Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life changes

It often amazes me how quickly things can change.

He is beside me, flinging a plastic beaded necklace from the Saint Patrick's Day parade around like a wild man, engaged in some sort of four-year-old tribal dance. His feet scarcely touch the ground, and the necklace is a blur of flashy green. His laugh delights me, and his unfamiliar song is composed from thin air.

Suddenly, his little feet stop. His face crumples, and fat tears squish from the corners of his big, brown eyes. I hear the beginning of an "0w," mixed in with a wail of betrayal. He clutches the offending beads and bows his little head, his shoulders drooping, his back and chest heaving with his cries.

In his fury of dance, the necklace had leaped into the air and slapped his eyes. His immediate instinct is to come into my arms...and not surprisingly, my instinct is to hold him. His small body curls into my lap, his arms around my neck, his breath and tears hot on my cheek.

When his cries subside, he still hangs on. He rubs his forehead on my cheek and kisses my chin. I smooch the top of his ear, the sweet sweaty neck, the soft tufts of hair. He breathes deeply and sighs heavily. He snuggles in a little more.

He pets the back of my neck and says softly into my ear, "Mama, we just have a lovely home, don't we?"

I wipe his tears and kiss his little cheek. "Yes, we do, sweetie."

He asks if he can watch Foghorn Leghorn.

It's a good perspective.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

I used to be in really great physical shape. When I was in high school, even though I was skinny and socially awkward, I was in awesome shape. I ran three days a week after school, clocking a couple of miles just running the halls around the school (really--the school I attended was like a giant square-shaped 8, and the outer halls were open to runners after school) and did calisthenics. The other two days I did strength training. My strength training included lifting weights, push-ups and sit-ups. The sit-ups were done inverted, because I couldn't stand pressure on my tail I would hang from my knees on the pull-up handles on the universal gym and do them from there. Like, 50 at a time.

In my late teens, I was in drum corps. Our days were extremely physically demanding. We were up at 7:00 AM, had eaten breakfast by 8:00, and were in block formation for warm-ups by 8:15. We stretched, did marching warm-ups, and then blocked to march and run. Always beginning out marching, we ended up running in step, military-style, usually 2-3 miles. We finished up with a group cool-down, and were on the field for the remainder of the day, often times going well past dark. During our rehearsals, the general rule was that for each mistake you made, you had to do ten push-ups. I could handle it. I could mess up 5 or 6 times and still be ok. I thrived on it. I loved it.

These days........not so much. I can do one, maybe two push-ups, if I really try hard. Though dreams of running have plagued me for years, lately they seem to have intensified. They started out badly--the kind of running where I was running from something, but I wasn't really sure what. I don't think it was a bad something--just something I needed to run from. So I'd start running and running, and little bit by little bit, one leg would get longer than the other one, and I ended up really lop-sided and not able to run. Lately though, I just dream about stretching, snapping the leash on the dog, and going out for a run. Sometimes it's in the morning, sometimes it's while the kids are having quiet time. Sometimes I'm alone, and sometimes My Darling or the Frog come along.

Until today.

Today I just couldn't take it anymore. My legs were twitching as I sat like a comfortable lump on the couch. A comfortable lump with a laptop and a can of Cherry Coke, switching from e-mail to facebook, viewing the world through a virtual window, listening to the thawing snow drip from the roof onto the awning over the living room window.

I've been wanting to get in better shape for a long time.

"Frog," I said to her. She was in the kitchen, mixing up the batter for her birthday cake. "Frog, I'm going to go for a run."

I don't think she understood me. I kind of doubt that she did, since in all of her years, I've never uttered that particular phrase before. She gave me a look which was both confused and sympathetically supportive. "Uh, OK," she said tentatively.

I don't think she believed me, either.

I went to the bedroom and snatched up the running shoes that My Darling helped me choose months ago, because I wanted to start getting in shape way back then. They're really pretty, and very clean. They're super cheap--whatever Target had that day that fit me and in colors that I kind of liked.

I stretched, just like in my dream. I threw on a long-sleeved T-shirt over my tank and tied on my shoes. I snapped the leash on the dog and headed out.

Disclaimer: At this point, I would suggest using the loo, hitting the head, taking a leak--whatever. If you choose not to exercise this option, I take no responsibility for your clothing or furniture....

So off we went, me and my dog. We headed to the end of the driveway, and eased into a gentle lope to the end of the block. We rounded the corner. I was counting my breath, like I used to do in corps: "In-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6-in-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6..." and eventually, "In-2-3-4-out-2-3-4-in-2-3-4-out-2-3-4..."

By the end of the second side of the block, my lungs were burning as though the air had become molten lead. My breathing was shallow and harsh: "In-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-out-2-in-2-out-2--" until I knew. My legs were fine. My feet were swell. Not swelling--just swell. But for the love of all good, sweet, holy things under Heaven, I could no longer breathe.

The boys playing basketball would never notice. They would walk right past, never seeing the woman laying on the pavement, her dog long gone. There are no driveways on that one-block street. I could literally lay there for weeks without anyone noticing, because it's not yet warm enough here for my decomposing flesh to begin to stink.


My daughter doesn't believe that I'm really out for a run, and no one will miss me until it's time to change a poopy diaper.

I decided to just give up the run I'd dreamed about and let it go......just walk. One *gasp* foot *pant* in front *choke* of the other *wheeze*.

I walked. It took me the remaining two sides of the block to begin feeling like perhaps death was not quite as imminent as I thought. I was still panting harder than my dog though. She was giving me a look that said, "Man, I really hope none of my friends see us together. You're such a wimp. I'm so embarrassed."

I walked around an additional block so that when I came back home, the sound of their Mama hyperventilating wouldn't send my children into hysterics. Hey, it could happen. They could have been concerned. Of course, they'd have to look past the alien sight of their mother in running shoes and smelling slightly of sweat.

I stretched a little to cool my muscles down. After I released the dog from her leash, she glanced back at me as she slunk away, too humiliated to admit that she'd actually gone along with this farce of physical activity.

I called My Darling. I said, "I did something so completely out of character for me--you will never in a million years guess what I did!"

He said, "You went for a walk."

He was serious. I was crushed. Like he'd believe that I had gone for a run.

My muscles are rebelling. This activity is more than they've been engaged in for a long time--but if I have my way about it, they'd better get used to it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The blessings of alms giving

It's amazing how God blesses faithfulness. I'm seeing it all around me, everywhere I turn, no matter the hour of the day, the day of the week, or the seemingly smallness of the sacrifice.

Some cases in point........

My dear friend AJ, for whom many of you have been praying, has received some amazing news. You can read about it here. For now, just know that the power of prayer should never be underestimated.

My dear friend Sarah has an incredible story. After a year of challenges that most people could not even begin to fathom, this lovely young woman has held fast to her faith, and faced with another challenge--she turned to prayer and faith. Rock solid faith. Her prayer--answered very quickly, positively, abundantly....Gracefully.

Another dear friend who was grieving the loss of her sixth child due to early miscarriage has found that she and her husband are again expecting. She is feeling wonderfully nauseous, aware that the worse she feels, the stronger her baby grows.

Last week, my girls and I were so blessed to spend a few hours in the company of three Sisters of Life. At the request of my dear friend Deacon Greg, we transported these wonderful Sisters from one retreat venue to another, in cities which lie roughly 3 hours from one another. It was obvious to me that the Holy Spirit had moved Deacon Greg to ask me, even though he is in Rome--and that the Holy Spirit had moved me to respond affirmatively. For Pete's sake, what's the good of having a van like Bucky if you never take it on an unknown adventure which promises to do nothing but bless in return? When we picked the Sisters up, they were so thankful to have transportation! They were joyful, excited, and effervescent in their love for the Lord. We prayed together, we talked about our lives up 'til now, we did our best Bronx accents, and we thanked God for the flawlessly clear, sunny blue sky.

At the end of that journey, I began another. When we arrived at the convent where the Sisters were to spend the night, my dear friend Fr. Eric met us. He had brought with him a bag, containing, as he said, "something for you, which, as it turns out, is also something for me." His cassock was in the bag, with a small tear in the back that I had noticed back in January. He hoped I would be able to spare the time to mend it.

I had offered to mend the cassock, so it didn't come as any surprise to me that he sent it home with me. But the "something for me" bit took me off guard. Fr. Eric, though, has a way of infusing words, just a few at a time, with deep wisdom. He has given me books to read which have been difficult to pick up, much less get through...but the Holy Spirit has always guided the timing of my reading them, and I have never failed to grow and to be blessed in turn by whatever God has intended me to glean from the things I've read. So I figured that this latest comment would likely fall into that category.

I was right.

I had assumed that the repair would be an easy one, but it proved to be rather difficult after all. To conceal a mend on a hem is one thing. Even a seam can be cleverly disguised. A pleat can usually be pulled into line with a little work. But this tear involved a pleat pulled into a central back satin-stitched dart with no seam in sight. And worse, it extended beyond the dart--meaning that even after I had resewn the pleat to the satin-stitched dart, I would have to mend the fabric back together in a place where there was no possible camouflage for it. It measured about a centimeter, but as I carefully pieced it together, tiny stitch by tiny stitch, it appeared to be a gaping slash, covering half of the back panel, and I may as well have been using neon green yarn.

As I sat on the couch, mending tools at hand, with this garment laid across my lap, the scent of Mass wafted gently toward me. I don't know how else I could possibly explain it. This cassock had been worn by my friend, a priest, who stood at the altar and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was positively intimidating to even attempt this repair.

I relied heavily on prayer while I completed this small task. I didn't do it all in one sitting; though it was what some would deem a minor thing, I prayed for God to steady my hand and to help me make it just right. It turned out better than I had hoped for, though I was still a little less than pleased...but what can you do when the fabric tears where it wants to tear? It needed to be mended, otherwise it would have pulled into a bigger tear, which would have been far more obvious after mending.

When I returned his cassock to him, Fr. Eric was very thankful. It was so humbling to find him sitting in the church, meditating on the day's prescribed readings and just being in the Presence of the Lord.

My reward was his thanks, but more so the time that I had been able to spend in prayer while even contemplating how to begin repairing the cassock. *And that was it*! There was the wisdom! My heart has been so heavy lately with the lack of time to spend in prayer, but Fr. Eric was allowing me to see that it is there, after all.

Thanks be to God for the small, everyday ways in which He allows blessings to come into our lives. Since our venturing out last week, I have been far better able to sleep, to truly rest, and to look at each morning with a welcoming spirit than I have been in months.

Speaking of sleep.............................................................