When Things are Tough

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No, I’m not in a funk, but I did see something so terrifyingly sad yesterday that it’s gotten me thinking.

How do I talk to my kids about things that are real and really hard but not rob them of their childhood?

Yesterday on twitter, I saw pics of a young Syrian boy washed up dead on a Turkish beach. He looks to be about two. He is fully dressed. He even has shoes on. He looks like he is sleeping.

Just the day before, the “on this day” app on facebook showed me this picture:

William Asleep sucking his thumb 2 William asleep sucking his thumb

and earlier in August these pictures showed up in my feed

William One YEAR old beach

Ben and William in the ocean

That’s William in the summer of 2010. Pictures of him asleep and at the beach. The precious baby boy I saw in those pictures on twitter, by the grace of God and only by His grace, was not mine, but how I saw my baby in those pictures.

A mother’s heart hurts when she sees so many things wrong in this world: dead refugee children washed up on beaches, aborted infants, children who are malnourished and hungry. And it’s a mother’s duty to teach her children about these difficult things and our moral and ethical responsibilities to others who cannot advocate for themselves: the poor, the displaced, the unborn. Pope Francis’ teachings on those responsibilities has convicted many a person to re-examine how they donate time and money and their love of their fellow man. Even before Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II said this:

No one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another
member of the human family.  No one can say that he is not responsible for the
well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Genesis 4:9, Luke 10:29-37, Matthew
25:31-46).”
–Pope John Paul II

And I know I need to teach my children that there are children in this world who were born into horrible circumstances and will not survive to see the birthdays my kids are celebrating now. We have talked about it. But how to sink that gravity in. I truly do not want to show them the pictures of the little boy I saw, both out of respect for the dignity of that soul’s life here on earth and in heaven, but because somehow, that’s too real. It’s too much for a six and eight year old. I also do not show them the pictures of dismembered fetuses some pro-lifers enjoy showing everyone.

With October and “Respect Life” month coming up, I’m preparing for some very serious discussions with my boys. I’m looking for books and other materials geared toward younger kids that not only illustrate our duties toward one another but also the gravity of what others’ face. We donate toys and clothes, but I don’t know that they really “get” why other kids need those things. And why they are so blessed to be able to give them away.

This isn’t a post about answers, but questions. How do we fulfill St John Paul II’s mission of not being indifferent when it comes to our kids? How do we live up to Pope Francis’ expectations of more than lukewarm Christianity? And how to we keep our kids somewhat still childlike in the process? How much should we expect of them in their responses are their individual ages? How much is too much when it comes to exposure?

We are charged with raising saints. These are tough questions we all need to ponder no matter the age of our children.

Why I don’t read blogs like I used to anymore…

It all started with this one blog. It came highly recommended by a blogger I like, so I took a chance. Apparently this is a blogger who blogged once, stopped and went back.

I really tried to give this blog a chance, but the vitirol spewed by this blogger was pretty ugly. I mean, Ann Coulter-style ugly. And this blogger initially claimed to have come back to blogging after speaking to a “high profile Catholic blogger” who encouraged this blogger to make amends and say sorry. Well, saying sorry and meaning it, are two very different things.

I don’t ask people to be inauthentic in any way. That is an awful thing. However, the fact that this blogger has not blogged in over a year is testament to, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” And I know this because this blogger has a blog facebook page and well, um, this blogger is not very nice about it. And has admitted to not blogging because of the near occasion for sin. And I didn’t even want to go to the blog facebook page but it shares a similar name to another blog and I got confused and boom! I had no idea so much negativity could reside in one human being (except the aforementioned Coulter): there is name-calling; there is slander and malice; there are ugly accusations.

I know these blogs exist, but I was truly, truly shocked at how I came about this one. Now, since the original recommendation, I’ve seen no other mention of this blog on the other blogger’s site. Probably a good thing.

We all have bad days. We all have ranty days. But when that’s all we put out into the interwebs, yikes! I agree that too many happy posts can create a false impression of perfection but too many ugly ones? Let’s just say if that’s the side you willingly choose to put out there in internet-land, I really don’t think I need to meet you in real life.

And honestly, this terrible experience has made me much more selective in when and how much I read of other blogs. I do read my friends’ blogs quite often, but even then, it’s not like I used to because once I log into my reader and start, I tend to read a lot of other blogs and yeah. It actually makes me nervous.

I also do not understand what motives aside from jealousy and wrath–and a deep sense of self-hatred– provoke this blogger, so I just don’t know that I want to end up in the blogging cross-hairs. I used to occasionally leave comments anonymously but obviously I don’t even want to look at said blog or blog facebook page, so I won’t be doing that ever again. If this was someone who had legitimate complaints, that would be one thing but ugh…baseless accusations and questioning others’ commitment to their faith? Are you kidding me? The people this blogger has lashed out at, appear to ignore the blog and the person as no lawsuits could be filed (although they certainly could be). So why make a public blog if you just want to spew, spew to yourself, your spouse, a few close friends.

I hate that this experience has made me more cautious about when and how I read others’ blogs. I really do. I pray for this blogger and I pray that I can learn to just ignore and move on and not let that kind of hateful, hurtful behavior to affect me like this in the future.

Crazy Evolving Time

Well, we survived the first week of school. Okay, the boys thrived through it (and I’m going to include Jeff in the boys in this case) and the girls (ahem, the other two of us) um, we got by the skin of our teeth. Regardless, we got through it.

So, five days of school we got through, I figured out what is and isn’t going to work in regards to my work schedule. And I’m figuring out this whole, “making lunch” thing which is not as fun as it sounds. Just sayin’

I was surprised that neither of the boys have had homework aside from reading for the entire first week of school! I don’t think this school is less strict than their old one, at all. I do think that things are done quite differently though. We had lots of fun reading this week though and I think we’re really getting to a point where both boys enjoy it more.

Living in a new place gives you a chance to learn all kinds of new things about your kids. Every month I download a back drop from the blog Chocolate and Zucchini. My kids always liked seeing the different pics, but this week, because I finally cleaned off like 1000 files Joseph put on my desktop, William discovered that there is a calendar in these pics. And I discovered that William kind of loves calendars. Which I like, so I know he got it from me :).

In Joseph news, he totally LOVES school. He is so excited to go every single day. He loved school but this just feels different. And I honestly can’t figure out why. He acts very non-chalant about it but we can tell. Now I’m sure when homework comes along (I’m guessing this week) he may feel a bit different but we’ll enjoy this while it lasts!

Shelby is really working hard at adjusting. Also she is having a great time acting like she owns the place here at home. Four times tonight I have sent her back upstairs to go back to bed.

Jeff got a phone call on Friday afternoon at school from one of his first students to thank him for Jeff’s help. I’ve found that since we live closer to Jeff’s work now, an unforeseen benefit, is finding out he is a really good teacher. Kids love him. They learn from him. I never doubted it, but I never saw it either. So that is fun.

“Real life” as it were is pretty fun around here. Last night I did the Law & Order marathon on WE. I was always an SVU fan in a major way but watching the original series, particularly the shows I watched during their first run, 20 years ago, is a real thrill because those shows still hold up! I know it sounds like a mundane thing, but with no cable for so long and no Netflix or nothing else…I have not been able to properly binge watch. So, sue me.

This morning we headed to St Mark’s because summer is over and we need to come home. Mass was amazing, as always. William was having a bad allergy morning so he struggled til the meds kicked in around the time of the Consecration. And my sweet boy also clocked his leg on the pew in front of us during the Creed. Ouch! Father Michael had a brilliant homily that we all enjoyed.

After mass, we went to a parent meeting for Faith Formation. The boys were very well behaved. And here’s where things get interesting. Remember the second reading from James?

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”
James 1:22

Well, our DFF let the bomb drop that there aren’t enough catechists for this fall. And they really need some. So, afterwards, I told her, um, I’ve been a catechist before. It’s been several years and I had no formal training with it when I did it. And she didn’t say, “thanks but no thanks!” (which I would not have blamed her if she did). Nope, in fact, she got me all the paperwork for Diocese and I’m mailing it in tomorrow and yeah…we’ll see what happens! I’m excited for great things. No matter what happens.

Things are changing a lot right now for us. Everything is new and starting over and better and that’s really exciting. Frightening at times, but exciting. We’re still working through some anxiety issues with William. Shelby’s having a few adjustment hiccups. Joseph might become less excited about school and more disenchanted with no technology during the week. But hey, I got to watch Sherlock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine tonight so…winning.

Thank you God for giving me the patience to get to this place.

How to promote reverence at Mass

Our recent visit to a variety of local parishes and missions has reminded me of how different things can be parish to parish even in the “universal church.” It’s helped me to also recognize some things that have helped in preserving the reverence of mass for me, my kids and many others. Most of these things are not things we can necessarily change on our own, however, in some cases, we may be able to help our parishes enact small changes if we feel they may help. OR, if you feel your parish is lacking and there is nothing you can do to change it, it may give you pointers if you are looking for a new one.

This is not to say that the mass is invalid if these things are not present. My earliest years of cognizant formation were at a parish that I could easily say is the most liberal in the entire diocese and has almost none of the things I am about to suggest and we did leave that parish in my teen years as a result of many things but I can say that liturgical abuse did go on there, I recognize that now. I haven’t been back in some years so I do not know if that is still going on and don’t wish to speculate on it, but keep in mind, there is a difference between liturgical abuse and less than stellar “ugly” liturgy.

  1. Physical beauty–Okay, so not every parish will be St Patrick’s in NYC or Maria Maggiore or St Peter’s. However, there is definitely something to be said for vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and gorgeous Stations of the Cross and statues. Great art can bring us closer to our Savior and particularly with children can inspire a sense of awe. It’s a great first step. At our previous parish (a shrine and Basilica) to come in during the day when the lights were out was something to behold. One of the previous pastors took local reporters in one time and legitimately waited a couple of minutes before turning the lights on and he could audibly hear their breath catch. Don’t underestimate the effect of beauty on reverence in worship!
  2. Liturgical beauty– We attend a lovely parish now but it’s not the inspiring physical specimen our previous parish is. I believe, however, that is more than made up for by strength of the liturgy. My children hear a lot more chant now in Novus Ordo. They also hear the opening antiphon before the opening hymn each week. And that’s just the beginning. Our religious education program is strong on liturgical training which reinforces the liturgy for both parents and children. When liturgy is taken seriously and respectively, it makes for a much more powerful experience.
  3. Pews–This is versus disconnected chairs. After the experiences of this summer, I can say I really believe that pews promote the Body of Christ and our connectedness in the Body much more than a series of disconnected chairs. Now, my parents’ parish doesn’t have pews and certainly it is not a necessity, but I find that when we feel more connected to the person or family sitting near us, we begin to feel a certain level of respect we might not otherwise (and I realize the drawbacks of pews insofar as people who may have to “escape” the pew with a child and whatnot, but I still prefer them in general).
  4. Kneelers–As Katherine pointed out on the blog page, kneelers are not the norm in Europe and in general we kneel for a short period of time during mass, so kneeling on the floor is not always a terrible thing. However, I have found that in parishes without kneelers, people don’t kneel. Period. And kneeling is one of the best prayer postures we have. Many of these parishes also do not have pews and have the chair situation I describe above. And I’ve found that the floors tend to be harder and elderly parishoners who may be able to kneel on a kneeler simply cannot when one is not available. Kneelers also encourage my next suggestion…
  5. Arriving early enough to pray before mass and staying afterward to pray– My desire to be early is in part a quirk of my psychosis of being late but also gives us adequate time to prepare ourselves for mass mentally and spiritually. Simply to thank God for the opportunity to be at mass helps get us in the right frame of mind not to mention having the chance to ask for our hearts to be open to His word. Staying afterward is a chance to thank Jesus for His divine presence in the Body and Precious Blood as well as to reflect on that miracle. When we frame the sacrifice of the Mass, we begin to more deeply appreciate the entirety.
  6. Communion Rails– The act of kneeling, again, reinforces the gravity of what we are experiencing. So often in the lines we walk up to receive in now, we are in auto-pilot throwing out an “Amen” instead of truly experiencing the miracle, the mercy, the sacrifice, the love. We’ve got to get out of that auto-pilot mentality and while communion rails are not the final solution, they are a huge step in the right direction.

Like I said, if your parish is not equipt to provide all these things, perhaps they will be someday, perhaps you can be a force for enacting some of them (Communion rails aren’t at our parish and I don’t know that they will be unless universally re-added) if you feel that something is missing in regards to respect for the sacrifice of the Mass.

Maybe all we needed was a king size bed and a pool…

Today is the second day of school. Today was the first day that everyone rode the bus to school and it will be Shelby’s first day riding it home.

For the first time ever, as I watched the boys get on the bus, I felt myself choke-up. I have missed my kids before, but this was a whole new level of missing them. Shelby and I went back to the house and waited on our porch for her bus. She had really wanted to get on the boys’ bus. Then she thought, for sure that we would be riding in my car. She has grown up so much. When I told her “no” there were no hysterics, just calm resolution. And then excitement when I promised she was going to school and would see her teacher and teacher assistant. She really, really missed the structure over the summer.

The last few years have been rough. We lost jobs when William was born and Shelby had just been diagnosed. We went through major health scares with both William and Joseph. Everyone started “real” school and Jeff worked in a series of teaching jobs far from home. I did a lot of solo parenting in that time. Jeff and I were often like two ships passing in the night and many times, he left before the kids got up and was back after they were asleep. While Jeff worked in Pitt County, I had a strict routine established with the kids. When he took the job in Jacksonville, that entire routine went out the window (particularly bath, story-time, singing songs and bed time).

We had two cars die and our house needed work that we neither had the money nor patience for. Nothing major, but nagging things. And we knew we were getting to the end of the lives of our cabinets and major appliances. Life was stressful, unbearably so at times. Everyone spent a lot of time getting on one another’s nerves in a major way.

After our house did not sell last summer, we began to think that maybe we were stuck there for a while and that God just wanted us to stay put. And that’s when things started to happen. The painting and re-carpeting and the purging continued and then, finally, the house went on the market and sold in two days.

Since we’ve been here, all we’ve had is God and each other. We love our new home and new furniture and our proximity to the beach and pool. We are easing our way into our community and the school year. But those things are nothing compared to what God has shown us we have this summer. The pool was a tool for showing us how to have fun together, how to play together. A bigger bedroom was the tool to show the boys they could have their own space, even when their preference is to be together. The beach was a tool for showing us we could thrive together. And our king-size bed was a tool for showing us we want to be together. God pulled out all the stops and used it all to show us just how connected we are to one another and need each other. That doesn’t mean we haven’t and don’t have tense moments (like when our closing wasn’t received at the court house in time to record on the Friday before Memorial Day and we were broke with no furniture til Tuesday night). It doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of struggles or pain (please keep Jeff’s father in your prayers). But we are happier and better now.

Last night after school, Jeff sat in his recliner with Shelby while reviewing things from school and the boys and I sat together on the couch reading books. William had brought down a comforter we were snuggling under. It was the best moment of the whole day. I realized we never did that at our old house. No, not in a long, long time. We were all to busy getting things done so another day could begin. Jeff had to rush to bed because 4:45 AM got earlier and earlier (he now gets up at 6:15). Last night around 3 AM, I heard Shelby get up and she went over and climbed into our bed. And because we upgraded to the king size, no one was suddenly cramped and we all got the restful, restorative sleep we needed.

God wanted us to reconnect with each other and that is what stirred our hearts to move and take new jobs (well, Jeff’s is new-er, I’m in the same position in the same company just a different location), change schools and learn routes. We trusted. We obeyed. We were rewarded.

There Can Definitely be a Wrong Way to Do This Whole Pro-Life Thing…

Obviously most of us would agree that blowing up abortion clinics or gunning down doctors or workers is wrong. If you don’t think that’s wrong, take your business elsewhere.

That being said, there is a lot of gray area in what is “right” and what is “wrong” with pro-life work in general. I personally dislike the use of graphic images of aborted babies. I think it not only does NOT change hearts and minds (and often hardens them) but I think it denigrates the dignity of that baby. If you’re loved one was spilt into four pieces by being in a motorcycle accident with body parts all over the highway, would you want that pic used? For me, I wouldn’t. However, many people think this is the best way to educate and it’s a legal form of free speech.

But some of this free speech becomes a gray area. One story that haunts my memory is this one. In fact, it was so questionable that New Mexico Right to Life pulled their support of it once they realized the image wasn’t exactly what it seemed. The point being made of a father’s loss and lack of rights in an abortion could have been portrayed differently. And the ensuing fall-out from this billboard seriously undermined a valid point.

And if you think the ambiguity of whether the woman in that case had an abortion or a miscarriage is a strange thing, think again. Do you know what the medical term for miscarriage is, particularly a miscarriage in progress? It’s not miscarriage. It’s “spontaneous abortion.” And if a miscarriage is suspected the medical term is “threatened abortion.” I know because I’ve seen those words on my own personal medical records. Now imagine you’re a father in an unplanned pregnancy. Imagine there is some kind of disagreement as to whether you and your wife or girlfriend or occasional sexual partner want the baby. The woman goes to the doctor and finds out there is no heartbeat, no signs of life, the baby has died and she now requires a DNC. On her check-out paperwork it says “spontaneous abortion.” You’re not trained medically so you believe that she went to Planned Parenthood or another clinic and underwent an abortion when no such thing actually happened. Trust me, seeing those words on my own check-out paper, everything and I mean everything, goes through your heart and mind. I was already grief stricken and that was a knife in my heart.

While we’re led to believe the man behind the billboard in New Mexico was completely out of the loop on this one. But a situation like the one I described above could very well take place easily if there was still even limited contact. Publicly we’ve only heard one side.

This man, while certainly working through grief, severely harmed his underlying message by posing himself in his picture. He claims he had money donated from private businesses, Could he not have had enough money donated to hire an actor? I realize that personal witness is always best, but considering how he had to back pedal when more about his situation became known, it might have been a wiser move to make.

I think when we are looking at ways to promote a pro-life agenda, sometimes, we need to consider why we are doing this. This man had a very powerful message that most people do not now get because of how he chose to portray this message. In the end, yes it’s about the mother and father…but it’s also about the baby. If his campaign was seeking vengeance in his loss, then the life of the baby is nothing more than a utilitarian means to hurt the woman in this situation. Also, the kind of marketing that targets only the adults in the equation, mutes the life of the unborn child. That’s something we accuse the anti-life movement of doing all the time. That child deserves to continue his or her life and does not deserve murder. Yes his or her murder will impact his or her’s mother and father for the rest of their lives, but we cannot focus on one or the other to the exclusion of the child his or herself. Because if we do…we re-murder that child again and again.

First Day of School Blues, Blahs Etc…

Today is the kids’ first day of school. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as the title makes out. We’ve had some major, major snafus with Shelby’s classroom placement and transportation. We’re still working through the transportation issues. Otherwise, things are great.

Here are our obligatory first day of school pics. Note: no cute signs or chalkboards. I’m lucky I remembered to take pics at all.

1st day of Fourth Grade 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Mrs. Lesvesque’s class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:25am PDT

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1st day of Second Grade. 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Ms Kearney’s Class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:24am PDT

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1st day of First Grade 2015-16 Dixon Elementary Mrs Costanzo’s class

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:23am PDT

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Back to school feels extra stressful this year and I’m sure it’s because it’s the culmination of our move. Like the last nail in the coffin of our old life in another place. A lot of things are done VERY differently here which is a huge adjustment for me, the kids and even Jeff because this is his first year with the kids in the same school district as him.

William’s teacher is young, vibrant, sweet and energetic. I am sure she is a perfect fit for him. William’s had the most anxiety and fear regarding everything about our move. When I met the teacher on Friday, I was sure that he will have a smooth transition.

Joseph’s teacher is a veteran. And she’s awesome. She is big into creativity and making everything work for the kiddos. She even paired up all her new students (we live in a military community now so there is a constant flux of students as parents get deployed and stationed elsewhere) with returning students to help them learn the routine of the school.

Shelby’s teacher is brand new to the school. She’s new to the state. She’s new to marriage! She’s been a teacher for five years though. While Shelby is the only girl in her class (still) she is one of only three students. She seemed right at home this morning when I brought her in. She hopefully will get into the routine and like it soon!

We’ve always prayed the Holy Michael, the Archangel prayer in the morning. As the adventure is SO new to us this year we say it with even a more hopes of protection.

Holy Michael the Archangel

I am waiting out picking Shelby up at the school now. I am in constant prayer today for all three kids and that Shelby’s transportation issues are resolved asap!

Our family prays for all families starting the school year this year!