Thursday, November 29, 2012

What About Joseph?

At this time of year, the spotlight rightly shines on Mary.  Wives and mothers can easily relate to her story, especially to the feeling of having a tiny, beautiful, heaven-scented newborn and to the conviction that they would readily lay down their very lives for him or her.  Mary also had something else I can relate to -- or someone else, I should say: Joseph! As my husband often laments, what about Joseph?   

Popular magazines, “chick-lit” novels, and television shows often paint men (fathers in particular) as clueless, in dire need of being improved upon or changed, and only good for handing over cash or credit cards.  I have been blessed in real life, however, as God gifted me with an awesome father and then with a wonderful husband and subsequent father-in-law.  I often cite my hubby as being a saint 95% of the time.  But, I’m guilty of still complaining about the other 5% which mostly is comprised of absent mindedness, zero appreciation for The Notebook and what I believe to be feigned incompetence in loading the dishwasher.  I do try very hard to be his helpmate and number one cheerleader, but even so, he often and willingly takes a backseat to everything that goes on in the life our little family.

Similarly, Good St. Joseph, unfortunately, seems to fade into the background of the Holy Family.  We hear year after year about Mary’s, “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel, but what about Joseph’s answers? If we take a close look at Joseph, there is much to learn from his trust, patience, and whole-hearted submission to God’s plan for him.  Joseph -- the quintessential “strong, silent type” -- does not speak at all in the Gospels.  I would have to argue with my hubby that Joseph doesn’t need us to talk about him; he wouldn’t care for all the hoopla.  But, the Gospel of Matthew does tell us a lot about Joseph and just how much he did indeed submit to.  

Joseph receives multiple angelic messages telling him to accept this, do that, go here, now go there, now do this.  He follows all of these instructions, without fail and without question.  He follows through with God’s plan for him often under dire circumstances and at times completely against everything he had come to know thus far in his lifetime.  Joseph seems satisfied with being told just one step to take, and then simply trusting that he’d be told the next one in due time.  In the meantime, he fulfills his duty of loving husband and father, all the while raising the Savior of the World without complaint, well none that were documented apparently.  He just does the right thing and he’s fine with it.

Most, if not all, of the meaningful men in our lives are much like Joseph.  We frazzled, stressed out, perfection–seeking, what’s next on the to-do list, wives and mothers could learn a lot from the St. Joseph’s in our midst.   Amid the secular Christmas craziness, I ask the Lord for the faith and patience of Joseph (or my husband, or my Dad, or my other Dad).  To have just a bit of Joseph’s ability to take on one task and to wait patiently for the next one (and the next one) would ease my mind not only at Christmas, but all year round.  If I had the ability to filter out the clutter and patiently wait for instruction – would I listen to it? Would I say yes to whatever was asked of me?

I often pray to be more like Mary; perhaps I need to start praying to be more like Joseph as well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

‘Tis the Season for… Confession?

Confession!  Oh boy, the very mention of the Sacrament of Confession spurs heated debate among friends and family, Catholics, non-Catholics, whomever. Personally, I was never really a big fan.  It definitely needed a new name. Torture chamber?  Hot seat?  The confessionals of my youth were of the dark wooden box variety and the Act of Contrition was definitely not taped to the wall inside. I used to write it on my hand for fear that Father Meenan would hear any paper crinkling. Looking back with my now 20/20 vision, Father Meenan hardly cared about that.  He was most likely just happy I was there. I’ve heard more than a few of our good priests remark how Confession is their most favorite Sacrament to celebrate.  Seems like loads of pressure to me, standing in the place of Christ, one on one, heart to heart. But, if you consider the task at hand at the moment of Confession, to hand out mercy and forgiveness to all who come and ask with a contrite heart…what an awesome job! 

The confessional offers time and space for good shepherds to bring about peace of mind, offer advice or perhaps some direction.  I’m sure they hear their fair share of tears being shed; maybe share a muffled laugh through the screen, but most of all they impart His endless and all consuming tender love and infinite mercy upon us. A lot happens in that little box sometimes with lots of words, sometimes with the bare minimum. Either way, we little sheep hurry back to the flock completely reconciled with our Lord. Why would we ever hesitate to go and get that whenever possible?

Since Sr. MM began her education at HGA, my own “adult” spiritual formation has been an awesome and unexpected side effect, even if I feel like a little child in a classroom most of the time. I didn’t have the benefit of a Catholic education and my CCD classes left me woefully unprepared for a spiritually mature Catholic adulthood, but I’m learning at a rapid pace now. I’m like one of those adult college students, the annoying one who asks a question a minute before class is over and $1 beer night is about to start.

I want to know everything about the Church. I want to experience everything again, catch up on what I missed out on and make up for time lost while I was a Christmas/Easter Catholic. I’ve tossed out what used to be my list of items that I would pick and chose from as far as what I believed or practiced as a Catholic. I’m all in.

Confession has been a highlight of my rejuvenated faith. I have found that fighting the gentle, but persistent internal nudging to go to confession was futile. Apparently it’s true - the heart wants what the heart wants. For a very long time, my heart was full with love, marriage, children and seemingly everything I needed, save one thing – the One who gave it all to me. I was frolicking along in my own personal fairy tale and neglecting my role in this heavenly deal. I had conditions to adhere to and promises to uphold to make my part in it at least somewhat comparable with what I had so generously been blessed with. I was going to Mass, but was avoiding confession. Why?  It’s darn scary. It sounds easy enough, wait in line (or make an appointment!) confess my sins in number and kind, receive absolution and resolve to sin no more. How does that work when you get cut off trying to leave the parking lot and, “@#$@#!”  Do I turn around and go right back in?

Usually, confession is a hot topic during Lent, but I find the upcoming Holiday season (that seems to begin earlier and earlier every year) to be a little less intimidating as far as mustering up the courage to actually go. We begin with thanksgiving and then prepare for a joyous event and what better inspiration than a new tiny baby to make you want to make the world a better place starting with your own little soul.

So as the season gets hastily underway and your to-do list is giving you hives, remember the one thing that you could do to approach the season at peace…be not afraid and go to confession!  This is not the confession of your childhood or of the stories you’ve heard with priests who scold and nuns outside the door pointing you toward your penance seat. Our kids do it – we can do it. Of course their sins (hopefully) are very tiny and we may feel that ours are far too big or, worse, embarrassing. But, no matter how big or small, or embarrassing – go. Get rid of it all. Make this the one present you wrap up, however messy, and hand it over to your Lord and let him carry it away from you. He’s happy to do so and is just so happy to see (or hear) you. I promise you’ll feel fantastic when you are through… until you try to leave the parking lot.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Perfect read for control freaks like me...

I read a lot, probably too much on occasion.  The benefit of this particular obsession, however, is once in a while you come across things that ring so true for yourself that it almost hurts to read it.  You start to read something and begin to recognize your very core in it, you stop reading in protest to rationalize all the ways it's not really about you, only to return because in your heart, you know it is. 

From Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary comes this gem of enlightenment...

When “carrying my cross” is code for “I’M A HUGE CONTROL FREAK WHO CAN’T LET GO!!!”

I think I love and hate her now. Sometimes the truth hurts so good.

Friday, October 12, 2012


It’s almost time for ghouls and goblins, haunted hayrides, the Great Pumpkin, and dares to conjure up “Bloody Mary” in the bathroom mirror. Television programs abound with ghost hunters and countdowns of the most haunted places...ever. I have to admit I like being a little bit scared. I enjoy a good thriller film, not the slasher variety, but I do enjoy a good psychological thriller. I especially like the ones where when all else fails they call the Catholic Priest to fix everything. I don’t get to watch a lot of scary shows though because Hubby is too chicken to join me. Okay, so he’s not really chicken, it’s more of an outright refusal because he thinks it’s quite ridiculous to watch something just to get the wits scared out of you. I listen to his words of caution, and then watch anyway. Then I tear up the basement stairs convinced the boogeyman is after me. (Thank you to my big sister for that scar for life!)

It does make me wonder though, why I’m so willing and able to face the made‑up fears in movies and on TV. I know going in that it’s going to be scary, but the fear doesn’t stop me. However, facing the things that scare me in real life proves much more difficult. There seem to be many more things to fear nowadays, big and small. Whether the news headlines are horrible, or I’m pacing the floor waiting for Chad’s plane to land across the country, or wringing my hands waiting for yet another skin biopsy result, or whatever the worry or fear of the moment is – where is my trust in Him? 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for though art with me.” (Psalm 23) The shadow of death!  And I’m not to have any fear?  I’m afraid of my own shadow, but I’m not supposed to be afraid of death or evil. That gives “easier said than done” a whole new meaning.
I think the key to gaining that kind of strength and courage lies in surrounding oneself with people who already have it. Hubby has it and not just because he doesn’t watch scary movies. Sure, he has his moments of doubt and fear, but they remain momentary for him until his faith chases them away. I think it may be genetic because my mom‑in‑law isn’t afraid of anything. She’s never afraid and she doesn’t worry. She once told me (well, probably more than once actually) that worry is disbelief in God’s promises. Such steadfast courage is rooted in an unwavering belief in God’s providence.  If you believe, really and truly believe that God’s promises are real – what is there to fear?
What am I afraid of?  Sometimes…everything! I’m afraid I’m not a good wife. I’m afraid I’m not a good Mom. I’m afraid I left my flat iron on. I’m afraid a tornado is going to touch down in my neighborhood at night when I’m asleep. I’m afraid of losing my parents. All that fear takes up a lot of time and energy. Even if I’m able to quell the fear temporarily while distracted by mom and wifely duties, it creeps back in the quiet of the night. In those moments before I fall asleep, worrisome and fearful thoughts can and do consume me. What’s the solution?  Faith.
If only it were that simple. But alas, it is, well… simple. There is a choice to be made. Either we believe or we don’t. And if we choose to believe, then don’t doubt, or at least try to learn not to doubt. I’ve found that I have to have some sort of touchstone that brings me back from the precipice of fear and worry. It can be the rosary hanging on my headboard, the cross around my neck, the 75 pound Golden Retriever hogging the bed, or the feeling of Chad’s hand clasped in mine. We all need those things that remind of us of how much we are loved and protected. I need the tangible to remind me of the intangible. There is proof everywhere of the ever present love and protection that God promises us and on those things is where we must focus our gaze so that there is less and less room for fear.

Whatever the fear may be that stalks me, be it ghosts or goblins, death, evil, terrorism, or the unknown, I can and should find rest in the promises of my God. So can you! Whether it be on Halloween night and we’ve stayed up late trying to get through the Exorcist for the 100th time, or watching our little one teeter off on the two wheeler for the first time – we have to let go of the fear and hold on to the Faith.  Whatever your boogeyman may be... be not afraid!  
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,
for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux, A Way for All of Us

As parents, we all have a hundred things on the “to-do” list, a small number of which actually make it to the “done” list. Our days are filled with the realities of home, work, is there a uniform clean for today, what’s for dinner, and how did that piece of gum get there of all places? It’s hard to find the time to be what we may think is a great Catholic…pious, prayerful, and humble. It’s equally difficult to find time for solitary prayer or prayer as a family. How bad must it be if I fall asleep during the first decade of a well-intentioned rosary? Perhaps, in the midst of our quest for our near sighted view of perfection, the answer lies in letting ourselves off the hook ever so slightly and attempting instead the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux.

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant,
count as nothing.”  St. Therese of Lisieuxst_therese.jpg
The smell of fall in the air reminds me of one of my favorite traditions at the girls’ school, the All Saints Day Procession. There are countless saints that we can look to for guidance and encouragement. Visit any Catholic gift shop and you will find hundreds of medals and icons to inspire you. Do a little research and pick one! Most of us have put the Blessed Mother in our window for good weather or have buried St. Joseph in the ground (upside down of course) to sell our house. St. Therese is one of my “faves” because she teaches that having a good faith doesn’t necessitate some huge accomplishment, no grand sweeping display of how Catholic we are. Her way was to be a child of God in ALL that you do, not just the “Catholic things” you do. Her way was a little one, and if we try, every day, to be that good Catholic in a little way – it will pay off in a big way.

“What is the meaning of ‘the little way’ of St. Therese? It is an image that tries to capture her understanding of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, of seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and the everyday. St. Therese based ‘her little way’ on two fundamental convictions: 1. God shows love by mercy and forgiveness and 2. She could not be “perfect” in following the Lord” (Rev. John F. Russell, O.Carm., Seton Hall University). Well, if a wise Saint knew she could never be perfect – why even try? But, herein I miss the point. No, I don’t need to be nor will I ever be perfect, but I can strive to be relatively perfect in my little world. How do I do that? If we follow St. Therese’s philosophy - going about our daily activities with love – then we’re on the right path. There will be time later, when our children are way too cool to hang out with us, time for, dare I say it aloud, an hour of spiritual reading, prayerful meditation, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament? But, for now, in between the homework, and lunch packing and being a Mom taxi – we can remember why we are doing it all in the first place. God has blessed us all with these precious little humans, entrusted them to our care without the slightest thought of our past transgressions or behavior that, on paper, wouldn’t qualify us to be the best candidates for parenthood. But, in His infinite love, He sent them anyway and if we can keep that gift in mind, then all we do will be done with love. The love remains even when we don’t feel it - when we are screaming, “No, you cannot have ice cream before dinner” for the 20th time that day. We are all children of God, so we should act like it. And if we fail to act like it, at least try to remember it in our hearts even when our behavior shows otherwise. There are always going to be no good, terrible, horrible days, but at the end of even those, if we manage to tuck the kids into bed and say a prayer with them (even through gritted teeth) and for them (even after the fighting over what pajamas to wear and who gets the toothpaste first), then we are well on the “little way” of being a disciple of Christ.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 Women's Day of Spirituality: "Faith & Femininity"

Are you in need of some "me time?" Looking for a way to jump start your personal Year of Faith? Register now for the Women's Day of Spirituality, sponsored by the Bishop's Commission for Women. This year's event will be held on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at St. Catharine of Siena Parish in Berks County, Pennsylvania, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Faith & Femininity
Saturday, November 3, 2012

As a member of the Bishop's Commission for Women, I would like to cordially invite my readers to this special day. This is the fourth Day of Spirituality sponsored by the Commission, and the first year it will take place right here in Berks County!

To further promote awareness of the evolving roles of women in the church and society Dr. Maura Hearden, Assistant Professor of Theology at DeSales University, Carole C. Chuk, Former Director of the Office of the Catechumenate and Assistant Director of the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Allentown, and Chairperson, Bishop's Commission for Women, Norine Burghardt, will fill the retreat day with faith-inspired talks. These gifted speakers have embraced as their theme Pope Benedict XVI’s “Year of Faith” which begins in October 2012. We Walk by Faith; The Blessed Virgin Mary; Heroine of Faith, Let’s Talk: Prayer-full Conversations with God; and Mary, into the Heart of a Convert are the topics they are offering to continue to enrich the faith journey of the women in the Diocese of Allentown. The Most Reverend John O. Barres, D.D. will be the main celebrant and homilist at Mass. Don’t miss this opportunity to be renewed and refreshed in your faith.

The Details:
  • Registrations must be received by October, 26, 2012.
  • A fee of $15 includes lunch and light refreshments.
  • You may register by mailing your $15 non-refundable check, payable to the Diocese of Allentown, to the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization, The Commission for Women, 900 S. Woodward St., Allentown, PA 18103 or Click Here to register and pay online.
  • If you have any questions, please call 610-289-8900, ext. 228. 
About the Bishop's Commission for Women
The Commission for Women shall serve as an advisory board to the Bishop of Allentown offering the woman’s perspective on issues of concern to our Bishop and the Church.  The Commission for Women is committed to identifying and exploring issues in which consideration of feminine perspectives and insight deepens our collective awareness and understanding of those issues.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CCD for Grown-ups - I'm so cool I can't stand it.

Last night was my first class of "CCD for Grownups" or, more officially, the Core Curriculum offered by The Institute for Catechesis and Formation of the Diocese of Allentown.  The first offering is ICF 101 The Mystery of Faith - and can I just say that I learned more about a lot of things in last night's 2 1/2 class than I have in - well lets just say in a long time.  The description of ICF 101 is:
"This course explains God's revelation of Himself in Christ, the relationship between God and humanity, the need for salvation, and God's plan for accomplishing it." 
That's a very small nutshell for some very big truths, facts, theology, ideas, contemplation, internalization, questioning, thinking...  Our very competent instructor on this Mystery is Rev. Msgr. Walter T. Scheaffer who definitely knows what he is talking about, but I think he may have ulterior motives of not only teaching us about the Mystery of Faith - but leading us to love it.  He also introduced us last night to Lectio Divina - which I had heard of but didn't know a lot about - I still don't know a lot about it, but I want to know more and I think I'm going to love it when I do.  

Whew, I hope I have the brain power to make it through all six Core Curriculum classes that are offered through the year.  I signed up for all of them and I'm just way too geekily excited for them all.  I didn't go to Catholic school.  I had very poor catechesis in the 70's and 80's - woefully poor.  Sr. MM was coming home from school all the time talking about things about our Church that I didn't have a real idea about or maybe I knew of something but didn't really know it at all.  There was a lot of talk about Scripture last evening as well - my head is still spinning about some of it and this too is another area where a lot of cradle Catholics are seriously lacking some knowledge.

I guess my point is if your Diocese - or you happen to reside in my Diocese already - is offering CCD for grown ups - take advantage of it.  Swallow your pride and admit what you don't know.  It's going to be awesome, I just know it. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Love you...Jesus loves you!

     My mother-in-law is big on hugging.  In fact, when I met her for the very first time I got the biggest and warmest hug, like she had known me forever.  It was just fine with me.  I’m a hugger too - despite it not being innately in my genetic make up.  If I hug my sister for more than 32 seconds, she starts to twitch, so I usually hang in there for at least a minute to really make her squirm.  But, I digress. 

     I noticed also on that very first visit, that every time Mom C said goodbye to her kids, she would hug, kiss, and then whisper in their ear, “Love you…Jesus loves you!”

    My family definitely, unconditionally loves each other; we just aren't big on saying it, you know, out loud.  It was something you didn’t necessarily hear, but you knew for sure.  Now with Chad’s family, I was hearing it out loud all the time and subsequently that Jesus loves you too!  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Add this to the fact that my soon-to-be husband (even if he didn’t know it yet) was bending down to have his mom whisper in his ear that Jesus loves him?  What had I gotten myself into? 
What I discovered, however, over the last 17 years is that my husband knows, without a doubt, that Jesus does love him, no matter what.  That kind of resolve is enviable, but not unattainable.
     We might not have someone physically whispering in our ear that Jesus loves us, but we are being whispered to every day in many ways.  How many times during our busy day do we really just stop for a moment and listen for those quiet words?   How many times are we able to just be still - if only for a moment - and offer even a small prayer - “Thank you,” “Help,” “Forgive me?"  Are we ever quiet enough to listen?  What might we hear?  If we were to take care of ourselves just a little bit more spiritually, even if it’s only for mere moments of a day, would we not become better caretakers of our children and spouses?
     If you aren’t able to be as demonstrative as my mom‑in‑law, that’s okay.  I don’t say, “Jesus loves you” to my girls, mostly because Nana Christ has that covered.  But, I do find my own way to tell them what I want to be sure they hear every single day.
     And if the coffee hasn’t kicked in quite enough to muster up warm fuzzies before the bus comes, I consider my family extremely blessed that our kids go to Catholic school and so are constantly surrounded by reminders of God’s love for them.  They are greeted by angels when they come through the door.  Almost everywhere you look at our wonderful school there’s a crucifix, a statue, a picture - some reminder that, hey, guess what? “Jesus loves you!” 
     When I was growing up (not all that long ago) church doors were always open, day or night.  Churches weren’t for walking by, they were for visiting.  You could stop in, sit for a while surrounded by quiet sunlight dancing through the stained glass and ponder the universality and 2,000-year history of the truth that “Jesus loves me!”  When I was little, my Mom was one of the “church ladies” who cleaned the church.  I remember tagging along and instead of doing my assigned task of dusting; I would lie down in a pew and stare up at the ceiling.  I felt so small and so big all at once.  I’m not suggesting that anyone do that now (though, if you do, please let me know what happens.) The point is we can always seek out ways to nourish our souls and recharge the parenting batteries. 
     It seems far too soon to even think about the holidays, but Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.  We always have to begin our planning early since we have to divide our time between cities, who’s coming, who’s going, and who’s staying where.  With early thoughts about holidays, emotions begin to stir up early as well.  If that weren’t enough, muddle in some typical family politics, any drama from the past year or all-out battle lines that were drawn and by the time the holiday season does roll around, there isn’t a bridge high enough for all of the water to go under. 
     I remain hopeful that if I am diligent about finding those moments in the day to quiet my mind, those places to rest my soul, and listen to who is always trying to whisper to me…by the time the first of the holidays arrives, my heart will have softened, Jesus loves me, and I’m afloat on the magic of the season…well, until my Mom calls to say, “I think your Dad and I will come out a few days early, but don’t fuss…”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Now what do I do?

A look back at last year's first day of school when Helena headed off to kindergarten and my entire world changed in an instant.  I think I've recovered and I coped fairly well today.  There were lots of new kindergartners today, so I'm sure many, many Moms out there who exhaled today for the first time in what seems like forever. 

I can’t believe it!  (And by can’t, I mean don’t want to.)  It started with, “I can’t believe Helena will be starting Kindergarten soon.”  It morphed into, “I can’t believe Helena will be starting Kindergarten next year.”  Then, “I can’t believe Helena will be starting Kindergarten in the fall!”  And now… Helena will be starting Kindergarten in…days!

What the heck happened?  I remember sitting at a school Mass last spring with Helena beside me and thinking, wow, next year I will be back here all alone.  Right on cue, Helena “whispered” to me, “Mommy, next year you get to drink coffee and watch TV and I’ll be in Kindergarten!” This has been her response for the last year or so every time I ask her what am I going to do next year.  I can’t believe she’s so ready and I’m so not.

With the eldest, the first day of school has become bittersweet.  I still cry after walking her to class, but they are genuinely happy tears over her love of learning that has continually blossomed since she stepped foot in HGA as a tiny, 3‑year‑old preschooler.  I love that the idea of school makes her bounce out of bed each morning.  Part of me is sad over not having her home every day where I can witness how ridiculously fast she is growing up.  The other part of me is like the guy in the back to school commercial – you know the one – dancing through the aisles to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

I’m sure most of us play the back and forth game all summer, entertaining the mental melee of wanting the lazy summer days to last forever and get these kids back to that school before BCCYS shows up!  The best thing about back to school at HGA though is HGA itself.  Since Farren started school here, the Parish and the school have become a second home for us and a crucial part of our faith.

When I see what a sad state this world is often in, it brings me great comfort to know that each day my girls will be wrapped in love in the little cocoon that is HGA.  Some criticize a Catholic education as being too safe, not diverse enough, and not a true reflection of the “real world.”  That’s okay with me.  I’ll keep my girls in the HGA cocoon as long as possible.   There will be plenty of time for the real world later on.  In the meantime, they are gaining the wisdom, knowledge, faith and fortitude they will need to  take on the real world soon enough.

So, in light of this milestone back to school year for Helena and for me, in answer to the question about what am I going to do now, I offer the following to-do list to begin on August 29th.  In an attempt to keep myself honest, I offer two lists:  

What I’m telling people I’m going to do after August 29th…

What I’ll really be doing after August 29th…
Shed a few tears over my baby starting Kindergarten.....................
Cry the ugly cry all the way home, pulling over multiple times because I can’t see well enough to drive
Catch up on my reading of Chaucer, James, Whitman, Tolstoy, etc. ....................................
Re‑read Breaking Dawn before the movie comes out on 11/18
Head to the gym each morning after the bus leaves.......................
Go back to bed
Volunteer at all the places I haven’t had time for since 2002..
More volunteer time at HGA!
Organize 9 years’ worth of photos and keepsakes in beautiful scrapbooks......................................
Go back to bed
Attend daily Mass ..........................
There’s a Mass every day?
Mow the lawn so Chad doesn’t have to when he gets home from work..................................................
Pay the kid next door to mow the lawn before Chad gets home from work
Couch to 5K training......................
Couch to … 5 hours of TV and I get the remote! 
Couch to … 5 cookies that I don’t have to share!
Couch to … 5 hour nap!
Volunteer for lunch duty 3 x week
Savor lunch, alone, 5 x week while watching Young & the Restless in its entirety
Start knocking out those minor home repairs...................................
Go back to bed
Learn to groom Bella myself to save some cash ..............................
Drop Bella off at groomer and head to the salon
Get on my knees in thanksgiving for having been mostly successful in these first 9 years of motherhood ...................................
Get on my knees in thanksgiving for having been mostly successful in these first 9 years of motherhood.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Feast Day of St. Helena

Our youngest little angel with the crooked halo has a very special name, Helena Caroline Christ.  Both of our girls actually have a lot of meaning behind both their first and middle names.  I hope to have as much input for confirmation names in the future, but we'll see.

When we were expecting said little angel, we had a long list of names to haggle over and haggle we did.  We agreed we wanted another family name and we agreed that my much-loved sister's name had to be included in some form.  We got a list together of grandmothers, great-grandmothers, their mothers, aunts, etc., and started to sort it all out.

The decision making then turned relatively easy as one name kept coming up over and over.

I never had the blessing of knowing most of my grandparents, just my mom's mom. The rest had either passed away before I was born or weren't on speaking terms with my parents or my parents with them - you know how it gets with families.  My husband however, fortunately, knew and spent time with all of his grandparents on both sides and even great-grandparents!  His grandfather, "Pop" is still with us at the sprightly age of 92.  Paul Winifred Christ lives on his own in the same house he's lived in most of his life.  Pop has been a widower for over 20 years.  This bachelor lifestyle has probably contributed to the orneriness often seen in people who are blessed to live so long.  The orneriness though is quite refreshing at times and is oftentimes perfectly delightful to have his unfiltered honesty at holiday dinners and birthday parties.  Pop (a.k.a. "Pater"), is one of seven children.  The rest of the Christ Clan was made up of Uncle Bill ("Peach"), Uncle Woodward ("Woody"), Uncle Norman ("Nook"), Uncle Clarence ("Tiny"), and Aunt Ferne.  Ferne never got a nickname - I suppose being the only female was moniker enough.  Their other sibling, Howard, died at the tender age of 2 so he hadn't lived long enough to get a nickname.  Pop is currently the last man standing having lost Aunt Ferne earlier this year.

All of these children were raised by one tough cookie of a woman named Helen Reber.  She dropped the Christ surname after kicking her no-good husband to the curb.  This was unheard of in her day and I can't imagine the backlash and whispers behind her back she must have endured.  However, Great-Great-Grandmother Helen raised her brood in a tiny little house in Laureldale that I think still stands today.  To heat the house, she would send Pop and his siblings to collect coal that fell from the trains that went by.  The stories of  "Grammy" are many and a wistful look always comes over the person or persons recalling them.  At the time that Ms. Reber was raising her family, prohibition was making it very difficult for a lot of people to self-medicate their way through the depression.  But, Ms. Reber had a solution for all parties involved.  She ran a distillery in her little home and used the money to raise her family.  I have a feeling this woman was tough as nails and tender hearted at the same time.  She knew what had to be done, so she did it.  As the legend goes, the fuzz got wind of her operation and Pop and his siblings had to dismantle the distillery and throw it in the river one night.

Having heard her story a lot of times since moving to this side of the Keystone State, I was on board with naming our precious little baby girl after this woman, Helen, who was years ahead of her time.  I have a feeling she didn't take crap from anyone, but obviously she loved her children in all the right ways and did her best with what God had given her.  Helen was a name I could get behind.  And, any woman who knows how to build a contraption that makes liquor - in your living room - is a woman I can love for sure.

Today, August 18th, I've discovered, is the Feast Day of St. Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great and finder of the True Cross of Jesus Christ.  I'm sure I looked some of this up when we decided upon this derivative of the name Helen, but today I'm finding it all the more meaningful. 

"At the age of 80, Helena led a group to the Holy Land to search for the True Cross. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she discovered the True Cross. She built a church on the spot where the True Cross was found. The Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14 celebrates the event. Thus in art, she is usually depicted holding a wooden cross."

I'm even happier today with our choice of names for our little pixie.  She has a nickname too, around here she is known as "Gummi-Bear."  She has proven herself already worthy of such a strong and well-storied name.  I can't wait to see what she becomes in life.  In a few weeks, we'll be attending a much-anticipated, long overdue Christ family reunion.  I'm excited for the girls to meet their extended family members.  I'm excited for our little Helena to meet all of the relatives who are here today because of St. Helen of Laureldale, Patron Saint of Making The Best With What You've Got.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Exquisite Value of All Women

What Guys Need to Know about Women
(So, make them read this article.)

 "Women have beautiful, essential qualities that add to – not detract from – progress, development, and success. We’re intuitive, creative, and sympathetic to the needs of others, which enables us to foster cooperation and caring. We have an innate need to nurture, which can show itself in countless ways that can be productive, uplifting, and motivating. We’re motherly (whether or not we’ve given birth), which gives us an aura of dependability, understanding, and trustworthiness. All women have these qualities at the core of their being. If any of us seem not to, it’s because it’s been neglected or inhibited."
Read the rest here from  Awesome post.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sprucing Up My Domestic Church

I've long had a list of things to do to my little domestic church to make it more "churchy."  For so long I've been afraid of putting anything permanent on our walls or of investing in any big interior decorating projects. Most of the time it has been for lack of time - but as the girls get older and items around the house become a little safer, I may have to really start looking for what I'd like to decorate our home with.  We have the standard crucifixes in the bedrooms above or near our beds and palms under the mattresses. There are Saint prayer cards tucked all over and rosaries for the choosing on every headboard from the plastic glow-in-the dark variety, to wooden beads from Israel (wait, I think that one is missing...), to pretty crystal ones.  Mary is surrounded by flowers in the front yard.  We don't have any kind of large crucifix though.  My sister had ordered one from a little convent in Rome where the sisters take items to the Pope's general audience to have blessed or something.  Try looking up crucifixes online... so many to choose from, I have no idea where to start!  I guess hubby and I will just have to go shopping and see what we like. We usually spy some at antique stores but I'm always wary of it's history - could be good or bad - but it's the unknowing I don't like. 

I think what we need now too is some real art.  The hubby is a big fan of the Renaissance.  I'm more of a Monet girl myself.  We'll have to meet somewhere in the middle for some holy art.  In Pittsburgh, just about every Catholic home has a picture of the Last Supper in the dining room.  I haven't seen that around where I live now, so it must be a Burgh thing. I'd like a few pretty pictures of some kind, ones that I can find that speak to us.  While I was thinking about all of this this morning, I came across an article on one of my favorite sites It's all about the "Sacred Heart Enthronement" for families.  This is going on the to-do list.

For a little background, the Redemporists are big believers in the Sacred Heart enthronement and a family devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. According to them, with the Sacred Heart enthronement, “Jesus is invited to participate in all activities of the family. He then sanctifies all the details of home life. By the Enthronement and under the influence of the Sacred Heart, each member learns intimacy with Jesus. Either as a family or individually, each will grow in confidence and love with the One who longs for our love. Thus, the gift of the Enthronement is an awareness of His Living Presence in the family and a source of grace and blessings for the family.”
What a great idea!  In the meantime, whilst cleaning out our walk-in closet yesterday, an impromptu project that turned into an all-day affair, I came across a wedding gift from my mother-in-law.  I think she actually gave it to us at my bridal shower.  It's a mirrored cross.  I had hung it in our apartment after our wedding, but then it got packed away until we bought a house. Then we had to sell our first house, and when we moved here I guess I just put it on top of the box my wedding dress is in and forgot about it until yesterday.  I handed it down to Sr. MM who promptly stated that it was "stupid" to just have it on a shelf.  She's right - it is stupid.  No, it's not a crucifix - but does it matter?  It's pretty.  It kind of reminds me of my mother-in-law and her faith, that I must admit I envy at times.  She's not Catholic, but she has an unwavering, joyful faith in the Lord that I sometimes cannot grasp at all.  She never protested when my hubby told her that he was converting to Catholicism.  So, a few drywall anchors and some holes in the wall later and ...ta-dah!

I chose to hang it at the top of our stairs.  We have a two-story entryway and the sun comes in the window across from where it hangs and I think it will really light it up on a clear day.  I hope it becomes a reminder for all of us of the light that He is in us and for us if we don't keep Him on a shelf collecting dust. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The bastardization of tolerance continues...

I'm a big fan of people saying everything I want to say about an issue so I don't have to.  Thank you Elizabeth Scalia over at The Anchoress.  

 This is not about being “right” or “wrong” on an issue. This is about menacing and bullying people into conforming or paying the price. It’s about the bastardization of the word “tolerace” in our society, to the point where the word no longer means “live and let live” or “let people be who they are”; the word has become distorted in a very unhealthy way. Someone’s a bigot? Let him be a bigot; like it or not, a man is entitled to his damn bigotry. Someone’s a curmudgeon? Let him be a curmudgeon. Someone’s a misogynist (or, conversely, a male-hater?) let them be! People are entitled to be who they are — just as a church is entitled to be what it is — free of government compulsion to be what they are not. We cannot “make” people be more loving. We cannot “legislate” kindness. A bigot, or a hater (of any sort) will eventually find himself standing alone, will have to figure things out for himself. Or, not.

Brilliant. Read the rest here

Cheers for Christ-Centered Womanhood

Put down the Glamour, the Cosmo, the Star, and please, for the love of all that is holy, the National Enquirer.  Read this instead and see how you feel afterwards.

An excerpt...

"One doesn’t have to look long or hard to see that the dignity and character of women are under assault in our culture. Advertisement agencies consistently resort to using provocative images of women as marketing ploys, while the entertainment industry promote edgy female celebrities as icons of “real womanhood.” Given this cultural climate, is it really any surprise that many young women today battle low self-esteem, or that standards of modesty and chastity are being steadily eroded? Despite the best efforts of even well-formed Catholic women, this cultural onslaught can leave us doubt-ridden and confused about who we are called to be as women of God."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What happened to training bras?

As the mom of a 10 year old and a 6 year old, I am grateful that we are able to send them both to Catholic school.  The uniform is my favorite part!  Well - maybe not the most favorite, but it's darn close.  I find with the 10 year old, we call her Sr. Mary Margaret (or MM for short) - when we shop for regular clothes for outside of school, she's still in the sparkly panda bear t-shirt phase.  She doesn't really care for the fashion so much as does it sparkle and does she like the color.  I haven't had to fight her too much on picking out clothing.  I'm sure the day is coming. 

One thing I have noticed though - what happened to training bras?  In the store the other day - bras for girls who don't really need them, but all their friends are starting to wear them, or maybe they just need a little extra fabric under t-shirts - are padded!  Yes, padded bras for 10 year olds, well I guess 8-12 year olds are the target consumers based on the sizes offered.  To this I have to say, what the hell?  Now, it's not good enough to patiently wait and yearn and pine for when the good Lord will see fit for your healthy development to begin - it's okay, no waiting necessary - just get some padding! 

I'm sorry, but padding should be reserved for 21 and over and more especially 40 and over after you've had children and gravity begins to take over.  I've had to shop the sports bra section for anything that even resembles a training bra for MM. 

But, for both of the girls, finding clothes that fit and keep them looking like little girls is hard!  Dresses are the biggest challenge.  I find that dresses for any occasion for girls are just miniature (if you can get smaller) versions of the juniors dresses - and those should really be reserved for the over 21 or college crowd, when you wear them because you are away from your parents who would tell you to march your butt right back up the stairs because you are not leaving the house in that!  Can I find a pair of jeans that don't show everything from behind?  Do we need a Trendy-Top for the tween crowd too?  Yes, please. 

Bratz dolls have been banned from our house since they arrived and I'm not particularly fond of Barbie either.  I give her a pass because she does throw Midge a bone every now and then and she seems to have accomplished a lot in her life even without eating and obviously spending most of her time at the plastic surgeon's office. 

Bathing suits are probably where I'm a bit more lenient.  I love a toddler in a bikini.  I love that they have no idea and could care less that their Buddha belly is protruding.  I don't mind the bikini on MM either, just because there isn't anything to reveal - yet.  But I see her watching the older girls at the pool with plenty to reveal, but she does point out how "inappropriate" it is.  Thank God, again, for Catholic school.

I dress pretty modestly - mostly because I hate the way that I look.  Actually, I loathe the way I look and I try to keep those feelings to myself because I don't want the girls to ever know I feel that way.  If I was in better physical shape, I probably would buy nicer clothes, I'd buy lots more clothes, but not revealing clothes.  I'm more of an LL Bean, Talbots, and Lands End girl.  They have great stuff - this year's summer dresses were awesome.  My dear hubby is seriously color blind, so to him, the perfect combination is anything navy, white and khaki, mostly because he can see the contrast of the colors so I have a lot of that.  Forced modesty by the visually impaired spouse.  There aren't too many micro-minis in navy blue.  When I do have the occasion to dress up and put my big girl shoes on, I think the girls know that I'm dressing up for Daddy.  His is the only opinion I care about.  And as the included article sums up - how we Moms feel about our appearance does a lot for how our daughters feel about theirs. Hopefully, I pray I'm on the right track in teaching them what makes them valuable and what can send the message that they are invaluable. 

The one area I'm failing in is make up.  I'm a make up junkie. I have been since I first started using it, which was way too early.  I have to have it perfectly applied and I rarely go without it.  I'm putting Lasix surgery off because you can't wear eye make up for 2 weeks!  2 weeks!  I'm waiting for that time period to be shortened.  I was away for the weekend a bit ago and actually went an entire day, in front of people, without a stitch of make up on.  It was a huge thing for me - sounds pathetic, but for me it was big.  I do notice that the girls are really into make up.  This summer it's almost every day where there is a hint of blush, a request for just a bit of mascara, etc.  I guess it's time for me to step away from the eyeliner, but I won't be leaving the house on those days.

Obviously, I'm not the only Mom with these concerns.  Should 6 year old girls be trying to look sexy?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A prayer to St. Mary Magdalene...because I need all the help I can get!

Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.
You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy.