Mother’s Day and Miscarriage

I am going to share this again. I am totally not trying to toot my own horn here. Mother’s Day is coming up and that can be a difficult time for many women. If you have had miscarriages, then you are a mom. Your children have just been given the gift of the Beatific Vision without a sojourn here. I know that doesn’t take the pain away, believe me, I know. Share this with your friends who have had miscarriages. Remember at Mass on Sunday that you children are celebrating the Heavenly Liturgy with us as Christ presides over every single Mass. Here is my meditation on the Rosary and miscarriage that is up over at Catholic Exchange.

Last month we recognized Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting.  When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor.  Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died.  The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over.  After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside.  You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again.  So much waiting.  It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort.  With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting.  I was waiting to bleed out my child.  It was agonizing for me.  Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified.  Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Look at what Scripture says about the Agony in the Garden. Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Look at how Our Lord felt.  He was overwhelmed with sorrow.  Isn’t that how it feels to lose a child?  Don’t you too want someone to keep watch with you in that hour of loss?  The pain is unbearable.  Lift your pain and suffering to Christ.  He knows how you feel.  He wants to comfort and wait with you in that hour of need.  He always wants to be there for you.  It is hard, but try. Give the agony over to him.  I know how hard it is to just give the grief over to Him.  You may feel anger, betrayal, or incredible sadness. Or, like me, you may feel all of these emotions.  Give it all up to Him.  Every single emotion, thought, feeling, action.  Ask Him to sit with you in your agony.  Ask Him to welcome your child into His Kingdom.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Miscarriage and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

This week is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms: those who cannot have children, those who suffer repeated miscarriage, and those who cannot have more children after they have one or two. There are many different types of infertility and it is something that I know well. It is the great Cross of my adult life. I have been given one beautiful and amazing daughter and I have had three miscarriages. Dealing with infertility or the death of a child in the womb, stillbirth, or after birth is deeply painful. It is only in light of the mystery of the Cross that our pain and anguish can make sense. After my last miscarriage, I began to meditate on The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in relation to miscarriage.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

One of the hardest parts of miscarriage is all of the waiting. When you initially suspect you are losing your child, you have to wait to confirm with the doctor. Then the ultrasound confirms that your baby has died. The waiting starts anew for the miscarriage to begin, or be over. After the miscarriage itself you wait for the agony of the grief to subside. You wait to feel joy, peace, or even whole again. So much waiting. It is difficult, but uniting this to Christ’s agony the night before he died can help bring you comfort. With my last miscarriage, I was exhausted and hurting from all of the waiting. I was waiting to bleed out my child. It was agonizing for me. Think of how Christ felt knowing that he was about to be tortured and crucified. Most importantly think about how much weight he felt taking on all of our sins.

Look at what Scripture says about the Agony in the Garden. Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Look at how Our Lord felt. He was overwhelmed with sorrow. Isn’t that how it feels to lose a child? Don’t you too want someone to keep watch with you in that hour of loss? The pain is unbearable. Lift your pain and suffering to Christ. He knows how you feel. He wants to comfort and wait with you in that hour of need. He always wants to be there for you. It is hard, but try. Give the agony over to him. I know how hard it is to just give the grief over to Him. You may feel anger, betrayal, or incredible sadness. Or, like me, you may feel all of these emotions. Give it all up to Him. Every single emotion, thought, feeling, action. Ask Him to sit with you in your agony. Ask Him to welcome your child into His Kingdom.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery-The Scourging at the Pillar

Our Lord was brutally tortured before he was taken to be crucified. Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ has caught a glimpse of what Our Lord endured for us before his death. Miscarriage can be deeply painful physically, mentally, and spiritually. Depending on the severity the physical pain can be unbearable. As difficult as it is, offer up each cramp or wave of pain to Christ. He knows extreme physical and emotional pain. There will be moments when the grief alone will feel like torture. Give it over to Christ. Share with Him your burden. You do not suffer alone.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery-The Crowning of Thorns

In a great moment of humiliation and torment, Roman soldiers crowned Our Lord with a crown of large thorns. It is deeply difficult to be crowned in loss. We may intellectually know that suffering is a part of this journey, but none of us is prepared for the heavy burden of loss, especially losing a child or children. It is a crown no one wants to wear, but when we lose a child in miscarriage we are given our own crown of thorns. Unite that loss with Christ. When someone says something insensitive to you about your miscarriage, remember that Jesus was humiliated as He died for us. Ask him to help you endure the crown of loss and the lack of understanding that you may encounter. Unite yourself to the glorified Christ and ask him for the strength to endure this crown of thorns.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery-The Carrying of the Cross

This is the longest portion of the journey. We must carry the Cross of miscarriage with us for the rest of our lives. “And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.” -John 19:17. Christ had to carry the Cross and we are assured that we must follow Him. We must bear the pain and anguish. It may lessen its sting over time, but it never truly goes away. We must remember anniversary dates, see other people having babies, or miss the children we never got to hold. Ask your children in Heaven to pray for you as you carry this Cross. Ask Christ to help you shoulder the burden. Remember how He loves you. In your moments of despair ask Him for help. He is always there, especially in the darkest moments. He is there helping us put one foot in front of the other. He whispers to us that we can go on and he helps us carry the Cross.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery-The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The darkest moment in human history came before the brightest. Our Lord died on the Cross to bring about our salvation. Miscarriage comes with the death of a child. Or for many, multiple children are lost over time. We must learn to give those children back to God. They are His. It is deeply painful. It is hard to let go. We must unite our own loss and suffering with the power and pain of the Cross. The Lord who offered Himself up for us will take good care of our babies. They are, and always were, His. I have struggle greatly at times with this truth. In our moments of deep grief, pain, and agony, we must give it up to Christ who died on a Tree. We can also ask His Mother to pray and comfort us. She stood by and watched her Son die. She knows the terrible pain of losing a child. This is especially helpful during the miscarriage and also while dealing with the grief. This life is the Cross, but remember the battle is won. We are a Resurrection people. We hope in the life to come.

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are the perfect prayer for women and families dealing with miscarriage. Prayer may be difficult. The nice thing about rote prayer is that it can help get us through the really tough times. It guides us when we feel like we cannot go on. Ask Our Lord to comfort, heal, and strengthen you. Ask Our Heavenly Mother to guide you through the grief back to Her Son. As I carry this Cross, I will be praying for all of you.

Dealing with Miscarriage Part II: Grief

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I wrote yesterday about what it is like to be Catholic with only one child without even realizing that it is Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility comes in many forms from the couple who cannot conceive to people like me who have a child and then suffer repeated miscarriage. I know that many people suffer from the grief of miscarriage. I want to re-visit a series that I wrote on my own experiences and I hope it ministers to you. God bless.

Swimming the Depths

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Blessed are they who mourn; for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:5

Grief is one of the most difficult aspects of life.  We are guaranteed that it will come our way.  Most of the time it blindsides us.  Grief in miscarriage can be lonely, deeply painful, infuriating, and cathartic all in the same day.  The grief sets in when we are told that our child is dead or it may set in once the bleeding starts or stops, or it may take years for the grief to overtake us.  Miscarriage is something that our society, and I hate to say it, the Church largely ignores.  This is probably for a number of reasons.  I would say some of it has to do with the abortion culture, some of it is privacy, and a lot of it is fear.  Fear on the part of the family who has lost…

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Motherhood Is to Be Pierced

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Today is my daughter’s birthday. She turned 3 years old. As I snuggled next to her this morning and gave her kisses waiting for her to wake up, I was filled with excitement for her. Birthdays, like other holidays, are a time of magic in childhood. And at my daughter’s current age, it is pretty easy to make her happy and make her feel special.

This morning was our parish’s last day of Vacation Bible School. It is the first time she has been old enough to participate. I dropped her off and then proceeded to run errands. I always pick up three mylar balloons for her at the Dollar Tree and I got her favorite meal: mac n’ cheese and vanilla cupcakes (I will make cupcakes for her party on Sunday). As I ran around feverishly, some thing like sadness started to creep in. I pricking, piercing feeling. The realization that my daughter is already 3. How did that happen?!

I came home and decorated our kitchen in princess theme and colors. I wanted her to return from VBS and know that it was her day. The day we celebrate the greatest gift that God has given to my husband and me. Sometimes I think God is crazy for trusting us with her! I also wanted to get her brand new three wheel scooter put together. Unfortunately, I pulled out the directions and my brain said: “Cannot compute”. The directions might as well have been in Chinese. I can do abstract theological and philosophical pondering, I cannot put a bike together from a poorly conceived diagram. I raced next door to my friend’s house and asked one of the guys to do it. What a blessing, he agreed to do it for me. My hubby is at work and we forgot to get it done this week.

The time quickly came for me to pick her up at VBS. As I pulled out of the drive-way, I began a Rosary offered for my daughter. Since becoming a mother, the story of Simeon telling Our Heavenly Mother that she would be “pierced as with a sword”, has resonated with me. There is a piercing aspect to motherhood. Some actually have to feel the same pain as Our Lady, in the loss of children. I have known that pain through miscarriage. But, there is a piercing in the every day. As my daughter gets older, I see time speed by. I have to let her go a little more each day. That comes with bittersweet tears. Joy is always combined with pain on this side of Eternity. It is through joy that we know the pain that cuts right through us; the knowing that this cannot last forever.

 

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I also thought about the Sorrowful Mysteries as I prayed them. The agony of waiting encompasses so much of motherhood. Whether it is when they are sick or hurt, or even in teaching them new things. Motherhood is to live the Cross. It is to stretch our arms wide and give until there is nothing else left to give. It is accepting the joy and the pain. That is the how we experience love on this side of the Veil. So I would say to all of you mothers out there. Take a closer look at Mary. Contemplate Simeon’s words to her. Pray about the swords that pierce you through and how Christ sanctifies you as a mother. God bless you always and may Our Heavenly Mother intercede for you in your daily tasks as a mother.

Gardening: Playing in God’s Creation

You care for the earth, give it water;
you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
to provide its grain.

And thus you provide for the earth;
you drench its furrows;
you level it, soften it with showers;
you bless its growth.

Psalm 65

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This morning I was out in the morning sunshine picking kale with my daughter in our garden. I then blanched it and prepared it for freezing, so that when I need it, I can use it for soups. We are avid gardeners, my husband and I. He loads the manure, tills it into our garden, and prepares the earth each spring for our bounty. We plant from spring to fall. It is a real blessing to be able to walk into our backyard and pick fresh produce. It is also a great joy for me to find new flowers and ideas to turn our yard into a reminder of God’s love.

Working the earth is something that unites my husband and me with God. After all, he gave us the ground and seed that it might produce an abundant harvest. Working out in God’s creation gives a real sense of Christ’s presence in the world. I can hear Him whisper to each plant: grow. I can also see His Glory in each flower that I plant in our various gardens. I recently added a rose garden. Each rose bush I planted represents one of the three babies that I have lost in miscarriage. I could not place their little bodies in the earth and have a funeral Mass, so this is my earthen memorial to each of them. A beautiful rose bush to remind me of how I love and miss each on of them, but also a reminder of God’s love and beauty as each rose opens up to sunlight. A foretaste of Heaven.

My husband and I both work the earth with our bare hands. We dig into the dirt and spread it around underneath our hands. The feel of the earth increases the sense of God’s wonder and magnificance. The cool promise of prepared soil. There is also such a deep sense of childhood in planting flowers and vegetables. Our daughter loves to play in the dirt, and it appears, so do my husband and I. To me it is a reminder of innocence and it brings tremendous peace and joy. Our fearless daughter will search the newly tilled garden for worms. She likes to watch them wriggle and will pick them up and squeal with delight. Being outside and working in our suburban garden truly helps me to hear God. I may not have been consciously focused on Him the whole time, but afterwards I know that He is with me as I play in His creation.

Gardening not only brings me closer to the One who created me, but also, gives my husband, daughter, and me a closer bond. Our daughter has already helped us plant the spring and summer gardens this year. She is already cultivating a love for things that grow. She wants to be a part of our work and the rewards that come. It can be a challenge for a three year old to be patient enough to wait for each seed to go in the ground. We may get some peas in our potatoes this year. She has already experienced our harvests of kale and bok choy. Somewhere she remembers the sweetness of summer ripe tomatoes growing on the vine. Since she could walk, she has gone out to the garden each summer and feasted on deep red tomatoes while standing, juice driving down her face and arms, while her feet feel cool dirt.

Not everyone enjoys gardening, as a few of my friends have joked in horror at my love of dirt. But, for us, it deepens our Catholic Faith to be working in God’s earth. To help in His creation. To pray for our crops and rain through the intercession of St. Isidore the Farmer and St. Francis of Assisi. It is a reminder that all comes from Him. We got that reminder when we lost every single one of our 48 broccoli plants this spring because of a very cold April. He gives and takes away, always showing us the path to holiness. We don’t always understand the work he is doing in us, but we continue moving on. We plant again in faith. I pray that this summer Our Lord may grant you abundant harvests and beautiful flowers to marvel at each day.

 

 

My Choice to Homeschool

There is a disturbing trend in this country in regards to discourse and the right to personal opinion and free speech. I know that most people who frequent the Internet have noticed that comment sections on Facebook, Twitter, articles, and blogs are filled with name calling, vilification, irrational rants, and unintelligent and unintelligible arguments. People in this country cannot seem to reason through their arguments. If you do not agree with them you are either a) attacking them personally or b) a bigot, hateful, judgmental, intolerant, or whatever other name they can come up with, some are pretty colorful. What this says to me is a couple of things: First, we are egotistical and this includes me at times. We think that someone else’s personal choices or opinions have something to do with us personally. A wake up call to all of us: The world does not revolve around you or me! Second, there is a breakdown somewhere in our vast, and I mean vast, education system that is no longer encouraging reasoned thought. Instead we are taught to regurgitate information that we have heard, rather than think through, and reason our way to the truth or our own subjective opinion. In fact, many people cannot even defend their opinion without personal attacks.

I find these trends disturbing because they are a first step towards the oppression of others. This can be seen currently in the “gay marriage” debate, land owner issues, abortion, education, secular versus religion etc. While this trend exists on all sides of the political spectrum, they appear to be gaining most traction right now on the Left. If you are against us then you are a bigot, is a very common response to disagreement. What this does is shut down discussion. I will vilify you if you disagree with me no matter if you are objectively right or well-reasoned in thought. This is a very useful tactic for the oppressor. It allows a group of people to be demonized, and that is taken up by national groups like the media. Once word gets around, people tend to assume that this group or that, are in fact villains. Truth does not matter. This tactic is used by many professors and teachers with students. That is why so many parents are having to reteach their children who have heard various assertions that are taken as fact. If you are not with us then you are against us. This is very difficult for children who are already trusting and vulnerable. The hot button issues of our day usually produce these kinds of fights. Another one is education choices by parents. I have very passionate views on this topic after years of study, teaching, and observing our culture make dramatic and disturbing shifts.

To give you a bit of background about myself. I am the product of public education. I graduated from high school in 1999. My family could not afford the Catholic school in town. The bulk of my education is in large part thanks to my mother and even more my father. He is the one who taught me how to reason to a proper answer. He taught me the Aristotelian method of understanding truth and reality when I was 14 years old. The object sets truth not the viewer. This is diametrically opposed to the post-modern view of today that is largely from Rene Descartes. This is why relativism is so rampant in this country. We think that we set truth. As I used to tell my confused classmates in college, just because you think that a tree is a fish, does not make it any less a tree. Clear as mud…

As long as I can remember I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I joined the Navy so that I could pay for college. After my military service, I went back to my home state of Montana to finish up my degree. As I worked on my Education degree, I worked as a debate coach and teacher in my old high school. I was not prepared for the mediocrity, frustration, and apathy that I found there. I struggled to get students to do their work. The other teacher cared even less than the students. This school had failed to get its funding from No Child Left Behind, so major blocks of time were dedicated to teaching to the tests that were required. Coupled with what I could see were largely ridiculous Education courses, I switched majors. Sorry, Dewey! While I was working at the school I began to read extensively on the history of public education in this country, research on the low ranking of the US against the developed world, and how unions are damaging our public system. Add to it the openness to teen sexuality that I encountered and immoral behavior that was widely ignored, I made the decision to switch out of education. I was deeply saddened, but knew that I do not have the personality for such a broken system. I would have led a life of not so quiet desperation.

I have continued to monitor the system since then and have only grown more and more disturbed by what is coming out. With the new Common Core requirements I knew that my daughter would never step foot in a public school. We cannot afford Catholic education, and even then, it is not always reliable. I am firm and blunt on this choice. I finally got fed up with reading articles and made my sentiments bluntly known on my Facebook wall. And I meant when I said my daughter ‘will go to public school over my dead body’. It is how I feel, you are not required to agree. Let’s pray it does not come to that. It led to an irrational, and at times disturbing debate.

Do I think all people should homeschool? No. I don’t think that it is possible for everyone. Do I think that it is a better choice as our culture and system spirals more and more out of control? Yes. The Catholic understanding of education, is diametrically opposed to the system as it is today. Public schools largely undermine the Faith whether it be through teaching the gay agenda, handing out condoms or Plan B, taking away Bibles, teaching neo-feminism, or completely re-writing history to support secularism. These are just a snippet of what is going on today. Children are overwhelmed by peer pressure and a culture that is amoral. If we parents think that our children will go through public education unscathed then we are deluding ourselves. I can remember some pretty crazy things about high school, junior high, and grade school. I can count on one hand the teachers that really impacted me. I think that there are some superb teachers out there, but I will not say they are the majority. Tenure systems allow mediocre and even predatory teachers to keep their jobs even though they are not benefiting students, they may even harm them in some instances. I have not even mentioned school violence. It doesn’t even need to be a mass shooting. There were fights between gangs regularly at my old high school. How do school lock-downs not damage children’s sense of safety? Getting back to education, if we go to my original premise, students cannot even reason through to a correct answer. Everything is about “me” and my subjective understanding.

As a mom who is choosing to home-school, I am placing myself against a very large and powerful group of people. Home-schoolers are given all kinds of delightful titles. I was informed that I was ruining the economy and taking away jobs from teachers yesterday. This type of argument made me angry and horrified me at the same time. My daughter is not a meal ticket. She is a human being made in the image and likeness of God. My obligation is to educate her, not some teacher who sees her as a paycheck. Home-schoolers are unsocialized. I love this argument because it is so false. The difference between a home-schooler and a public school student is that home-schoolers by and large can carry on a conversation with any age group, including adults because they are not told all day that they are a 4th grader and only belong with that age. I see it in my friends’ kids. It is a great way to ostracize a group of people and claim that they are “weird”. It once again shuts down discussion. Reasoning and research do not matter. The charge that I am sheltering my child is partially true. She will not live in a bubble and will be well aware of our Fallen world. She will be in extracurricular activities and ministries. She will be around her peers, but not all day five days a week. However, topics will be done in an age and maturity based time. Not because someone says everyone is doing this and so should we. The clarion call of “everyone” is usually not from Christ.

Home-schoolers are a threat to those who choose public or private education. This is taught over and over again to Education majors. Talk about indoctrination! Our choice somehow has something to do with them. In the case of the public school system, we are taking away students and it is competition. I don’t sit around and think about all of the people I know and then make a decision. I look at my daughter and the systems available and decide what is best for her and where I believe God is calling me. My choices are not about you. Blunt, yes, but I get tired of politically correct tinged language. All of us are becoming toddlers when we cannot handle someone else’s opinion, even a blunt one, at that. I am guilty of this at times too. Parents need to choose what is best for their children and stop being offended because someone made a different choice. No matter what, parents need to educate themselves on what is going on in our schools. We are not sheep. We do not mindlessly follow what the government officials in our town are telling us. We study and research to get an educated picture. Regardless of what our government is trying to tell people, our children belong to us, the parents. Theologically they belong to God, but you know what I mean. I am beholden to no one, except Our Lord, for my choices as long as I am not doing anything immoral. I am not going to get into civil disobedience in this post.

My path to homeschooling is an unexpected and daunting one, but I know it is where God has called me. Yes, there will be times when I will express my loathing for our public education system, but that is because I know that people deserve better. The problem is that the system is just too dang large for me to get involved without risking harm to my daughter. While I believe one person can make a difference, which I try to do through my ministries, the political environment right now is so diametrically opposed to Catholic thought that it is not worth the battle. We must pick and choose our battles. I have chosen to home-school and you must do what is best for your kids. No matter what we decide, I pray that all of us help lead our children to Heaven and that at the end of their early education, their Faith will still be intact. God bless and Happy Easter!

*If you are interested in further reading, pick up the books by John Taylor Gatto as a start. He was an award winning public school teacher in New York for 30 years who now encourages home-schooling. Some of his books give an extensive history of public education in this country. It is not what you think!

Small Success Thursday: Protecting Our Children Edition

It is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Come share this week’s small successes with us.

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This week was a travel week for my husband.  Thankfully he is home for a while, but things get a little topsy-turvy when he is on the road.  I managed to actually get some sleep while he was gone.  I slept fine for years in my own apartment alone, but now I am a restless sleeper when he travels, even though I am packing heat if necessary.  I guess a lot of wives get used to the security of their husbands.
Our daughter gets irritable when he is gone too.  She did pretty well until yesterday afternoon.  By the time he got home, she was in full blown defiant toddler mode.  Today she is back to her happy go-lucky self.  She did not even fight me when I put her down for a nap.
So even with this crazy week, here are some successes.
1.  We did our “Biggest Loser” weigh-in and I am down 6lbs.  Only 24 to go to my goal.  I have not been as strict about my diet as I need to be.  My husband has been doing great and I keep praying for the grace to be more disciplined.  I have started adding exercise back in, which should help.  Plus, my daughter always wants me to dance with her to The Wiggles.  How can I say no to that?!
2.I have been avoiding TV for the most part.  I occasionally watch re-reruns of The Middle, which I think is ridiculous and hysterical, while I cook dinner at 5pm.  Other than that I have been reading.  I finished The Walk series and now I am reading a book about protecting our daughters (and really our sons) for a CatholicMom.com book review.  Look for the review and a book giveaway in the coming weeks!
3. Speaking of protecting daughters and sons, I wrote a letter to all daughters this morning on my blog.  The link is below this post.  Reading this book has reminded me of a lot of experiences of my teen years and twenties that I have blocked out as I focused on marriage and my daughter.  However, those experiences came flying back with a vengeance and have convicted me that we must fight the culture with everything we have in order to protect our children.  We as Catholics cannot become comfortable or complacent in our homes, especially if our children are in public schools.  Do you know what your kids are taught in sex ed?  Have you asked?  Have you looked at the materials?  Does your child’s school hand out birth control?  Has your child witnessed or heard about domestic violence?  Is pornography “normalized” in school?  Is masturbation? What is a good age for your kids to date?  Are your children reading books they shouldn’t? Have you read your school’s recommended reading list?  It might surprise you!  Why do I bring this up?  Have you discussed dating violence and abuse with your child? I say this  because a lot of us are either blind or willfully ignorant about what is going on in the culture around us.  Let me tell you a story.
I served in the US Navy for 6 years, but even before that, my first experience of meeting a girl who was being beaten by her boyfriend was when I was 15 years old.  We were in gym class together.  I saw her black eye and bloody lip and knew what was going on.  Her track star boyfriend was beating her.  I asked her about it.  She knew that she needed to get away from him, but her own mother was in an abusive relationship.  I did not have the knowledge or understanding to help her.  I should have gone to a counselor or teacher, but I didn’t.  I did not know what to do.  I pray she is okay.
While in the Navy, I was introduced to a sexually amoral culture.  It is the same in college, don’t kid yourself, especially public schools.  Pornography is rampant and is considered acceptable.  In fact, my Marine friends would compete over who had the largest porn collection.  Promiscuity, rampant, to include orgies.  I was living chastely, which made dating extremely difficult.  I had at least 3 roommates who had either been sexually abused or raped.  They were all acting out their pain in a promiscuous and risky manner.  I tried to help where I could.  I had a roommate who had slept with enough men to fill a platoon.  That is over 40 men.  She was deeply hurting.  I still pray for her.  There were women who had been with so many guys in one weekend they did not know who the father of their child was.  These women are someone’s daughter and need our love and help.
In the last 15 years, at least 5 women have confided in me that they were assaulted or sexually abused.  That is what I know of.  I suspect more, but have not asked.  I wait for them to come to me. These women believed that it was normal for men to use them and that hook ups were okay, healthy even.  They were miserable.  Binge drinking was also common place.  I thank God that the few times I binge drank that someone kept me safe from harm.  I had good friends.
Our culture has put it in men’s and women’s minds that sex is required in dating, or even a given.  I have had countless men tell me that I needed to put out.  I didn’t and made it through the Navy unscathed.  I did not cave until I was 26 and lived with a boyfriend.  The biggest regret of my life.  Thankfully God is merciful, loving, and forgiving.  I am vehemently opposed to cohabitation because of my own experiences, and my understanding of marriage.
What is my point?  My point is that the culture at large wants the hearts and minds of our children.  The pressure to engage in sexual activity, even risky sexual activity is immense.  Sex ed classes are touting sexual freedom as liberating and bringing happiness.  All I have seen is pain and despair.  Have you taught your children the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality: the Truth? Are you talking to your kids about this?  Are you monitoring what your kids read or do on the Internet? 50 Shades of Grey is going through high schools like wildfire. It is pornography and normalizes S&M.  Men are looking at pornography, even violent pornography, at staggering rates.  Have you spoken to your sons and daughters about porn? This is dangerous for both sexes, but especially women.  It can create violent men.  In fact, almost all violent offenders report being addicted to violent pornography.  Do you monitor what shows your children watch?  Shows like How I Met Your Mother glamorize promiscuity and the abuse of women.  Our children see this and start to believe that they should live this way too.  After all, everyone else is doing it.  Most shows these days believe that teenagers having sex is a given.  This should horrify parents.  Shut these shows off and show your kids real love.
I feel am very passionate about this if you cannot tell.  Not just because of my own mistakes, but because of what I have witnessed.  These threats are very real, whether you live in a rural area, suburbs, or a city.  Talk to your children.  Be open!  The antidote to a culture that has gone mad is Theology of the Body.  Check it out.  Arm yourself with the weapons of Truth and Joy that is in Christ Jesus.
To bring a Culture of Life to the world, we must first bring it to our own families, starting with our children.
Please take the time to read my letter to our daughters here and share it.  I will write a letter to sons very soon.
Dear Daughters (the iPad would not let me hyperlink) https://swimmingthedepths.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/dear-daughters-a-letter-to-girls-teens-and-young-women-in-their-dating-years/
Theology of the Body: http://www.tobinstitute.org

Liturgical Living: Feast of Epiphany Birthday Party for Jesus

Yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany.  The Roman Church has a week of Christmas left before we enter back into Ordinary Time.  The ladies who help me run the Sanctity of Life Committee at our parish and I decided to host a Birthday Party for Jesus.  We needed to collect crisis pregnancy items and what better way than to ask the families of the parish to bring a gift to Baby Jesus? This is the Sunday we celebrate the Magi bringing gifts to Our King, so it is a perfect day for a party.  We had the Knights of Columbus provide food and the Women’s Club helped us decorate.  We were all nervous about how it would go, and by the grace of God, it was a hit.

We were able to collect a lot of items for our local Catholic Charities and we had a great time celebrating the birth of Our Savior.  We played musical chairs, Pin-the-Tail on Mary and Joseph’s Donkey, the clothes pin game, and had crafts.  Plus, there were lots of cupcakes and our priest even won a round of musical chairs!  This is a great way to remind Catholics that we are still celebrating Christmas.  It did not end on December 26th.  It is also a great event to use as a fundraiser, especially helping babies and moms in need.  This is another way to live liturgically.  You can have a birthday party at home or start one in your parish.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. I am slowing moving into blogging regularly again.  I have a few columns to write for CatholicMom.com that I need to finish and then I can get back into a regular routine.

 

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The Ugly Christmas Ornament Lesson

Once again my daughter is teaching me that the world does not revolve around me.  It is a very difficult lesson, one in which I sulk at times.  Give me a little bit of a break.  I have only been a parent for 2 years and was living blissfully unaware (okay..occasionally aware) of my selfish nature for 30 years prior.  Some of you may scoff and others will understand my story.

You see, each year since we have been dating, my husband and I have bought each other a Christmas ornament.  We only put those ornaments on our tree, and a few gold ball ornaments.  Michaela was added to the tradition when she was born.  We open our ornaments on the Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec 6th) and then set them aside until Gaudete Sunday.  It is little addition we made to that Feast Day in our home. So far, the ornament selections have been quite lovely.  I like the religious ornaments, but we do have some wintry ornaments as well.
Tonight my husband, daughter, and I decided to go to Walmart to try to find some purple Advent candles since ours melted in the attic over the summer.  We also thought we would see what kind of ornament we should get for Michaela.  We found 4 purple candles, they were out of pink.  My apologies to Gaudete Sunday.  The ornament selection did not leave much to be desired.  I was going to compromise on a Disney Princess ornament because it had Rapunzel on it, but then…my husband pulled out this:
This is going on my Christmas Tree.
This is going on my Christmas Tree. And, yes, the dog is wearing pink booties.
  Those of you have a toddler know what happened next.  She loved it!  It was the greatest ornament on  the planet.  Nothing could compare.  I tried.  I showed her the Disney Princess ornament.  She ignored it.  I tried a jingle-bell snowman.  It could not hold a candle to this gaudy pink dog.  I sighed.  My husband turned to me and said, “The ornaments are supposed to represent who she is right now.”  I knew he was right.  Her two favorite things right now are doggies and Pinkalicious.  It’s like Walmart knew this and made an ornament just for her, and other toddlers.
You would have had to know me before I got married.  I liked a matching Christmas Tree.  Something that was color coordinated and had beautiful ribbon swirling down the sides.  It was always topped with a beautiful angel.  This is one of those things I abandoned in favor of a new tradition with my husband.  However, it still sneaks out at times.  This being one of those times.  I now just admire those types of trees in my Southern Living magazine.
This is another great lesson that motherhood has taught me.  It just is not about me anymore.  It never really was actually.  Instead, it is about what makes my daughter happy.  If she selects an ugly ornament, it will be a story we can share later.  I will always remember this ornament and the Christmas she was 2 years old.  She will grow up way to fast.  I already have to catch my breath some days.
This experience also made me stop and wonder when I got so boring.  Childhood is such a magical time and I forget that sometimes.  It is a time when my daughter just knows what she likes and does not have the world telling her what to like.  It is a time of imagination, learning, and wonder.  It is a time for pink dogs and little girls who eat too many cupcakes and turn pink.
I may have grumbled in the store, but I will happily help her place this ornament on our Tree in the coming weeks.  It is hers and it will hold many memories.  And we can haul it out when she is a cranky teenager. I hope you are having a blessed Advent.
Two of my daughter's favorite things: pink and doggies.
Two of my daughter’s favorite things: pink and doggies.

 

What are some ornaments your kids have picked out that you have had to put on your Tree over the years?

 

P.S. We are really trying to live out Advent right now and minimize Christmas.  The Feast of St. Nicholas is Friday, so we wanted to be prepared.

7 Quick Takes for this Gray and Occasionally Sunny November Day

Today I am linked up over at Jennifer Fulwiler’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes. Join us with your quick takes for the week here:

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1.  My husband and I bought our first home together in May of this year.  We actually ended up in the town where our parish is located (long story as to why we drove 30 minutes to Mass…let’s just say “spirit of Vatican II” and leave it at that).  My husband now commutes every day, but we think that it is worth it.  We have been blessed with even more friendships through our church and have been able to get more involved.  We have become good friends with a family with four girls.  I teach junior high religious ed with the dad/husband.  They are our board game friends.  We have almost made Sunday dinner and games a ritual.  We chat after Mass and then end up planning to play games and have dinner later that day.  It has been a great blessing for us.  When we lived in Boone, NC we had a couple we used to play Settlers of Cataan and pinochle with.  Now we play all kinds of games with our friends from church, including a Star Trek version of Settlers (so awesome!).
2.  I am learning to enjoy reading the same book over and over again to my toddler.  One of my blog readers from CatholicMom.com pointed out that I  need to foster a love of “nonsense” with my child.  I thought about it and decided that she is right.  I used to have a great imagination and I am working on my first novel, so I should be able to read Pinkalicious to my daughter and enjoy it, even if it is not one of my favorite books.  Michaela is even “reading” to herself these days and that makes me so proud.
3.  Conquering my coffee addiction is not going so well (she says while slurping down a peppermint mocha).  Facebook was easy for me, compared to coffee.  I think that some of my readers are misunderstanding my conquering addictions.  Holiness is about letting go of the things we allow to control us, so that we are free to enjoy them in moderation.  Facebook was leading me to sin. Coffee is an addiction, not something that I merely enjoy.  God gave us these gifts as “pleasant inns” to borrow from CS Lewis.  That means we enjoy them, but not allow them to consume us.  If we read the works of the Saints, we will see how they call us to detach from those things that control us, which really means things that replace God in our lives.  Today, I did not do as well as I wanted with the coffee, but I will try again tomorrow and by God’s grace be freed from my addiction, and hopefully some day just be able to enjoy coffee, rather than feel I “need” it.  A priest told me that I needed to do this in Confession recently.   No one “needs” coffee he said.
4. I got to go on an impromptu date with my husband last  night.  My awesome friend Christine (you can check her blog,, Domestic Vocation, out here) agreed to babysit our toddler with 2 hours notice.  We had not been on a date in over two months.  I am sure all of you parents understand.  We had a nice dinner at a cafe downtown.  We even walked down the street holding hands.  Some day that will embarrass our daughter.  I think when  we kiss it already embarrasses her.  There are such similarities between a two year old’s reactions and a teenager’s.
5.  This past week our junior high religious ed class discussed vocations.  Have you talked about vocations with your kids?  The most important thing we discern is where God is calling us to.  Not everyone is called to marriage, even though that is what our society tells us.  We need to encourage vocations to the Priesthood or religious life.  Here are two great videos to share with your kids about vocations.  The first is for young men on the Priesthood and the second is for young women on becoming a sister or nun.

6.  I have a confession to make.  I do not make my pancakes from scratch.  I think about it, but the box of multi-grain pancakes at Kroger is so much easier.  I just add water, and then, whatever I want.  This morning I made sweet potato pancakes with the leftover mashed sweet potatoes from dinner two nights ago.  I followed the directions on the box and then added 3/4 of mashed sweet potato puree, and a dash of cinnamon.  They were so good.  I did not even use syrup.  You can add whatever you want.  One of my favorites is cottage cheese and blueberries.  Give it a try!  Sneak some healthy stuff into those pancakes for picky eaters.
7.  This song is so beautiful.  I hope it blesses you as you go into your weekend. My husband and I saw Casting Crowns in concert when we were dating.  It was a great show.