Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday thoughts

I've found it rather refreshing to be away from the facebook thing over the past week.  Though it wasn't specifically asked of me by Fr. Eric, I decided that a fast from something I spent a lot of time looking at was a good idea.  I do miss the interaction with my friends.  Facebook connects Mamas like me, who are home all day to school and raise up our families, with the outside world.  The added factor of living a fair distance from the main action means that I frequently feel isolated and lonesome.  I know there are other Mamas out there who will know just what I mean.  Although I am surrounded by my babies, I long for the conversation and company of other adult people, mostly other women.  I need the connection of hearts and souls that comes with the bond between women.

It's more challenging than one might think.  Trading child-minding with other Mamas is a good idea, but it falls more difficult for me.  My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult for me to prepare to leave the house, even for things I ought to look forward to.  And if it's a flare day for my fibro pain or my back, leaving the house can sometimes prove nearly impossible.  Sounds like a lame couple of excuses, I know, but it's what's put before me.

I continue to pray for so many friends.  I also continue to pray about just how much I can truly write here.  There are things which have happened that need to be thought out carefully and processed fully in my heart, but they are things which affect other people.  It's not always up to me what I can put down in my little space here.  Please pray for me in this.

Monday, February 23, 2015

To ask for suffering

Over the past couple of years, I've been praying for the grace to suffer well, as Fr. Eric says.  The spiritual work of mercy calls it "bearing wrongs patiently."  In addition to humility and patience, forbearance is what I struggle with most.

There's been plenty of opportunity, some of which I'll write about here, and some of which I just need to allow to rest in my heart.

I've found myself praying to ask for more opportunities to bear gracefully the challenges of life.

It seems that those around me are being placed in my life so that I have someone other than myself to pray for though.

I have a classmate who's fighting breast cancer.  She's one of the sweetest, most selfless people I know.  She has a beautiful family and a love for Jesus which inspires everyone around her.  Please pray for Jill.

I have another friend who so recently buried her husband.  He was diagnosed with cancer and died not even a month later.  He fought every second with amazing strength and grace and faith, always with a smile and a laugh, always with a word of encouragement for everyone around him.  His name was Paul.  Please pray for the peaceful repose of Paul's soul.  His beautiful wife is due any day now with their sixth child.  Sadly, babies four and five, twins, were lost to miscarriage last spring.  The joy of learning they were expecting again was radiant in both of them, along with their three little ones.  Now, this Mama and her babies are beginning to find ground beneath their feet again.  Please pray for Annie and their children.

My Darling has such a big family: his mom was one of fourteen children.  This year on Ash Wednesday, one of his uncles died very suddenly.  He was only 57 years old.  He leaves behind a lovely family--his beautiful wife, four children, and a passel of grandchildren.  Today we will attend his funeral.  Please pray for the peaceful repose of Ray's soul.  Please pray for his family.

We were told some very upsetting news at Mass yesterday: the mother of one of our dear priests was kidnapped.  Virginia lives in Nigeria.  The note left behind says that a ransom will be demanded for her release.  Please pray for Virginia.

There is so much to pray for, so many souls to love.  I thank you for joining me in prayer for those in my life.

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There are joyful things in life, too!  Since Wednesday was Squash's birthday, and since GinGin's birthday falls at the very tail end of January (but we've been busybusybusy), we had a double birthday party yesterday.  And My Darling treated me specially: since we have so many big parties for birthdays, with many family and friends celebrating with us, he bought me a big double cake pan.  So yesterday's cake was lemon (requested by GinGin), and strawberry (requested by Squash)--two cakes, one pan, batters swirled together to make a delicious strawberry-lemonade cake.  We had six cousins, three uncles, three aunts, two Grandmas, and a Grandpa here to party with us.  It was great!

This is our Birthday Season.  It kind of tickles my Catholic funny bone a little bit that we have so many Lenten birthdays in our family.  Squash's doesn't always fall during Lent, but this year of course it was on Ash Wednesday.  Frog's is almost always during Lent, though usually closer to the beginning.  My Darling's is next, just 11 days after the Frog.  And Pickle will have his second Holy Week birthday this year.  I guess God has quite a sense of humor!

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The book I'm reading, The Face of God, is absolutely beautiful.  I've always longed to visit holy Rome, but even moreso now, the more I learn especially, I find my desire shifting more toward Manoppello. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Years Hence? Indeed it has been.

I have begun this Lent by asking my spiritual director what he would ask me to focus on this year, in hopes of deepening my faith and my interior spiritual life.  For my physical mortification, he has instructed me to refrain from the sweeter things--sweet drinks, delicious treats, that sort of thing--while not neglecting fruits (and he did say I could have a bit of honey in my tea or a sall amount of sugar in my oh-so-necessary coffee.  It's actually more difficult for me than I had thought it would be: by default I often choose chocolate milk over white, or a bottle of orange Fanta rather than water.  And I love a couple of spoonsful of hot chocolate mix in my coffee, topped off sometimes with French vanilla cream...and so now as ever, I must be deliberate in my decisions, and this can only be a good thing.  I was thinking earlier about how much I could miss the sweet things.  And considering my love for chocolate, I really could miss them terribly!  But all the better for my soul, I do hope.  I've wanted to eliminate refined sugar for a long time.  It would be so good for me in so many ways...so I guess I ought to thank Fr. E for giving me this particular work.

His second assignment for me is to read a specific book.  We had a conversation about one of the places he loves to visit in Italy, namely Manopello, where there is displayed the image of Our Lord on mollusk silk.  The book to which he referred me is called The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus by Paul Badde.  I began reading it just last night, and I'm definitely hooked.  I love the tests that are done in attempts to authenticate things like this miraculous veil and the Tilma of St. Juan Diego from Guadalupe bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was tired last night, and so I am still reading through the first chapter.  I hope to explore my understandings here.

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I had forgotten what a refreshment it can be to come here to write.  I've left so much of myself by the wayside in recent months, even years, and find that I need to begin peeling back the layers once again.  It's astounding to me how drastically things can change in what seems an eternity whilst among the thorns of the valley, but in the grand scope even of temporal existence is truly a mere moment.  The past two years, especially, have been for me nothing short of early Purgatory while walking the Earth.  I dare to hope that some of the suffering here has done good for some poor soul on the other side of the veil of death.  Indeed, I offer willingly my hours of purification in profound supplication for the souls of those closest to me.  Don't ever forget the poor souls in Purgatory.  Pray for them, offer sufferings for them, and remember that someday you may well be joining them and existing in the hope that after your purification is complete, you shall behold His Face.

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Last year at this time, I was in hospital.  I had been taken in because of back pain so severe I had been crawling about the house for a week.  I hated to go.  My babies needed me...but they needed me whole, and I was anything but.  During my stay, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia--which I had suspected for years, but since the diagnosis tends to be one of exclusion and something of a collection and tidy binding of symptoms, and since I scarcely ever went to the doctor before my hospitalization, I had no official diagnosis in my chart.

Suffice it to say, this last year has found me in search of various remedies for the pains which ail me on a continuous basis.  I have many good days.  I have days where, although I have pain, it does not plague me so intensely.  I have other days where I am glad to have a walker, or a cane, and I am always thankful to have my handicapped parking tag. 

I have found a tremendous respect for physical therapists.  My therapist is a gem--she's kind, she's funny, she's very knowledgeable, and she is enthusiastic about helping me strengthen my body so that I can live like a person rather than like a lump in a chair.  So many days I feel like just a lump in a chair.

Of late, I have been reducing the dosage of Cymbalta.  I had been taking 60 mg each day; by tomorrow, I will be taking 30 mg each day.  It's a very slow process, because to wean from this medication is to create a maelstrom of withdrawal effects.  It's awful.  Honestly.  The weaning process involves opening the capsules, counting the individual, tiny beads in each one, and removing a certain amount, increasing the amount removed each day.  Those who've been studying the process recommend that for each year a person has been on the medication, it should take six months to wean off of it.  I've only been on Cymbalta for six months, so I'm one of the lucky few who can take a larger number of beads out each day.

Math: not my friend.  This process: math.  Bah.  Humbug.

I take two 30 mg. capsules each day.  There are 250 beads in each capsule.  I am removing eleven additional beads each day.  This means that the weaning process will take me roughly 8 weeks by the time I'm done.  And tomorrow is the half-way point, thanks be to God.

So far, my withdrawal effects have been minimal: I've had a couple of really overwhelming headaches, plenty of brain fog, and some tidal waves of emotion.  Not always sadness or anxiety--but just emotion.  And as ever, My Darling remains by my side, supporting me and understanding me and holding me so I don't become exhausted while treading this water.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's been way too long.  A couple of years, even.  I need to resurrect my blog for so many reasons, not the least of which is to process the things that have happened in the last two or three years.

I know I left things open-ended and completely unresolved.  I'll work on fixing that, too.

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Yesterday was my Pickle boy's ninth birthday, and it was also Ash Wednesday.  We had his cake and candles on Tuesday night so that we could share a nice treat and still properly honor the beginning of Lent in the spirit it's meant to encourage.

Today....well, today is the seventh anniversary of my losing Gabriel.  My heart is so conflicted, as ever.  It's a blessing to be Mama to a Saint, but it's also so hard to wait until I can see my baby.  It's something I think about at every Mass.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Did you get your Ash to Mass?

And Lent begins.

And there is so much to give penance for, so many sacrifices to be made.

My attempts at conscientious interior change has a lot to do with the way I parent my children, which of late has meant a louder voice, a slower step, and an angry spirit.  I don't like that, and I want to change it.

You've seen, I'm sure, the ads for anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications that ask the questions about who depression hurts, where depression hurts, etc, and the answers begin with "every."  "Everyone," "everywhere," etc.

It's true.  I wonder, where I am concerned, if I think myself into the pain I experience from time to time, inferring discomfort where none actually is.  I need to change my attitude about it, I think.  And I know that my disposition affects everyone around me.  Although I can reason about it, that doesn't mean my little ones can do the same.  All they know is, "Gee, Mama's in a rotten mood today.  Again."  I need to change that, too.

So, this Lent, I do not intend to "give up" things that really make no true difference to anyone but me, because that doesn't do any good for anyone else, and it doesn't really even make a big difference for me--because at the end of Lent, I would just go back to my old ways, and what kind of sacrifice is that?  I want a sacrifice that will have lasting meaning.  Giving up chocolate or soda or whatever doesn't have lasting meaning.

Instead, I propose a true change in spirit.  I need to make an intentional effort to change from within, and that means beginning by altering my interior prayer habits.

I am re-reading Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women, and I am adding The Way.

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As always, things move along with the addition.  Though we moved out of our former bedroom in October, it remained as a sort of hallway between the old hallway and the new laundry room.  The lack of privacy made it impractical for use as a bedroom in the interim, and so it was a place for cousin sleep-overs, storage, and collection of stuff.

But it's one of the last rooms needing work, and so My Darling has (finally!) turned his attention to it.  I think he goes in seasons, like I do, with being in a funk.  I saw it coming, and I wanted to help him swing around it, rather than slog through it...so I said, "Hey, could we start work on That Room?"  And so he did.

There was a huge, beautiful, built-in dresser in that room.  It was one of the things we were most excited about when we looked at this house twelve years ago.  Fifteen drawers is a lot of storage!!  Well, fifteen drawers is also a lot of space to fill up with things we don't need.  So the first thing done in That Room was to remove the top of the dresser, cut down the supporting structure, and replace the top.  This will serve as storage (but only six drawers, thankyouverymuch) and also a seating area.  And since this is to become a bedroom for some girlies, we'll make a comfortable cushion to sit atop the lovely bench, and toss some squishy pillows on it, and let the girlies sprawl out and read or gab or sing or *whatever*.  He added boxes above the bench, where we'll put two sconces for light.  Dimmer switches will make them useful for nightlights if necessary, too.  Here, you can see My Darling measuring for the sconce placement.  See the finished bench?  The wooden side was part of the original dresser.  The man who built the thing was brilliant!

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The next order of business was building the end of the bench.  Previously, there had been a wooden divider between dresser and closet--that whole wall had been devoted to clothing storage.  When we created the upstairs opening between the existing house and the addition, we did it through that closet, eliminating half of it.  For months, it was just a hole in the wall, and we could close it off by sliding the closet door shut.  Eventually, My Darling framed in the actual door, put up drywall to shape the passageway, and added a door.  Good thing, too, since the laundry room also houses the third flush toilet, thanks be to God! 
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To go from a home with one bathroom to all of a sudden having options, well that's just about the biggest luxury I can think of.

Anyway, the end of the bench is now a little half-wall, and will be a nice place to lean against when sitting on the bench.  See where the sconces will be?

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The new wall, the actual wall, which now divides the room from the old hallway, has been framed and drywalled now, too.  It's so exciting to see this transformation--once again, to have thought something up and see it take shape, to know that that bedroom served us well for eleven years and will now be the place where our daughters will sleep and play and study and dream and gab and *whatever*, is a great thing to be able to reflect on.

Looking into the laundry room, through what once was the closet in our bedroom, now looks like this:
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And speaking of studying, the gap between the wall and the half-wall will be a desk area.  Ok, this was complete and total genius, if I do say so myself--and I do.  I do!!  When I found the smaller dresser (for SEVEN DOLLARS, for Pete's sake!) which was stripped, refinished, and transformed into the sink for the laundry room, part of that process was cutting off the top of the dresser.  I wasn't sure what was to become of that piece of walnut: should we put it on a piano hinge, attatch a swinging leg, and make a wall-mounted, fold-away table with it?  Should I add legs to it and make a little stand-alone table with it?  What would become of this beautiful piece of wood??  Well, of course it was meant to be a desk top.  Didn't you know?  I didn't know.  But now I know!  My Darling will fix this lovely piece of wood into the space between the two walls, build a bookshelf beneath it, install a floating shelf above it (which will house a couple of lights, of course!) and make a great place for studying.  See?  Genius!  So in the photo above, you can see where the desk will go (imagine away the 5-gallon bucket of debris, if you would please), and to the right is the laundry room.  If you were to turn further to the right, still, you would be looking down the old hallway.  The bedroom door is on an angle.

My hope is that we can somehow use the remaining nine drawers and their framework either in the sun room or the basement.  We do have things to store.  And these drawers, having been crafted bya cabinet-maker, are really well-made.  I do not intend to waste them!!  And if it works out the way I am hoping it will, I can make another set of cushions and pillows, and have another bench...so it won't be wasted storage space.  Woot!

I'm not sure about the timeline, but I'm guessing we'll be able to start painting That Room this weekend, and will hopefully be moving the bunkbeds into the room next week.  I don't want to think too far ahead about it, because I know all too well the disappointment that comes with projecting a timeline on something like this, only to be held up by something or another.  So I'm making up my mind ahead of time to remain flexible and as relaxed as possible.  Saint Joseph, pray for me!!

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Prayer Requests:

*Keep praying for C and V.  Baby is not yet born, which is good.  What the outcome will be, only our Father in Heaven knows.  I know what I'm praying for though.

*Still praying for Joshua P. and his family, and for Rebekah and her family, too.

*Pray for all those affected by emotional or mental disorders, for all those in chronic pain, for all those lonely and forgotten, and for their families.

*Pray for expectant mothers, their babies, and their families.

*Pray for those terminally ill and their families and caregivers, especially when their primary caregivers are their family.

*I always keep anyone who might be reading in my prayers, too.  If you want to leave a prayer intention, feel free to do so.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And today, we shall wash the diapers.

I make no promises of regularity, because I don't like to break promises, and I've already done so too many times in this place.

And I really do need to wash diapers.  But it's more like "tonight" than today.  The diapers don't know the difference though.

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It's been such an odd winter.  So little snow, so little cold, so few days where it looks or feels like winter then, and no help for it.  People keep muttering, "Yeah, but we'll get socked in the spring," but I don't think we will.  If we could get one good snowstorm this year, I'd be happy with that.  I think it's just a mild winter.  Ho-hum.  No snow-days.  No blizzards.  No hibernating.

Not like last year.

My Gingersnap has turned ONE.  She is a year old, plus a few weeks.  It's hard to believe, though I think back on what things were like around here a year ago, and I believe it all too well.  It's been a year of many refinements, through the grace of God.  It's awesome and wondrous and terrible and mystifying all wrapped up into a year's time.  Some of the lessons God intended for me, I believe I've come to terms with.  Others have remained as elusive as a cloud.

I still experience brief, unpredictable bursts of intense pain in my side where my blood clot was/is, though the scan I had over the summer showed no reason to be alarmed about it.  My vascular surgeon doctor was pleased with the progress.  She told me that with clots the size mine was, they expect about 80% reduction, but that there will always be something there.  I'm no longer on the blood thinner (which is such a funny name...it doesn't make the blood thinner, it makes it slippery--but they don't call it "blood slipperier".  Too bad, too.  I think it's funny.), thanks be to God.  That mess ended in July.  I was happy to see it go--no more fresh crop of bruises on a daily basis, just from existing.  No more avoiding a glass of wine, should the notion strike (which isn't frequent, but it does happen from time to time...).  Best of all, though, no more lab visits for blood draws for the INR test.  I was over that dog and pony show.  Pin cushion?  Yeah, that's a tool in my sewing box.  It no longer defines my arm.

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So the Gingersnap is ONE.  ONE!!!  ONE!!  I cannot even believe it!  She is an entire year old.  She crawls with amazing speed and agility.  She has a gorgeous sense of humor, and loves to see everyone around her laugh at her little antics.  She has a few words, and is learning new ones every day.  She gets very upset with me if I do not Give Her The Milkies Right NOW and tell her to sign "milk" to me.  She beats her little fist at my chest, tugs at my shirt, and whimpers like a sad puppy.  Is it wrong that I find this not only adorable, but amusing?

Cuppie is THREE.  But we don't say "three" around here.  We say "flee."  So Cuppie is FLEE.  She has become Little Miss Independent, deciding, thankyouverymuch, that she is over wearing diapers or pull-ups or anything other than Princess Panties on her little rumpy.  And that's all there is to that.  Yes, really.  She decided one day that she was going to wear panties, and so she did.  She is dry overnight, she is dry all day, and in the course of the past 5 weeks of wearing them, she has had exactly three--oops: flee--accidents with wetting.

With poo, it's not quite the same story.  That bit always takes a little longer.

I admit I am into bribery that way.  When she began, she would get five "white chips"--so-called because she refused to call them "white chocolate chips."  Everyone knows, after all, that there is not one iota of chocolate in white chocolate anyway.  It's vanilla.  So, white chips they are.  So she would trot herself to the loo, do her business, and after the loooooooooong hand-washing ritual, she would count out her white chips: "One, two, flee, four, five!" and eat them up.

Once I remembered (DUH!) and bought the Tootsie Rolls, well that was all the motivation she needed for the Number Two to become her new goal.  So she learned very quickly to run (RUN!) to the loo for poo, too, and the Tootsie Roll came out.  But------we don't call them Tootsie Rolls.  No.  They are "Twitsie Lolls"!!  (Of course they are!)

My Squash......he just turned SIX.  Saturday was his birthday, and he was beyond excited to be turning six.  I likened it to Winnie The Pooh--"And Now We Are Six"--and he was unimpressed.

He is reading.  He loves Dick and Jane, just like my big kids did at his age, and he loves that he can now sit down with his books, open them, and make sense of what he sees on the page.  It's one of my favorite things in the entire world--watching a little child decoding the written English language and realizing that the whole world has just shifted greatly in their favor....poetry, stories, ideas, Psalms--it's all of a sudden open to them, like the sunrise!  What a blessing!!

My Squash has such a beautiful spirit and such a loving heart.  He has a fondness for a girl named Annie.  Not long back, I said to him, "Are you going to marry that Annie girl?"  He said to me, "Probably."  And then he grew quiet and thoughtful.  After a minute or so, he said, "Well, unless I hear God tell me I need to be a priest.  Then I can't marry Annie.  But I could still see her."

I melted.  I completely melted.  This sweet boy knows that we need to be still and quiet and wait to hear what God has to tell us, what God wants from us, and what we need to do and be to fulfill His design for our lives.  Thanks be to God!!

Reepicheep.  Ahh.........Reepicheep.

She is twelve.  We're in the thick of it, she and I, in the part where it feels like she's running at a pace through the thick jungles of the Amazon, and I'm trying to keep sight of her, let alone keep up with her.  This age has so far been the most difficult for me to parent my children through--especially the girls.  I've found that when their bodies start to really take off and grow like crazy (at about 9) and through puberty, to the other side, it's fish or cut bait.  It's so difficult to keep up with the emotional challenges, the outbursts of frustration and anger and emotion, the desire for more freedom coupled with the resistance to responsibility are just a huge obstacle for me as a Mom.  I'm working my way through it--we're working our way through it--but it's a big jungle, and it's awfully darned hot in here.....I feel like the heroine of a movie, before she earns her heroine status.  I'm slogging through the jungle, all hot and sweaty, with hair falling out of my ponytail and sticking to my forehead and cheeks...legs all scratched up, machete feeling reeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyy heavy about now, barely able to swing it to clear my path, and all kinds of venomous creatures lurking about, just waiting for me to have to stop to take a breath.

Yeah.  It's like that.

Now, having parented a girl through this already, I also know that I'm doing the right things, and that even though it's tremendously difficult, the rewards are even greater than the challenges.  I know that if I can help Reepicheep navigate through the puzzle of hormonal swings and moods and interior struggle, that she and I will both come out of this not unscathed, but definitely stronger, both emotionally and spiritually.  That is why I take a deep breath every morning before I wake her up, and continue to breathe as deeply as I can throughout the day.  I pray every time I know I need to correct her.  I search for reasons to praise her, no matter how small.  I remind her how blessed we both are, especially that we can come and go as we need to, that we can put food on our table at every meal, that we have plentiful choices in the way we dress our bodies that keep us modestly covered and comfortably warm, that we can attend Mass daily if we want to without much effort at all, save for driving, and that we have a snug, warm, FULL home to live in.  And I remind her that there are lots and lots of little extras that can be made to disappear if necessary (and sometimes, they do!).  :)

My Pickle is still thirteen; his birthday isn't until early spring.  He is absolutely thriving at the Fabulous Catholic School where we are blessed to send our children.  He struggled in the beginning, going from having been home schooled for four years to being in the classroom setting again, but he's been spending some time after school a couple of days each week with a tutor, and he is improving so greatly that it's actually astonishing!  He's found a really good groove of time-management, for the most part, and has learned through natural consequences that his school work is his responsibility.  I must say, it's an advantage sometimes to live 35 minutes from school.  If he forgets something, there is no way I'm packing up my three little ones and the Reepicheep to bring it to him!!  (I doubt I would if we lived in the same town as the school, anyway, but at least this way, there isn't even the temptation.)  He's looking so forward to next year's cross country season, and is already running a couple of times a week.  Because in this completely ODD winter, running is actually an option.

There was a family who used to belong to our Parish whose eldest son was the head server, and I think they've switched to a parish closer to their home now.  They've not been to Sunday Mass in a long time.  I'm not sure what to think about it, but I do know that it means that Pickle is one of the older senior servers now, and he's really doing a great job shepherding some of the younger boys.  I'm so proud of him!  He's showing a maturity that is very gratifying to witness in my own son.

Also, his voice is changing.  I am a little fragile, emotionally, about that fact.  I make him laugh at every possible opportunity, because I just cannot get enough of his ridiculous giggle, and I know that someday it will be gone.  *le sigh*

And the Frog.

The Frog will be sixteen in just a few days.  SIXTEEN!  SIXTEEN???!!!  WHAT?!

There are all kinds of things that barrage my head about this.  Sixteen is old enough to drive, when properly licensed.  (She won't be just yet.)  Sixteen is the age at which My Darling and I decided that, should a young man desire to court our daughter, and should he seek our permission--in person--and should we decide to grant him permission, we would allow her to be courted.  Chaperoned, of course.  In groups, of course.  One on one, not so much.

Sixteen is the age, it seems, when childhood is carefully folded, set into the Hope Chest, and looked back upon with wistful memories clouding the vision.

I remember holding her when she was tiny, combing her impossibly curly hair and pulling it into pig tails for the first time.  I remember her taking her first steps, in those old-fashioned white baby shoes--on her first birthday.  I remember singing with her, dancing with her, playing tea party with her, hearing her read her first book ("Go Dog, GO!"), and watching her the first time she walked to school with the Pickle (I never let her walk alone).

How, in Heaven's Name, can she be turning sixteen?  Now I'm watching her dance with young men (MAN, can they swing dance!!), hearing her sing in the choir with me and at her private voice lessons, watching her put her hair in any manner of elegant or fun or frilly arrangements, running cross country, baking or cooking anything she fancies, and reading to her younger siblings.

The lump in my throat is enormous.  It hardly bears mentioning that she is better than half way through her sophomore year......just a little over two years and she'll be-----------------

*sigh*    ~~and *sigh* again.

For now, she is my little Froggy, and she is here with me.

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I'm working on me.  Every day, every hour, I'm working on me.

I still don't know where my heart is on the things that happened after my little Gingersnap was born.  I have my moments when I am overwhelmed by the thought of being rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain, sure that I was going to die, and then learning how real a possibility that was.  Looking into the sweet face of my tiny, tiny baby girl, I was thinking, "Will I ever see your face again?  Will you grow up knowing me, or being told stories about what others remember about me?"  Even now, it's hard to reconcile it in my heart.

I had a lot of guilt to carry in the aftermath.  I felt guilty that it happened at all.  I felt guilty that I needed the help of others to do simple things for so long.  I felt guilty that My Darling had to ferry me about, because there was no one else to do it.  I felt guilty that my medication stifled my milk and forced me into choosing formula supplementation, even though it was only for a few months.  I felt guilty that I didn't get thank you notes written and sent out, or that I got some of them written and not others, or that I lost track of the ones I had written, so I just stopped, even though I never stopped being grateful for the people who helped me and my family, and I told them so every single time I saw them over the year since.  I felt guilty that I felt guilty about things that were completely out of my control, were not my choice, were not predicable or preventable, and will probably never happen again.  I felt guilty that I didn't think my faith was up to snuff when the chips were down.

Sometimes I still do feel guilty.

Part of my Lent will be to finish here.  To complete my story, to get it out, to hammer it until it's shiny and smooth instead of a lump in the pit of my gut.  I'm asking God to refine me and help me to stop hanging on to this albatross of guilt and shame.

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PRAYER REQUESTS, and the first one is urgent:

Dear friends of mine--a couple, V and C.  V is pregnant with their sixth baby, and has just made it to 23 weeks.  Twenty-three.  Barely over half-way.  Last week, she started bleeding and cramping, so they went to hospital.  They were sent home after a while, but returned soon after.  The scan showed fluid in Baby's abdomen.  She's been in hospital ever since, and today they induced her.  I've not heard an update yet.  She had lost a lot of blood, and very early this morning she was given a blood transfusion, finishing up about 9:00.  By this afternoon, she had lost another 2 units of blood, and between that and almost no amniotic fluid, they needed to deliver her.  They are in an amazing hospital, where other friends of ours delivered a baby at not quite 24 weeks--that baby's birthday is tomorrow, and he's turning three.  That is a tremendous factor in their favor.  The fluid, though, in V's baby's abdomen, is a factor not in their favor.  It decreases the odds of survival for the baby to under 10%.  So please pray--pray for God's will, for peace in their hearts, for the teams of doctors and nurses who are caring for this family, and for the children who are waiting at home for their Mama to return to them.

God's ways are the best ways, even when it hurts like heck.

*Pray for other friends of ours who were very uncertain about their pregnancy until the scan this morning showed things to be fine.  They suffered a miscarriage about 6 months ago, and so are understandably anxious about this little one.  Saint Padre Pio says, "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry."  Well, he's the saint, so I reckon he knows.

So many prayers to lift up, and God knows what they are even when I don't.

*Pray for Rebekah, who is 6 and will be receiving a bone marrow transplant from her little sister, Theresa, who is 2.  Rebekah is BRAVE--her Mama says, "Broken, brave, and blessed."  Rebekah is the fourth of the five children in their family.  She's quite an inspiration!

Know of my prayers for your intentions, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Progress here, progress there, a little progress everywhere...

The carpet has been installed in the new master bedroom.  There's still a bit of trim needing to be put up--there are no baseboards yet, and the door trim needs to be nailed up.  One of the window frames needs to be painted, and a little bit of paint here and there on the walls needs to be touched up.  The handles on the doors haven't been changed, and in fact, the doors don't stay closed at this point.

But--I absolutely could not wait.  We moved the bed in on Thursday, thanks be to God!

Before My Darling picked up Frog and Pickle from cross country on Thursday afternoon and returned home with them, I had moved the bedside tables and lamps, my striped chair and footstool/ottoman, Gingersnap's little bed, and all of the bedding.  We were able to move the bed easily, and I very soon had it made up.

Over the weekend, we moved the credenza into place, hung pictures, and brought in the little things that make it the quiet, welcoming, relaxing place I need it to be.

There are still a few things that need to be moved, but for now, I am very pleased.  Five years is a long time to wait and plan and work toward a specific goal!

One thing I've been thoroughly enjoying is the decision-making during shifting things into the new room.  What things do I truly need/use/want/enjoy?  What things have I been holding onto out of habit, sense of guilt or obligation, or greed?  What things could benefit someone else, or be used to make someone else happy as a gift?  I'm trying to simplify, to not hang onto the false need of having something in every corner, nook and cranny.  We are so blessed--blessed in abundance, for Pete's sake, and it's a fine line between abundance and excess.  I don't want this beautiful room to be turned into a storage unit, so I'm taking the time now to discard junk, donate things I don't need, and remember to give thanks for the things we have.

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This past Saturday was the last cross country race of the season.  The kids were satisfied with their performances--which were a bit slower than the week before, because the week before it was cold (which is perfect for runners), and Saturday was hot.  The team has a banquet coming up on Friday, where they will receive rewards and recognition.  It's been an incredible thing to watch my children learn, improve, meet and surpass goals, and constantly challenge themselves.  It's been difficult in some respects--watching them give every ounce of effort they can and sprint at the end toward the finish line, dripping with the sweat of their effort is bittersweet.

One of my favorite things about these races, though, is seeing the kids who don't finish in 17 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever is the average.  The kids who take 30 or 35 or even 40 minutes, but stick it out and still finish the race, are the ones that really get me teared up.  Those kids are pillars of the virtue of perseverance.  They're not in fantastic shape, and they cross the finish line after everyone has left the course sidelines.  Their teammates have already had their shoes off and their water bottles refilled again and again.  But when they come toward the finish line, everyone gathers again by the chute and hollers and whistles and claps and cheers for them as they finish!  And that's their goal--not to shave of 10 seconds from last week's time, but just to finish, for Pete's sake!  It's incredibly humbling.  It's also a reminder that I don't even have the guts to start one of those races...

...until now?

At some of the events, after the various heats have been run, and while the time judges are tallying the results, there is an open race--open to coaches, parents, spectators, basically whoever wants to run--and some of us Mamas decided that we want to run next year.

This is a very silly thing for me to commit to.  I cannot run.  I do not run.  I walk very quickly when I need to get somewhere fast, but I do not run.  I used to run.  I used to do lots of crazy things.  But I am in no shape to run.  Especially not the course in question: it's fraught with hills, and is definitely among the more challenging of the courses for the year.  There is no way I can do this.  I don't have the guts to even stand behind the start line.

But that's kind of the point--I'm not in good shape at all.  In fact, I'm not in any kind of shape.  I'm just kind of....here.  That's not good.  I'm tired, I'm sluggish, and Sloth has gotten hold of my ankle and is yanking with strength.  Pile on the guilt factor, and it's just not a pretty picture.

So I spent $10 and bought the 30 Day Shred video.  I've heard good things about from people I actually know.  I've seen some tremendous results from those same people, and I'm hoping that it will help me, too. I don't know how much I weigh, because we don't have a scale.  But I do know that I could stand to lose some inches just about everywhere.  I figure I can hack a 22 minute workout--at least time-wise!--and hopefully it will give me the boost I need.

I definitely need the endorphin boost that I know exercise will provide, too.  Even if my body aches and my muscles scream in protest, if my moods improve, it'll be worth it.

And so, as soon as my little ones are asleep for Quiet Time, I'll open the box that's had me trembling since Wednesday, and see what I can do.  I might even do "before and after" pictures.  I'll wait to post those though....

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Prayer requests:

*In thanksgiving for the Ordination to Transitional Deaconate for Deacon Mark!  Thanks be to God!!

*For the conversion of our neighbors, who increasingly call us to patience and forbearance.  Thank the Lord we have someone who draws out virtuous effort on our part, all for our sanctification.

*For Joshua P. who is desiring to feel the warm embrace of Jesus as he struggles with terminal conditions, and for his family, especially his mother, who so desperately wants to see her son's suffering end...even though it means she will bury him.

*In thanksgiving for the joyful news of our dear friends, who find themselves preparing to welcome Baby Number 11--with eight safely in their home and two little Saints praying for them in Heaven.

*For a renewed effort to promote respect for all human life, from conception to natural death, during this month of October (Respect Life Month).

*For a renewed passion for Our Lady's beautiful prayer of the Rosary, and for many souls to be brought nearer to her Son, which is all she desires for us...

*For a very specific intention, dear to my heart, which is known to the Holy Spirit and does not need to be given in detail here.  He knows.

I thank you graciously for your prayers on my behalf and for those I love and who are dear to me, and I bring to Our Lord all of the prayers of your hearts, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For everything there is a season

I'm trying to ease back into the early morning rise routine.  It's actually been easier than I expected it would be, given that nights can be unpredictable and filled with many moments of staring at the clock, wondering when my little Gingersnap will allow sleep to be victorious.  What I've discovered, though, is that the waking up and getting up part is not the challenge: it's staying awake through the afternoon  that's giving me fits.

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This Wednesday will usher me into my 38th year, thanks be to God.  (Or for a more common way of putting it, I'll be 37, for Pete's sake.)  I thought I'd feel older somehow, though I'm not certain what that means anymore.  I do remember carrying my little Squash and really feeling like I could never have another baby--he was definitely my last baby!!  HA!  And look what God really had planned!

I have found that with each passing year I find more joy in this season.  The stunning colors peeking from every possible crevace absolutely thrill me in a smiliar way I once felt about fireworks.  And how could it not?  The carpets of muted golds and browns of the fields fairly glow when the sun hits them on the hills.  The velvety red of the sumac is my favorite, but the surprising colors on some of the trees are astounding.  Japanese maple leaves that turn purple at the edges and simmer into a golden syrup toward the center...the plum in my very own front yard which darkens and darkens, from a deep violet to nearly black...the brilliant gold of the birch leaves...the red of the ivy vines, climbing everything in sight and providing such an abundant variety of reds (and I know they're invasive and choking, but they are still quite lovely)...and the noble oak--dropping acorns and a veritable carpet of oranges, browns and persimmony orange leaves--which seasons such a scent into the air that it permeates every breath--how could anyone look upon these things and not be overtaken with praise and thanksgiving for the One who deems us worthy to behold them?

The Saturday morning cross country races have meant that we, as a family, rise very early in order to drive our runners to their venues.  And where we live, we go through very hilly country, providing incredible views.  The early mornings these days always mean sunlight filtered through fog (except for the couple of rainy race days in there for good measure).  It's been inspiring to have so many moments of such beauty before us.

One particular morning as we drove toward the southeast, I was drawn into something of a meditation.  There were layers and layers of fog settled over fields of corn, soybeans and wheat.  The trees still have enough leaves on them to give a full silhouette, and the profiles of houses, barns and silos were prominent in some places, and obscured in others.  The first layer was softened, as though peering through the screen of an open window.  The next layer was like steam-covered glass.  The next was even more obscured, like trying to look through tracing paper.  And the next was like parchment.

I thought how our souls see Heaven was so similar...we have an idea of what Heaven is--everyone has their own idea of what the Beatific Vision will truly be like.  We see in our mind's eye what we think it will be.  And as we learn more and more truth in what Holy Mother Church teaches us, we realize how far removed our ideal is, like the second and third layers.  What it will actually be is so far obscured, like trying to peer through the thick layers of fog.  We can sense the light through the parchment layer, but nothing can be clearly seen through these frail human eyes.

God is good.

Prayer intentions:

Please keep My Darling's Grandma in prayer.  She is old and tired, and some days would dearly love to go Home.  God's ways are the best ways; His timing is always perfect.

Please continue to pray for Joshua P.  He has had some extraordinary days of energy and healing and feeling really good, but then contracted a cold...which can be devistating, or even deadly.  Please continue to pray for miraculous healing, on whatever terms God wills for him, and for peace in the hearts of his family.

Please pray intently for our Holy Father, for our dear Bishop, and for an increase in vocations to the ordained and consecrated life.

And I humbly beg for your prayers for my own needs and intentions.