

So if I can turn to my grandmother in time of need, why not St. Joseph who guarded over the holy family? Why not St. Thomas Aquinas who struggled through his schooling and was mockingly called the 'dumb ox'? Why not Blessed Mother Teresa who gave her life for the poor? Or St. Monica, patron saint of wives, mothers, and abused women? Or Our Lady who gave even her own child to God?

I'm not saying that you shouldn't go to Jesus in your need. But the saints have been there, done that, as they say. Their struggles are wonderful examples of faith beating the odds. Jesus never said that we should never go to friends for help.

On All Saints' Day the Church comes together to honor those saints, like my grandmother, who led holy lives but are not known widely enough to be canonized. The Church, in her wisdom, does not pretend to have a monopoly on saints. All Saints' Day reminds us that we are all called to be saints. It is in our very nature to say 'yes!' to God. We are, after all, made in His image and likeness. We stumble. We fall. We persevere. That is the message of All Saints' Day.

All Souls' Day

If we are bound together through the ties of love to the saints in heaven, then it stands to reason that we are bound to those we love who are in Purgatory.

For Catholics, purgatory is a place where the soul is purified before she, the soul, can take her place in heaven. Mystics say that after death, the soul, unencumbered by a body and worldly distractions, sees God. If she is not bound for heaven, the soul joyfully plunges herself into a state of purgation. She is joyful because, beholding God's forgiveness, she can no longer offend God and no longer wishes to do so. Her will and the will of God are now one. She sees her own transgressions and willingly submits herself to God's mercy. Her gratitude knows no bounds.

There is a great deal of discussion amongst theologians as to the amount of suffering that goes on in purgatory. For some it's like a spa for the soul. For others it's a place of suffering but with the realistic hope of attaining heaven. Perhaps it depends on the soul. Theologians do agree on the following: It is the soul who casts herself into purgatory and not God and the souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves. It is possible that the souls in purgatory can pray for us and it is said that once a holy soul, as they are called, attains heaven though the prayers of those on earth, that the one who has offered the prayers has a true friend in heaven. Sadly, the devotion to the holy souls has waned in recent years. Who wants to think about death, or sin, anyway?

I will not say much more about purgatory here but will refer you to an earlier post entitled For the Good of Us Both.


Ah, yes. Hell. You notice that there are no days honoring or praying for the souls in hell. This is because hell is for the people who have systematically and knowingly cut every tie to every loving relationship. They don't want our prayers. They want to be right. God is Love. If you are in a loving relationship you are automatically in a relationship with God. Many times it is possible to pick out people who are hell-bent. They are selfish, nasty, vindictive, petty, and self-righteous. They never admit a mistake and nothing, and I mean nothing you do will ever be enough. They are, in short, incapable of joy.

Years back I was friends with a woman who, unfortunately, I have since lost contact with. Her father died when she was young. I remember her describing the event as something blessed. He died in peace with his family around him. The room seemed light and warm. Nobody wanted to leave and even the hospital staff took their time removing the body. Everybody felt honored to be there.

She told me that when her mother died things couldn't have been more different. Before her death, the mother would wake from horrible nightmares that she was totally alone in a cold, dark place. She was forgotten and unloved. (According to my friend, her mother was a nasty piece of work. Yet my friend persevered in lovingly caring for her mother during her final illness.) My friend told her mother that this was a blessing from God; a sign telling her to repent and for once accept love into her life. The mother told my friend that that was 'crazy talk' and was determined not to die. But die she did. The room was ice cold in spite of the heater and dark in spite of the windows. The ambulance was called immediately to take her to the morgue and the attendants were eager to "wrap her up and get her out of there".

The Role of the Mother
Looking at my children it is impossible to imagine them in hell. They are so sweet. So innocent. Even the tantrums can be chalked up to lack of food or sleep, being overwhelmed, or a stage of development. And this is exactly true. They are children. But they will not be children forever.

I have always maintained that the role of the mother is to make her children fit for the kingdom of heaven. No matter what her situation, her choice or need to work outside the home or otherwise, she is responsible for her children. Many mothers don't understand this. They want their children to be "happy" and "successful".

I have no problem with kids being happy and successful. The pursuit of happiness used to mean being able to follow your dreams of becoming: becoming independent, being allowed to fully realize your potential without having somebody take it away on a whim. These days it's about 'having it all'. I know women who, feeling that they were cheated of their right to education, work, or sexual freedom, mistakenly instill in their daughters (or sons) that that is all there is.

Here is an extreme example: When I was in high school there was a girl who was 14 years old. Rumor had it that she had been having sex with several of the boys and had an abortion. I also heard (it was a small school so it is probably true) that she attempted suicide later that year. I did hear, while in the school office, her mother saying that she was shocked that her daughter was so depressed because her daughter was raised to be "enlightened, assertive, liberated, and successful". The secretary to whom the mother was speaking looked incredulously at the mother and stated "and do you think that having sex is making her happy or successful?". The mother looked shocked, stammered, and literally stormed out of the office slamming the door behind her.

There are so many directions I could go with this. I have rewritten this paragraph several times. I think that I will simply state that we, as human being and mothers, must always remember that God wishes us to be inheritors of heaven. The way to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven is to be a saint (which we are all called to be). The path to sainthood, to heaven, is a path traveled in the company of God. There. You don't have to live a secluded life. You don't have to fast for forty days. You might never have an ecstatic vision. But rest assured, heaven is the destination for the faithful. And our children are watching us.

I have heard it said that Mother is the name of God on a child's lips.

Ladies, one day we will die. One day our children will die.

Will we be the type of mother who believes that everything our child does is ok because it's our  child? Ok, yes, each one of us deep down truly believes that sunlight does shine from every one of our child's orifices. If we didn't we would sell our children for scientific experiments in return for a good night's sleep. But does that excuse raising our children to be strangers to God? Is, as the mother of the above example, correct in her assertion that worldly freedom is just a right of passage?

Scripture clearly states not. In Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother), Jesus clearly states how the father perceives his son who rejected the love of his father and squandered his inheritance. "for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!" Did the father say that the son was going through a rite of passage? Using his rights? Going through a phase? No. The words 'death' and 'life' were very intentional.

So how do we raise our children to be fit for the kingdom of heaven? I know one mother who raises her children to call God 'papa' and to go to Him in their need. When I pray with my son I begin with 'friend Jesus'. (This gets interesting when he's praying to get his confiscated toys back.) I know one mother who was raising her child to kneel before a crucifix and say the rosary every day. I don't have the solution. Look for me and my kids in heaven in about a hundred years. If we're not there you know I couldn't figure it out.

But if I had to guess? I would say to teach them to love God. Love others. And be grateful.

Good luck, Ladies. This will be the most important thing we will ever do.

Friday, November 11, 2011

So I'm a mom. So sue me.

Hello Ladies,
I haven't written in a while not only because I have been incredibly busy but also because I've been incredibly angry. I really didn't want to write an angry blog but a few moms I know told me that they're angry about the same thing. Nice to know it isn't just me. Let me take you through my experiences. It'll be a bit meandering but there is a point. I promise.

First experience:

I was in a store with my two young children. An older woman, a grandmother, approached me:
Grandmother: Oh, your children are so adorable. They're so well behaved.
Me: (never passing up a compliment) Thank you.
G: I can't take care of my grand kids, you know. They're so energetic. They're pistols. They would be tearing through the store. (laughs) I just can't keep up.
M: Oh.
G: But you're lucky. Your kids are well behaved. What day care do you send them to so I can tell my daughter?
M: Well, my son goes to pre-k half day but other than that they're usually with me.
G: (In a shocked voice) What? There are plenty of good child minding places out there these days. Why on earth would you waste your time staying at home? I would never let my daughter do that!!!
M: (Thinks WTF??? Did I ask you opinion? You like the result but complain about the process? )

Now this isn't a complaint about moms who have to or choose to work. There are many amazing working mothers out there.

I have a couple of points: Children can NOT raise themselves. A great deal of time and effort go into turning a helpless, crying blob into a functional, respectful(and respectable) human being. And we're not even talking about turning children into geniuses. We're still at the basics of routine: naps, snacks, exercise, quiet time. You know, all of the things that, if neglected, turn good natured kids into crazy little monsters. Somebody has to put the time and effort in. And if it's not the mother (or father) you had better hope it is somebody who is trained, responsible, trustworthy, not overwhelmed, and affordable. Not to get too personal but I didn't know that I should bathe regularly and brush my teeth until I was almost a teenager. I still have health issues related to the neglect I suffered as a child. Just the basics takes work and attention.

Here is my second, very different experience:

It was the day before Hallowe'en and the local radio morning show hosted a Catholic priest who was talking about exorcisms. It was actually quite interesting and informative. Among other things, he mentioned that demons hate the Eucharist and Our Lady. He also mentioned that unborn children are particularly susceptible to demonic influence (if the mother is dabbling in the occult) because a fetus does not yet have free will. This might not manifest until the child is around three or four years of age. So, basically, the mother has to worry about prenatal vitamins, what she eats, drinks, breathes AND demonic influence??? No pressure.

Third Experience:

One mother confided in me that a good friend of hers told her that she, the friend, no longer wanted to hear about her child. What is so interesting about hearing all about the milestones that come naturally, anyway? This mother was so hurt by this comment that she was actually crying. She felt that if she were taking care of other children or the poor that she would have been respected. This mother was, after all, devoting her life to the care of the most vulnerable of society. But since it was her own child she was suddenly weak, unambitious, and not very interesting as a person.

So these events (and a few others) got me thinking.

The problem is deeper than a woman deciding whether or not to work/study outside the home because many working moms I've spoken with complain that they are not "allowed" to be moms at work. They are not allowed to mention their kids for fear of derision. They are told they are not serious enough about their work if they have to take care of a sick child. I know one mom who visited her office the day after her child was born to "prove" that she wouldn't let the child get in the way of her career. One mom complained that her nanny got more respect than she did!

If this problem cannot be classified as stay at home vs. go to work, then how to approach it?

Or, to put it another way, what makes motherhood so difficult? I mean, anybody can change diapers and drive a child to the latest kiddie class. So why are mothers so vulnerable? (Other than working 24/7. A nanny friend of mine told me that I was doing the jobs of cook, maid, and nanny. How do working moms manage?? That's four jobs!!)

Answer: Because mothers are called to be life givers in all that they do. We are called to go beyond actions. We are continually challenged to go beyond our sleep-deprived, isolated reality and be "cheerful givers". We must always ask ourselves if our decisions are good for the family because the family is sacred. We are dealing with the most vulnerable in society. And more, from the moment of conception we are guardians of a child's body AND soul. We cannot do this without God's help, even if we don't realize it.

We are living in a society of death. We live in a society where women's bodies are overly sexualized and children are considered inconvenient, expensive accessories.

Ladies, I am now wondering if, like the Virgin Mary, Satan despises mothers. I am wondering if , (and I'm not sure about this spiritual warfare thing even if it IS theologically sound, biblical, and part of our own tradition), evil is attacking the family on the most fundamental level - between mother and child. I don't want to think this way. It sounds crazy to my modern, analytical mind. And yet, I am forced to consider the possibility.

So, Ladies, I am angry. I am angry that the world cares so little about our children that we as mothers are shunned (unless someone has something to sell us). I am angry that our children are shoved in a corner and told not to exist.  I am angry that I am told not to enjoy my kids and delight in their successes. After all, they have come such a long way from being crying blobs. They have worked so hard.

Now, as with any angry rant, this is rather one sided and not altogether accurate or just. But I do have one more thing to say: You cannot ask or beg for respect. You must demand it. If you have a problem with the way I choose to respond to God's call to take care of His children, I will tell you what I tell my children: Neither of us gets everything we want in life. I can't do what you want right now. I'm busy working hard taking care of the family. Now I don't mind working hard because I love my family. But I WILL be respected for it.

Sit Deus Nobis. (May God Be With Us.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Hard Times (A Meditation)

Hello Ladies,

Recently a few of my good friends have asked me about getting through some of the tough times in life by discerning God's will for them. I think that the assumption is that because I have written way too many theology papers that I have gained some wisdom as well as information. Well, maybe. But in answer the following is a meditation that I find particularly helpful.

Close your eyes and relax your breathing.

Imagine being in a place of safety that is totally unique to you. It can be anywhere you wish.

Now imagine that God is near.

God has been there since before time began.

God is present now.

God will continue long after we (and our problems) are gone. You are gone. Your problems are gone.

There is only God.

At this point I feel slightly dizzy and in awe. I need God to be my anchor or I will disappear. Your experience may be different.

Now remember that God loves you so much that He created you to be just as you are in spite of your mistakes.

Stay in that loving presence for a few more moments.

Carry that love with you.

Because, Ladies, we are in a relationship with God. And He continually calls us to be in a deeper relationship with Him. So maybe God isn't asking us to do something. Maybe He is simply asking us to love Him in return.

Sit Deus Nobis! (May God Be With Us!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stating the Obvious

Hello Ladies,

I am going to say something that should be very obvious: We need to take care of ourselves!

Obvious, right? But speaking with my mom friends I notice that we do silly things like forget to eat or stay up late doing laundry so a child can go to school in her favorite clothes. I've been known to clean bathrooms at 10pm when I need to be awake at 6am the next day. Did the bathrooms really need to be cleaned at that time? Does that little girl need to wear her favorite clothes? Does child #3 really need to take those baby sign language courses (during nap time no less) because children #1 and #2 did and you want to be fair?

We need to step back and look at the whole picture. If we become confused we need to pray for guidance.

I often think that we would lead very different lives if we believed that He wants to care for us as well. We would stop trying to do everything and concentrate on doing a few things with great love. We would stop trying to give our children every opportunity and take the opportunity to spend time with our children. We would stop cleaning bathrooms and take the time to eat and sleep. And yes, pray.

I also find that when I don't take care of myself things tend to fall apart. I need to make it a priority to eat regularly and not just concentrate on feeding the kids and 'getting things done'. Sometimes I let the housecleaning go so I can have a nap. Strangely, the housework gets done anyway. What gets lost is 'me' time and prayer time. Yes, I believe that we can and should pray while folding laundry and washing the dishes. But we must also remember that Jesus chided Martha for working too much and not spending enough time with Him. See? It's biblical! We don't need to make excuses. This isn't a cop-out. Spending time with Jesus on our own and through the sacraments is our right and privilege. We are also daughters of God, made in His image and likeness. This does not change with the birth of a child.

Obvious, right?

Well, I'm off to make some food (and coffee!) then fold laundry.

Sit Deus Nobis! (May God be with us!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just a thought

I have been thinking lately how much we live in fear. We fear for our jobs. We fear that we will lose our homes. We fear that we will fail our children. We fear to be weak, vulnerable. We accept this fear. It can become so much a part of who we are that we no longer question it. It guides our actions and attitudes even if it destroys our relationships. It makes us feel safe. 

I just spoke with a woman (who I quite like) who was afraid to have more than one child. She was regretting that her daughter grew up lonely as an only child. I went to university with somebody who was afraid to even attempt to get into graduate school. He didn't want to be rejected. (He would have been a much better scholar than me.) He now regrets his decision. A grandmother once told me that when her own children were small she wished their childhood away. She admitted that she was worried about what other people thought of her and felt like a failure. Again, great regret. 

We have so many fears in our lives. They are even valid. But they cannot be allowed to define who we are. 

Fear, failure, wounds - they are all a part of our story. They are not the main character. If we want to see how our story end then look at Jesus' story: redemption, transcendence, love, acceptance, forgiveness. This is the core of our being because, whether we admit it or not, Jesus is the core of our being.

Just a thought. Think about it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

When We Give

Hello Ladies,

To say that women give too much of themselves is nothing less than cliche. It is said that women give too much whether they are mothers or not. We give too much to our boyfriends/husbands/children. We give too much to our bosses. And are we appreciated when we give so much? Are we respected for our sacrifices? Not if we give without love. 

I have always stated that all our actions should come from CARITAS, love that inspires action. And it can get confusing because some of our greatest acts of caritas are when we feel worn out and we can't give any more. We all remember those newborn days when we wanted to ignore the baby's cries so that we could rest and heal. But we get up anyway. So how can we tell whether we're working from caritas? Let me quote the familiar passage of 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

How much of what we do is to conform to the expectations of others? How much of our anxiety stems from what we believe we should be doing instead of what God is asking from us? Who do we listen to? Why not listen to the One who created us simply because He wants to spend time with us? When we spend time with God we become more loving. We become as God created us to be.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all thing, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-6)

Isn't that more like it? If children learn from their parents then it's safe to say that this is what Our Father is trying to teach us. If we put our own goals ahead of this (keeping our house perfectly clean, our children perfectly behaved, looking perfect all the time, being the perfect employee, etc.) then we are going to be miserable. 

Spend time with God. Allow His presence into all the parts of yourself that are envious, boastful, vain, and resentful. Ask Him how you can use your time, talents, and treasure more effectively. Go to work with caritas. Bathe your children with caritas. Yes, even do your hair with caritas. (No one says you can't look good.) 

We women work so hard and endure so much. And many times we feel we can endure no more. But if we work with God we will worry less about the burdens others wish us to bear. If we work with God we will choose work worth doing. We will choose caritas over vanity and duty. We will be liberated. And because we are loving, we will find that we CAN bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and yes, endure all things.

Sit Deus Nobis! (May God Be With Us!)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Hello Ladies,

I am a big believer that our most defining moments are the quiet ones that go unnoticed. I also believe that these quiet, defining moments are the legacy that we will leave our children.  As you might have guessed this blog is somewhat autobiographical. I don't want to be just another 'mommy blog' but I cannot help but be affected by what goes on around me. 

As I have mentioned in earlier posts an elder of our family has been causing a great deal of suffering because of her addiction. Her sons don't talk to each other or to her. Her poison has spread to aunts and uncles and ever her grandchildren. If this were not bad enough, her addiction has been slowly killing her for years. At this point she literally cannot think clearly. Her body is shutting down. And her family? They are still dealing with the lies and venom that she has been spewing for years. If you were to ask her years ago if this was the legacy that she would like to leave for her children she would be horrified. Now she couldn't stop herself is she tried. And she hates herself for it. She really does.

After much prayer and reflection I think part of the problem is that, for years, she has been chasing after things that she believed that she 'deserved'. She deserved to be right, to be vindicated. She deserved to have nice things ("luxury"). She deserved that cottage by the lake. The house with the pool. And yes, even her addiction. She saw friends, family, even her own children, as things to manipulate. And? And now it is almost over for her. She has few friends and her family is justifiably afraid of her. She still has all of her possessions but they cost money and she can't care for them.

What do we think that we deserve? Ladies, if we follow what society tells us we are going to go crazy. We might not be able to go out to get our coffee a day (that's my big thing). We might not get the career we want. Or the car. We might not even get the children we want (or get them to behave as we would want). We might have to give up a lot of things that have been important to us in the past.

Does this mean that what we want doesn't matter? NO! It matters. WE matter. But it means that we must take care to want what God wants for us. Because, Ladies, God does not want us to die with self-hatred and a family that has been disintegrating for years. He also doesn't want us to stay inside all day taking care of others while giving up our hopes and dreams. We must be creative in our wants just as God is creative. 

What is so wrong with being humble? These days the word 'humility' is associated with being a weak victim whose dreams are dead. In reality, humility is a strength. It allows us to give up our impulsive wants and be guided by wisdom. Think about it. God is not simply something that set up a religious construct that we must mindlessly obey. God dreamed us into being. God formed us in our mothers' wombs. God knows how many hairs are on our heads. When we die, God will call us home by name. Doesn't this sound like someone we should go to for advice? Because, Ladies, no matter how far we think we can go in life God knows that we can go further, be greater, be stronger. 

If we feel that we are overwhelmed maybe it's because we are focusing on the wrong things. If we feel like failures maybe it is because we are listening to the wrong people. So often when we think we don't get what we 'deserve' it is because we are rejecting the grace of God's love. 

We deserve respect as human beings, as women, as mothers, as daughters of God.

I invite you to ask yourself every evening what legacy you are leaving for your children. Some days you must stand up and fight. Some days you must let things go. We make mistakes. We learn. We move on. But we should always invite God help us along the way. We ask for forgiveness, for comfort, for strength, for wisdom. We help each other. But if we do not know our own minds then we cannot know God. And God knows our minds best of all.

Just the other day I asked the son of this bitter woman if he was going to call her on her birthday. He said no because he can't bring her any joy, anyway. And he was right. What sort of legacy is that?

May God heal this family!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For the Good of Us Both

The Vision

Life can be really strange sometimes. As I've mentioned in earlier posts my mother died a few years ago due to addictions and self-destructive habits. I have also said that at the end of her life she wished that she had made better, more loving choices when she was younger. One of her greatest sorrows was that she didn't appreciate us kids when she had the chance. She clearly saw that she was the cause of much of our unhappiness and self-destructive behaviors. But it was too late; years of being cruel to her children had taken their toll. Her children, for the most part, would not hear her. Then, one day and quite suddenly, she died.

Fast forward a year and a half and I am a mother of an infant and am going through the normal marital problems of dealing with a growing family. I remember clearly that my son was sleeping and my husband was still at work. I was at the sink washing dishes thinking bitter thoughts when I suddenly felt my mother's arms around me. I began to cry. Then I heard her voice as clearly as she was in the room: "Don't go there! I taught you to think this way and I destroyed my marriage and my children. Please, for the good of us both, be grateful for the goodness of God and turn to Him instead." Pretty strange, huh? 

Insights into the Vision Which Will Lead to the Theology of Purgatory and Redemption

I do not attempt to define my experience in the kitchen that evening but it did, in its own small way, change my life. Instead of dwelling on what my mother had done during her life I focused on what she wished for me now. (I firmly believe that at the moment of her death my mother was released from her diseased body and was finally free to love us as purely as she had always wanted to. What my mother wants for me now is to have a loving relationship with my husband and children and to work towards heaven by having God the center of my life.)

As you can imagine this takes a bit of practice. It's difficult when times are hard to become less ego-centric. Generally we are trained to ask "what's in it for me?". So I started asking different questions. One such question is: "What do I lose by being more loving to my husband when he upsets me instead of having to be right right now?" Sometimes being loving means standing up for yourself. Sometimes it means letting it go for the moment. Sometimes you realize that what upset you didn't really matter that much. But it never means being nasty or spiteful. Ever. It's taken a while but this has worked really well for us. My husband and children know that now matter how angry I get that I am willing to work through things. It gives them a sense of peace and protection. Allowing love to enter into a situation is allowing God into a situation. Miracles do happen.

Now let me go back to what my mother said about being more loving "for the good of us both". I have been thinking about this statement for years. This statement only makes sense if, through the will of God, we are still in a relationship that death could not overcome. I believe that the love we have for one another still binds us and gives us strength for our journeys. It means that somehow we need each other for our mutual salvation. Catholics believe that souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves and rely on the living to aid them with prayers, masses said for them, acts of charity, and mortifications. Many souls in purgatory (though not all) can and do pray for the living. Thus my belief that my prayers for my mother have aided her through purgatory and her prayers for me have allowed her to intercede for me at a critical moment in my life is theologically correct. 

If there is a main focus to my theology as a mother it is to allow God to enter into your life wherever you and and to have CARITAS, the love of God that is the inspiration of all charitable thoughts and actions, to be the center of your life. This is because as moms we are called to the daunting task of caring for God's precious, helpless souls. We might not, due to our unique circumstances, be able to carry out our Catholic obligations in the traditional way. This does not excuse us from our obligations but instead invites us to do so creatively.

I have had masses said for my mother. I pray for her. I light votives (candles) for her at church and when I'm visiting holy shrines. When I get the time I say rosaries for her. I do not fast because I believe that while I have young children my body isn't my own and needs care so that I can care for them. I do abstain from meat on Fridays though. But upon reflection I have given up my "right" to bitterness and "being right". Out of love for my mother I have taken her advice and trusted God more. I have become more grateful. I believe that by actively shedding the bad habits my mother taught me that I have advanced out mutual salvation. I have become less of a victim of my childhood and am being transformed into the woman God wants me to be. 

I love you, mom. Ora pro me. (Pray for me.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blowing it

We mothers have been around since the beginning of time. Obviously we have been doing something right or humanity would not have endured this long. You would think that we could come up with some sort of rules that go beyond the necessity of snack and nap times. Nope. For us moms each child is a new adventure with a new set of rules. This is why we have to be so careful about giving and receiving advice.  

Lately I've had to deal with a bully at my son's school. Yes, kids will be kids. Yes, there will be troubled and troubling kids everywhere you go. And yes, I am very aware that my now four year old is far from perfect. But do not tell me that every time my child (or another - we moms do talk after all) comes home complaining that a certain bruise or scrape is from a certain child that it couldn't be happening... well, I get a bit... upset. I send direct letters to the school. I listen in awe as they explain that Certain Child is so sweet and all of these bumps and bruises (which aren't happening) are accidents and that said Sweet Child couldn't be causing said non-existent injuries because there are two adults watching him at all times and he's not allowed to interact with the other children which is really a shame because said Child is so sweet. Oh, and my kid isn't perfect, either. So there. So we pulled my son from this school and will be sending him to a Catholic school in the fall.

Some people have been telling me that I have been unreasonably angry about this. Maybe I have been. But my son has been saying things that I find really disturbing. Such as: "I like it when he hits me because then he gives me a hug afterward. Isn't that what friends do?" or "The teacher lets him do it so it's ok." Call me crazy but I like discipline. I like rules and boundaries. I like having rewards for good behavior and 'time - out' for poor behavior. Most of all I like stability. If your life is stable enough you can afford to be flexible. But I'm not buying that hitting is justifiable because affection is given afterwards.  This is not sweet or cute behavior. 

So how did I blow it? I let vent my fury in front of my child. Not directed at him, of course. But what does a child know about these things? He just knew that I was upset and thought that it was his fault.

Ladies, I'll be honest. The little guy I used to know so well is growing up. I have a little girl who still gets up several times a night. I miss things. I am cranky when I should be smiling. I feel a bit like I'm drowning slowly. And I hate it. 

I am trying so hard to see myself as Jesus does but I haven't managed yet. But whenever I think I can't see things clearly anymore I try to see my children as Jesus does. That helps. It reminds me that at times my children really are being a pain and need discipline. 

In the meantime my son has stopped 'hitting to hurt' and his temper tantrums. I guess that's something anyway. 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Hello Ladies,

This will be a short post as I would eventually like to get some sleep (after I clean the kitchen, of course).

I last wrote on Good Friday about going into the tomb to allow God to transform everything that is dead in your life. The idea is to totally surrender to God. The tomb is a place where you don't have to have all the answers. It is a place where you don't need to defend yourself or fix any part of your life. It is a place of peace and trust where you allow God to work in your life. When you leave this place (and we never really leave, do we?) you will be transformed.

It sounds so nice, doesn't it? Kind of like a spa for the soul. And it should be. Except that most of us, myself included, don't want to give up that much control. And generally we are the last to notice when God is working in our lives. And we so want to quantify things. At least I do. It would be so nice if we could leave the tomb whole and healed and ready to work miracles.

Well, Ladies, Jesus has been there before us and even He had scars. In fact, He was recognized by his scars. Was Jesus transformed? Yes. Did He perform miracles? Yes. Did he still have work to do? Yes. So what is the point of this blog entry? Simply to say that our work, our wounds if you will, have meaning if we are centered on the transforming love of Jesus. I do not mean mindless obedience to dogma or tradition that hinders your ability to function lovingly. (I must state here that I believe that dogma and tradition are in place to support our ability to function lovingly.) Remember that our role as mothers is to make our children fit for the kingdom of heaven. We do this through the grace of God. Our actions should be based on Caritas, the love which inspires action. 

So what can we expect when we leave the tomb? I cannot possibly say. All that I know is that when I take the time to surrender myself to God that I become a little bit more loving in unexpected ways. Some days I would love to stay in the tomb. But then who would do the dishes? Sometimes the miracle is finding the strength to do it myself.

May God grant you plenty of rest.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Tomb

Hello Ladies,

Today I have been thinking quite a bit about death. It's rather a scary thought, isn't it? For me it means separation from my children. Who would care for them? Who would remind them of my love for them? Who would give them snuggles and kisses? No, the thought of leaving my children is terrifying.  But I think there is something deeper than that. Death is the ultimate loss of control. Death reminds us that we are not the masters of our bodies or our destinies. 

Jesus died. Jesus died in the most cruel, humiliating, painful way the Roman Empire could devise. He was beaten, stripped, and put on display for all to see. Every groan, every bodily function was open to ridicule. And then he was hastily shut away in a tomb so the living could observe a religious holiday. His loved ones would have to finish preparing his body for final burial until after he had become putrid. So He lay in the tomb until...

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We all know the story of the resurrection; Jesus conquered death. What happened in that tomb? How was Jesus' body transformed from a frail, human body to a resurrected, heavenly body? We won't know until we get there. But the message is clear: we need not fear death. And whatever happened in that tomb was done by God. 

I believe that motherhood is the path of small-deaths. Every day we put our own hopes and desires on hold so that we can care for our families. It becomes so entrenched in our beings that we forget to dream. (Don't get me started on lack of sleep.) Sometimes we have a vague sense that we are losing our way but what can we do? Most of the time we're lucky to get through the day. 

Ladies, we need to enter the tomb. We need to lie there in the dark and quiet and do absolutely nothing. We need to let God do His work. It need not be scary; Jesus has been there. Let it be the one time of the day when you don't have to prove yourself to anybody. You don't have to defend yourself. You don't have to say a dozen rosaries to prepare. You don't have to change a diaper or worry about the dishes in the sink. You don't have to deal with the bully at school. Nothing. Just you and God. And God is doing all the work. God is taking the responsibility. God is drying the tears after our tantrums and scraped knees. God is taking those small deaths and making them into something new. All you have to do is show up and just be... accepted. Loved. Cherished. Forgiven. Transformed. We need to practice saying 'yes' to God in preparation for our own death. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clarification for Quo Vadis?

Note: This post is a clarification for the previous post Quo Vadis? and is not meant to be read independently. 

Hello Ladies,

I read last night's post to my husband and he didn't get it so I am going to clarify. This blog is pseudo-autobiographical. I try really, really hard not to get too political or to go on rants. I also try not to pick out specific people of my acquaintance who drive me nuts. It's just not helpful. But many of you, myself included, might rightfully say that we try to be good mothers. We probably are great mothers. What am I on about? Well, enter the rant.

There are certain mothers I know who work very hard to appear to be "good mothers" and don't really care about their children at all. They are not loving. They are not supportive. Their children would never go to them for help or advice because they are constantly berated. These mothers are not grateful when their children go out of their way to help them and are jealous when their children are successful. Then they go to others looking for sympathy because their children don't want to be around them. "But I'm their mother", they say. "I was a Good Mother! What did I do to deserve this??" Plenty, say I. 

I also mentioned a woman who out of despair killed herself and her children. One report said that she frantically tried to stop the process at the last moment but it was too late. She, too, was considered by many to be a "Good Mother" until "things got too much for her". 

In both cases we are dealing with isolation. In the first the mothers systematically isolate themselves from their children. In the second case the role of being a mother in this society was too isolating. She fell into despair. 

In the first case I have very little sympathy. We are not perfect and we sometimes behave selfishly. But are we selfish as a whole? Probably not. It takes a lot of energy and practice to be that selfish. That is why I think these women are, to put it nicely, cows. (Yes, I'm a harsh critic even to myself.)

In the second case I have much more compassion. Mothers are under constant scrutiny even by other mothers. Does your child sleep through the night? (Not my daughter.) Is your toddler potty-trained? (My son is FINALLY.) Does your child walk yet? (Not my daughter - thankfully.) Do you co-sleep? Do you make/ let your child cry it out? And do not get me started about cloth diapers and breast feeding. As long as the child is clean and fed who cares? The list goes on.

So what is my solution? Stop trying to be what society thinks you should be and start BEING LOVING. Our children do not care if you're worried about what the neighbors think. And we as mothers should be more supportive of other mothers. We need to be loving - not right. 

Just one more thing. This post is hastily written and not even proofread. It is meant to be an explanation of the previous post "Quo Vadis?". I'm sorry for any confusion.

May God Bless you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quo Vadis?

Hello Ladies,

Before I go much further let me explain where I am coming from.  Lately I have spoken with or heard about mothers with grown children who blame their children for their own unhappiness. ("What did I do to deserve this? He's ungrateful and not worthy to be my son.") There have also been stories in the newspaper about a mother who killed herself and her children. I do not mean to be unjustly critical. I understand that things like despair and post-partum depression are very, very real. I do not pretend to be a perfect mother. I suffered from depression after my daughter was born. I know what isolation and loneliness feel like. I get things wrong ALL THE TIME. If you meet my kids twenty years from now they might be in jail or maybe they will refuse talk to me in spite of all the food I fixed them growing up  (though I hope not). I don't have all the answers. But maybe I can start asking the right questions.

We are now officially in Holy Week and I am so totally unprepared it isn't even funny. I'm not just talking about Easter baskets for the kids and preparing the meal for the extended family, either. When I started this blog I imagined that it would be a means of keeping me faithful in my prayer life. All that I can say is: ha ha HAHAHA!! I feel that I've totally missed out on the spiritual preparations for the most holy day of the liturgical calendar. How could I let this happen? Have I been using my time more wisely? Have I been practicing what I preach and invited Jesus into my daily routine? I honestly don't know. How can I tell? I can't even keep track of the days!

I know that motherhood feels like being swept away by the current. (Some days it feel like being dragged down by the undertow.) So my question is how can we as moms make sure we like where we end up 20 years from now? Will our children want to be part of our lives or will they look upon us with fear or disgust? Because, Ladies, our future begin now.

Our future begins now. What are we working towards? Or, to put it another way, what sort of person would we like to be when we meet Jesus face to face? This is important because the greatest, most defining moments in our lives are small ones that go unnoticed. Do we support one another or do we think we're being clever by making a snide comment? Do we raise up our children or are we too busy "making them mind" and "putting them in their place"? Are we supportive of one another or are we too busy trying to compete? Because, Ladies, the woman who complained that her son won't talk to her calls herself a "good mother". The mother who killed herself and her children was considered by many to be a "good mother" who "just got overwhelmed". We all have our moments when we screw up or behave in a totally selfish manner. We're human. So how do we keep it from being who we are?

Maybe we should stop worrying about being a "good mother" (as described by a secular, consumer society) and become a loving mother instead. A loving mother will look for what is best for her children instead of trying to look like the best mother. A loving mother will look for a balance in her own life so she can care for others. A loving mother will tell her children 'no'. A loving mother will help another woman in need instead of judging her. A loving mother will let other mothers know that they are not alone in their task and will listen with compassion. 

Ladies, the gift of Lent is being able to prepare to meet the Lord. The gift of Easter is the knowledge of God's love for us and the salvation of our souls through the birth, death and ressurection of Jesus Christ. 

When it is our turn to meet Jesus He will ask us if we loved one another - especially the sweet souls that were placed in our care. Because, Ladies, God is Love. When we act with love (Caritas!) we introduce God into the lives of our children and those we meet. Isn't that what we are called to do?

Our future begins now and our most defining moments are small and go unnoticed. Practice at being loving mother. Let the rest go. And hopefully we will, through the grace of God and the friendship of others, be able to cope and even succeed. Hopefully our children will see beyond our faults and respond to our love for them.

May God bless you during this most holy week.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Why do we do these things to ourselves? Today I left the house wearing a Harry Potter novelty tee shirt with holes in it because I had been cleaning and forgot to change back into my 'nice' shirt before I left. I looked ridiculous. So while I was out with my family I scurried into a clothing store and spent too much money on a new shirt to wear while I was out. Vain? Pathetic? Yes. The funny thing is that I never would have done it when I was younger. But now that I'm older I want to present myself well. Suddenly what strangers think about me really matters.

Lately my husband and I have been struggling with jobs and housing. Do we have a place to stay? Can we pay our bills? Yes. So why are we driving ourselves crazy? Because we care what people think of us. We have imprinted in our minds the words of some of the more discordant elders of our family; you know, words like "lazy" and "unambitious" and "disappointing" and "worthless".  Basing our own life or the lives of others on what we think others think of us (as if they they think of us at all) is crazy. Yet we do it. And why? Because Jesus is not the center of our lives.

Now, I'm not some 'Jesus freak' who believes that nothing bad will happen to me or if it does I should paste a fake, strained smile on my face because Jesus is really in control so anything bad that happens to us is really ok and not that bad after all. I happen to think that Jesus loves us so much that he died for us. Me. You. The discordant elders in the family. Everybody. Nobody else can love us the way Jesus does. And being a mom I know a thing or two about love.

So why am I driving myself crazy over a shirt? Why is my husband so worried about 'where we will be five years from now' that it is difficult to appreciate the present? Beats me. Because I don't think Jesus will bar me from heaven because of a tee shirt. And I doubt He would shun our apartment because it's not 'luxurious' enough. 

Why has my life been so crazy lately (other than being a mom, of course). It's because I've been trying to impress the wrong people. But I'm keeping my new shirt. It's really cute.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I have a confession to make. I am very satisfied with my life and can count my blessings but have problems in one area: I want a home of my own. I know, I know. People all over the world live in hovels and can't care for their beloved children because of poverty/natural disaster/wars/general upheaval. I should feel very, very lucky. But at the moment I don't. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. It doesn't help that the neighbors wake up my children, either.

So what do I do? I say a novena to St. Joseph. (For those whose lore of saints is as weak as mine, St. Joseph is Mary's spouse, stepdad to Jesus, and patron of fathers, families, homes, and carpenters among his many roles.)

Now, I'm thinking that this is great! I want a home. My husband wants meaningful employment. We need peace in the extended family. And what do I get for praying the novena? Do I get sleeping babies? Quiet neighbors? A change in circumstances? No. I was the one who was called to change.

What does St. Joseph have to do with us moms? I'm glad you asked. St. Joseph did whatever God asked of him. St. Joseph followed Judaic law with all his heart but loved God more. When Mary was found to be with child he was going to divorce her quietly out of compassion for her. He could have been cruel and exposed her. He didn't. He loved Mary more than his own manly pride. Then God told St. Joseph to take Mary for his wife. He did. Then move to Egypt and back again. And, oh yes, raise a child who is not his own. He did all of this lovingly and without question.

It's very tricky to tell a woman, a mother, to humble herself and give of herself without question. So many times it is used as an excuse to subjugate her. But humility to the will of God is different than subjugation to religious or societal norms which are man-made and often unjust. Remember that we are also God's beloved daughters. 

If we are to follow St. Joseph's example we should first look to our faith. What does Catholic teaching tell us? This can help us get through many difficult situations or avoid them entirely. Think of it this way: we are transformed by prayer. When we ask God what His will is for us we admit that we cannot see the universe in its entirety and maybe we are not asking for the right things. If we are stubborn, we are so busy being 'right' that we are willfully blind to the graces and beauty around us. We should persevere instead. In this way we work towards our dreams while being open to achieving them in a different, often better, way. When we are tempted to pray "God, help me get through this", maybe we should pray "God, help me transcend this". The difference is subtle but important. Do we want to just make it through or do we want to become closer to God?  Because, Ladies, we have a tough job. God demands our bodies, our sleep, our time, our ambitions for the future, and even our ambitions for our children. We are strong. We have to be. We are unsung. We are under constant scrutiny.  We are nothing to the world but we are the world to those who rely on us. Imagine the comfort and guidance we can give to our children. Imagine the damage we can do to them. 

I never thought I would feel such devotion to a male saint. I never thought that one could teach me how to be a better mother. But St. Joseph is a beautiful example of someone who allows God to meet him where he is. God called St. Joseph to protect and raise Jesus in much the same way we are called to protect and raise our own babies. He did this quietly and humbly. St. Joseph doesn't have one spoken word in the bible but his life is a beacon two thousand years later. 

I learned all of this because I wanted a home of my own. 

St. Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Disclaimer - My daughter has been teething, my son has just gotten over croup, and I'm on pain medication due to a recent dental surgery. This is probably a very bad combination for writing a blog. My apologies in advance.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. This past Sunday I took both my children to church on my own and I swore that I would not do it again until my daughter was older. So along comes Ash Wednesday. It's the beginning of Lent. It's an important day. But important enough to take two children to church on my own when it's not even a holy day of obligation? Surely God would understand if I didn't make it. But then I wavered. What is one hour of misery and mommy humiliation compared to Jesus dying on the cross for us... So I had to wake my daughter up early from a nap to be in time to pick up my son from pre-school to make it to 12 noon mass without having time to feed the kids first. I was literally praying that God give me ANY excuse to change my plan. (Sometimes I think God finds our prayers highly amusing. But then if I could turn water into wine I would probably find life a bit more amusing too.)

We survived mass only because my husband was able to join us (a miracle) and take our tired, underfed, teething daughter outside. And so it goes. So why did I do it? Because, Ladies, sometimes things aren't about me. It slightly surprising for me to say this because I'm all about taking care of mom. But this was one of those times for me to go beyond my wants and comforts and kneel before our Lord in gratitude in wonder.

Lent is a time that reminds us of our mortality and our utter dependence on God. Growing up I was told that I had to "give up" something for God during Lent. We moms give up so much that, like going to mass on Ash Wednesday, it seems easy to feel that we are exempt. (Somebody asked me if I was going to give up coffee. I might as well try to give up breathing.) But this doesn't mean that we should let the wonderful opportunity to contemplate our relationship with the Lord to go to waste. Here are some suggestions that might make more sense:

Take a few minutes in prayer to imagine that you are meeting Jesus at the end of your life. Are you meeting Him like an old friend or are you hiding like Adam and Eve? Ask Jesus what you can do to change this Lenten season. Do you do something that keeps you from having a fuller relationship with Him? Are you negative towards someone (even if they deserve it)? Pray for that person. Work towards forgiveness. 

 Personally I am not worried about my actions but my sins of omission. It doesn't make any sense to me just to 'give up coffee' but I could be persuaded to take the money I would pay for my coffee and give it to the poor. 

Take time to be more grateful to Jesus for his sacrifice which allows us to spend eternity in heaven with our babies. (Or if you're having a really rough day think of heaven as a place of peace with free babysitting.) Just be grateful that God loves us enough to help us transcend our limitations. Not just get through or cope: transcend.

Offer up your daily activities. You are not just doing the dishes. You are doing God's work by taking care of your family and children. Make your daily chores holy. 

Use your prayer time to sit with Jesus in His suffering. How can You help Him? He loves you and wants your company. 

Make more of an effort to pray, go to church and receive the sacraments. Prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord. It might not be easy but it will be worth it. 

These are only a few suggestions. I'm sure that you ladies have more and better ideas. Me? I'm currently praying that my daughter sleeps well. She's been teething and in pain for a while.  Then I will try to practice what I preach.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Family Drama and Sleep Deprivation

I warn you that this will not be a coherent post. My two children are not sleeping well. Or at all. It seems like a cruel trick of nature that children who are up sick half the night should have energy the next day to be miserable. My son is now well and now it's my daughter who is not sleeping. Ok, she's sleeping now when I have to be awake. I have noticed with sleep deprivation that my moods are either like black storm clouds ready to break or like looking at the world through a pink kaleidoscope; everything seems pink and strange.

Today is a pink day. I'm just trying to get through till bed time. 

Lately I have been trying to plan my daughter's first birthday. This is a HUGE deal in my family and must be treated accordingly. I don't mean that we need to invite a lot of people or have a a huge meal. But my daughter MUST be stripped to her diaper and allowed to plunge into the cake. And the right people must be there (just the elder of the family who has trouble getting around). 

If you think about it it doesn't seem too complicated but if you've read my earlier post entitled 'Feast of the Holy Family' you know that there is another elder of the family who is rather poisonous. I was determined to pray for her (which I do) and go on my merry way but as time goes on I realize just how far her poison has reached. This continues to make me angry. Why do people make children into pawns? The strange thing is that she hasn't tried to contact us since her meltdown on Christmas day. My husband thinks it's because she has 'come to her senses' but I disagree. I have heard that she doesn't even remember her trip and I find the fact that she has not tried to contact us ominous. I am almost sure that her addiction has taken over. 

And where does this leave us? We are strangely prohibited from even mentioning my daughter's birthday to the extended family. But typing this last sentence I'm realizing the ridiculousness of it all. We are not even asking for gifts. I am much too tired to make excuses for our existence. The thing is that the extended family misses receiving messages and pictures. I haven't been sending them out because 'I must not offend the elder'. This woman deserves my compassion and pity and a certain amount of respect but I will no longer allow fear of her inner drama to dictate my actions. She doesn't seem to remember them anyway.

My daughter is still sleeping so I'm going to take a nap. So much for the blog!