A Poem and Art

The Equestrian by Marc Chagall


Don’t Let That Horse…

Don’t let that horse
                              eat that violin


    cried Chagall’s mother


                                     But he
                      kept right on


And became famous


And kept on painting
                              The Horse With Violin In Mouth
And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                        and rode away
          waving the violin
And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

~Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea has a New Year’s Resolution to post art and poetry each day. Yeah, I’m not going to underestimate my ability to fail at that task by committing to it but what I am going to do, is post both as often as possible. Melanie and I have been part of the same art meme on facebook. I had crossed my fingers that Jen Ambrose would assign me Marc Chagall just so I could post this pic, but she chose for me an artist I was not familiar at all with which really expanded my horizons. Then I went to Melanie’s blog and found the first pic she had chosen was a Chagall and I got the biggest smile because I knew…I had to participate now! This poem written by Ferlinghetti is also a favorite and was, in fact, inspired by the painting (in case you couldn’t already tell that by looking at the painting and reading). I was introduced to both in college in a course I took called Literature of the Beat Generation. And it was one of those moments in my life when it was as if time just imprinted itself on my brain. Shortly after I graduated, Jeff found leaning against the dumpster in our apartment complex a Chagall print. Sadly, it wasn’t this one. But it’s been in our boys’ room for 10 years. So, here’s to today and sending a little art and poetry out into the otherwise ugly and un-poetic world.


A Saint and A Word

Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary has her annual Saint Generator up. Unlike years past, before I clicked I prayed and asked God to assign me a patron in 2014 whose direction would be a model to my life…be careful what you ask for. My 2014 patron is:

(drumroll please)

St Jerome

Feast Day September 30

Patron of

Archeologists; Bible Scholars; Librarians; Libraries; Schoolchildren; Students; Translators

Now those who know me, particularly those who have paid attention in the last 12 months to the direction of my life, this is so the Holy Spirit’s answer to my prayer. In other news I am still reading Amy Welborn’s The Words We Pray, just started Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home and next up is Matthew Kelly’s Rediscovering Catholicism. And I am still actively in Bible Study Fellowship and reading the Bible cover to cover…

The word I chose for 2014 has actually spent the last 12 months screaming at me. And when I say screaming, remember the Holy Spirit with the cast iron skillet raring to knock me one up the head? The word that I have chosen for 2014 is:


You know Psalm 46:11…Be still and know that I am God and all of that. Unplug. Step back. Listen more: to my husband, my children, my friends, and mostly to God.

So here’s to 2014. May it be a great one.

Dear Kristen, Does it Ever Get Easier? Signed, A Mom with No Babies to Hold

Does it ever get easier? No.

Do we get more grace as time goes on? Usually, yes.

My 35th birthday is approaching and to get this message via email made my heartache.

Easy, never.

But the thing about grace is: it doesn’t exempt you from sadness or that odd empty feeling or anger or frustration or pain. It doesn’t bring understanding. It just is. It is an odd peace in the middle of all those emotions. Some days when your tears just can’t be held back any longer, you feel as though He has his arm around your shoulders saying, “I know, I know. There is a reason, little comfort that is in this moment, but I promise you there will be a reward. I said it right there in Luke 6: 21

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

And I promise you, I meant it.”

It is that grace that brings you through when you’ve seen the 80th new baby pic or bump pic or ultrasound on facebook, twitter, or in email that week. Grace that allows you to smile when a friend tells you she’s pregnant with her sixth. Grace that helps you make the most of Mother’s Day with your mom, even as you wonder if you’ll ever get to celebrate for yourself.

New Years is a time for starting over, making things new, but for those on the infertility treadmill (whether primary or secondary) it is 12 more months of “is this it? Could it be this month?” A lucky few will find the new year one of blessed new beginnings. But for those who do not get blessed in this way, I can’t promise you it will be easy. I can only tell you to look to Him whose promises are the only true ones in this world. May God Bless you in the coming year.


There just wasn’t enough Southern Comfort in it…

I am not a fan of eggnog. Never have been. When Jeff asked me about it while watching (of course) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation I shuddered and gave him my “Blech!” face. He didn’t even raise his eyebrows and said, “when you had it there just wasn’t enough Southern Comfort in it.” Let me tell you, enough Southern Comfort would make me drink and enjoy pretty much anything. So, he’s probably right.

But I’ve been thinking which is extremely dangerous for me under normal circumstances but even worse now that I’m running painfully short on sleep. I continue to read all these stupid extremist things about the “state of the Church.” Some are papal related others are not. And basically, I’m going to stop reading them. Full stop. They aren’t helping me. But for me, it’s like people on both sides are saying, “If we all just agree to do it my way, we’ll all be happy.” What a load of horse manure. Sometimes I read things people write and think, “Did you consult the Holy Spirit before you wrote such careless, hateful things? Are you sure God told you to insult people full on? Or is sugar-coating it to this degree so that no-one could recognize your point a good thing?”

I love my church. I love that it is the ONLY church that Christ ordains in the Bible. I love the succession of Peter (as imperfect as that could be…starting with Peter himself who denied Christ and all throughout history) the rock on whom Christ built His church. I love the liturgy, the sacraments, but what I don’t love is how easily people are swayed from one extreme to the other. This isn’t something I can swallow down with enough Southern Comfort. In part because not enough exists in all eternity to even try and even if it did, it would be useless.

The rest of the world isn’t going to stop attacking Catholics if we stop attacking each other (and really believing in that whole “Catholic means universal” thing so many of us like to preach constantly) but we’d be better equip to deal with their onslaughts if we all came together. I’m not talking about compromising to make people happy, but I am talking about people praying and really listening to God. Truly seeking His will and His answers.

Writing You from the land of sleep deprivation

Maybe not that extreme, but it is draining. Having a child who MUST have a breathing treatment every four hours as precisely as is humanly possible plus 2 additional treatments 12 hours apart plus a once daily steroid is pretty exhausting just to think about. Put it into practice, and you’re on a newborn’s schedule.

Last night I went to bed at 9:30 after the second preventative treatment but set my alarm to go off at 11:15. It did and I got up and got the kid up, made him use the bathroom and kept him awake while we did a treatment. I crawled back into bed after putting him back to bed and cleaning up the apparatus and set my alarm for 3:15. And I got up again. And again at 7:15. Made sure he had his preventative treatment at 9 AM and then I had to work in the middle of the day. Jeff took over two treatments while I was at work and tonight I’m back at it again. Joseph is exhausted. I am exhausted. And we know we’ll be doing it again tomorrow night and probably the night after that too. The doctor said it will most likely take 4-5 full 24 hours periods to begin to see major improvement.

I want to be all lyrical and full of imagery about the beauty of suffering in motherhood. But the truth is, sometimes beauty is in short supply. Sometimes you look and feel every inch of beat-up by the lack of sleep, worry and diligence that you are. Sometimes words do not flow in sentences decipherable by another human being that isn’t your spouse or one of your kids. Sometimes you want to scream at people because “NO ONE IS SUFFERING AS MUCH AS YOU ARE!” Well, except for your kid, of course. And he’s the only one who gets a pass at this point.

And in the middle of asthma-ggeddon, I am trying to figure out how to see my grandmother when she comes to my parents’ house next week. She arrives New Years Eve which will probably be toward the end of the major lifestyle overhaul   intensive treatment. New Years Day isn’t convenient because the kids go back to school the 2nd and 3rd. So those days are out. I have to work on Saturday in the middle of the day so it’s most likely a no-go and Jeff won’t want to travel Sunday before he goes back to school…right now I’m thinking day trip New Years Day OR Saturday evening leave Sunday morning after mass…ach decisions! Why did New Years Day have to be on a Wednesday!

And mass…another thing I am desperately concerned over. See, I was all set to go tomorrow morning before the doctor’s office on Friday. And I thought, I’ll just go alone. No biggie. Until I had to break the news to the blue-eyed son. He was so upset. I told him I didn’t want him to catch or be exposed to any new germs at church and it would be very difficult for us to keep our carefully worked out schedule of treatments. I then saw Jeff mouthing the words “spiritual communion” words I love to hate because it means I’m not physically present and not physically receiving the Body of Christ. I made the boy a deal, if he sounded better after his early morning treatment, I would let him come with me and we’d alter our treatment schedule slightly. But if not, I would stay home with him…le sigh. In the end, I could bring home nasty germs for his compromised lungs. And Jeff is the world’s greatest dad but God forbid something life-threatening happen. In a health crisis, he freaks out.

I am tired and just want to crawl into bed and pull the cover over my head for eight hours on end…that’s not going to happen tonight or any time in the next week for sure. I have to keep reminding myself I survived waking every two hours to breastfeed while recovering from major abdominal surgery. That this is all so minimal compared to what millions of others are suffering. Mothers today lose their children to respiratory illnesses with alarming regularity. All suffering is relative.

Mary our mother, pray for me that I may persevere and become strong as my son needs me to be. St Blaise, pray for healing of my son’s airway.

This post is brought to you by breathing treatments and steroids

Joseph is on his 5th breathing treatment today. That’s 2 at the doctor’s office and 3 at home now. In an hour he’ll do another one but of a different medication. He’s also taken his once daily steroid dose for today. In 4 hours he’ll do his next therapeutic treatment and so on every four hours for five days straight along with the steroid and finally for two weeks starting today the preventative treatment 2x per day.

Asthma, the gift that keeps on giving. People ask what it’s like to be the mom of a child with autism but seriously, it’s asthma that kicks my butt. Every.single.time. We’ve done ER trips, ambulance rides, multiple breathing treatments, action plans…it is extremely exhausting. But it’s the life I signed on for when I became his mother.

Just as I had no idea I would be an autism-mom when I first held Shelby, I had no idea the depth of breathing problems Joseph would have. I had no idea I would be counting respirations or putting my ear to his back to hear that tell-tale whistle. Or that I would be identifying smoke, seasonal change and illness as his primary triggers. Him being in the vicinity of smoke or having sudden weather changes (or just the regular ones) and the slightest hint of fever set off warning bells. Sometimes I think, how would I have survived this if I was his mom in the 1800s? And the truth is, he probably would not have survived had he been born back then.

So, the every four hours despite my working tomorrow, it’s not much of a sacrifice. I get a son out of it that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go snuggle and watch movies with him.


When I Genuinely Envy Homeschooling Mamas

Christmas Break. Or Summer.

Because while everyone has their plan or way of doing things, if a break gets to be too much, Mama has the authority to put school back in session. Just the knowledge of that option makes me envious.

Today we are two days removed from Christmas, well the first day of Christmas. So, lemme back-up and tell you about Christmas.

Christmas Eve I was afflicted with a lovely GI virus, as was Shelby and at least one boy which made mass impossible. 😦 Le sigh. Anyway, we tried to make the best of it. We put the ornaments on our Christmas tree, I wrapped presents, Jeff ran out and got a few last minute things (which somehow included a trip to Wal-Mart which I was sure he did NOT have to make, but I digress) and we generally enjoyed one another’s company. Our Christmas Eve tradition is Chinese dinner. Jeff decided this year to make our own Chinese food. We enjoyed homemade Pork Lo Mein and Cream Cheese wontons. Shortly after dinner our phone rang. It was my brother Ben with his good news about getting engaged. After the luminaries burned out, we watched the animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (my kids don’t like the live-action Jim Carrey one), followed by Merry Madagascar on DVD and finally A Charlie Brown Christmas. By the end of the third one, I had two kids who had fallen asleep. Will was my lone hold-out having had 2 naps that day for some reason. But he didn’t want to stay up without his brother so everyone was in bed by 9:30. I had to wait 30 minutes to set presents out and stuff stockings because even though my kids know about Santa, if anyone catches me, we have a battle royale about when we get to open our presents. Finally, about 10:30, I crawled into bed.

I woke up to Shelby at about 6:30. And Joseph coughing (more on that in a minute). I got the kids up, changed and fed. Jeff was still in bed so we had the whole “when can we open presents” thing on my own. I don’t have any pictures because I find that whenever I’m taking pics, I’m not participating so, sorry, pics are not coming of the unwrapping of presents melee of Christmas morning 2013.

Our tradition is 3 presents per child as the Christ child received. This year the kids also opened their presents from Nan and Poppy (Jeff’s step-mother and father) on Christmas Day. Shelby got a small Disney Princess figurine set to go in her “venturing out bag” for when we need her to be quietly distracted, a stuffed Clarice from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and a copy of Spongebob’s Christmas (featuring “Don’t be a Jerk”). Joseph got a Leonardo Ninja Turtles sword, a stuffed Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Despicable Me 2 Operation (the game of Operation but with a  Minion). William got some of the action figures from Planes, a stuffed Rudolph and the movie Despicable Me 2. From their grandparents, the kids really got a haul. Shelby got the new Elmo that hugs you, the Target Exclusive Disney Princess dolls set (the Barbie sized Princesses, seven of them including her favorite, Tiana who we could not find by herself anywhere) and a scarf and hat. Joseph got a Gamestop gift card and hat and scarf. And William got a Fisher Price digital camera, and hat and scarf. The boys got a Chromebook to share.

Since Joseph is in kindergarten this year, he was able to participate in his school’s “Santa Shop” where he got to purchase presents for the rest of the family. He got Shelby and I necklaces, William a NY Giants little football (Joe picked it out because Eli Manning is the “little brother” like Will is), and Jeff got a “Dad” ornament.

After hot chocolate and lunch, we headed 2 1/2 hours northwest to my parents’ house. We rarely get to visit them on Christmas Day, so this was a very enjoyable visit. My parents had gone to evening mass the night before in Gastonia, NC with my brother Ben so that they could be present for the proposal which was beautiful and theatrical (although that second part was not entirely intentional). The church they attended St Michael, handed to each person who came in a copy of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet HomeBoth my mom and I thought it was a wonderful way to evangelize and help bring people home. Think of how many lapsed Catholics attend mass on Christmas either out of guilt or with family? Think of how many other people just show up not really knowing or understanding why. I love how this church thinks! Neither of my parents had read the book so they love having copies and my brother insisted on keeping his.

My parents didn’t get home til around midnight and my brother Matt was at their house. When we arrived around 1 pm, they hadn’t opened any presents so it was nice to share that with them. Since Jeff and I do not exchange gifts and all we had opened were Joseph’s presents for us, we got to open our first presents of the day there too. Again, my kids cleaned up. Shelby and William got sneakers. Shelby got much needed jeans and a couple of Strawberry Shortcake books and a small leg0-like figure (is the best way I can describe it and we didn’t take the package home). William also got some books and a lego-like figure. Joseph did not get sneakers but got the Skylanders Giants starter pack for the Wii. He also got books and a figure. They also all got jackets from my grandparents on my Dad’s side. I got sneakers that I desperately needed, pajama pants, a candle and soap from Extraordinary Ventures, a really cool lip balm and $20 from my grandparents. Jeff got soaps from EV (sandalwood, LOVE), a “gift card” and $20 from my grandparents. Each year my parents give all their kids and kids’ spouses, $100 cash. Every year they try to find a creative way to give it to us. This year they found cute decorative tins and put the cash in with some candy and attached to a Crucifix. The Crucifixes they gave us were purchased in Vatican City and blessed by Pope Francis during his general audience on October 23, 2013 when my parents were traveling in Rome and Italy.

It was funny to watch my parents exchange gifts and hear some of the stories behind them. My brother, Matt, gave my Dad 2 sets of new work gloves. Apparently last year oppossums got under Matt’s townhouse, tore up the insulation, pooped and died. And he and my dad had to clean all of it up and my dad threw away his work gloves from that day (I mean, of COURSE he did!). My dad also told us that in shopping for my mom he felt like Clark Griswold. He was buying presents, wrapping and hiding them and then forgetting where he had hidden things. In fact, he thought for a minute he had forgotten to put a gift out for my mom and when he went looking for it didn’t find it (he had put it out, it was under something else in a gift bag) he did find something else he had bought for her.

After dinner, we all watched Christmas Vacation, because we had referenced Clark so much throughout the day, and just chilled before going to bed. And then the fun started.

Originally the plan was for Jeff to sleep in the guest room with Shelby and the boys to sleep either on couches and I would crash wherever as my parents have a bonus room with couches and twin beds too. Joseph decided he wanted to sleep on the floor in the room with Jeff and Shelby. And they had a battle between the two kids about keeping the lights  on…William and I decided we would sleep on the living room couches. I was going to sleep on the couch and he was going to sleep on the loveseat but that got reversed when Will cuddled with my mom and my dad fell asleep on the other end of the couch. I curled up on the loveseat and I fell asleep. About 1 Am I woke up to Joseph coughing his head off (I told you I’d get back to that). I got him out of the room and he used the bathroom and drank some water. He continued to cough off and on throughout the night including waking Shelby who decided a giggle-fest was in order…I could not get comfortable on the loveseat again, so I ended up walking up to the bonus room and sleeping on one of the beds.

We left on Thursday early but no too early as it had rained lightly the evening before and then the temps dropped so there was ice. Everywhere. The road just outside of my parents’ development had been salted but the road we turned onto next wasn’t and we did hit an ice patch and slide but it was imperceptible because we have some kind of “anti-slide” technology in the car. In fact, if an indicator hadn’t flashed on the dash, we wouldn’t have known. We headed home with Joseph’s cough acting up the whole way.

We got home around lunch time and Jeff ran out for a few supplies and decided to grab McDonald’s for lunch. We haven’t been doing much fastfood lately so the kids really thought it was fun. By the time late afternoon rolled around, I realized we needed to take Joseph into the pediatrician in the morning.

So fast forward to this morning. We met the new pediatrician at our practice (we love her already) who was alarmed at how bad Joseph was wheezing. It took 2 breathing treatments for her to release us and she was close to admitting him! Now we’re rotating breathing treatments. Which would be less annoying only if he were actually acting as sick as he is! I’m not complaining though. I’m very grateful. Our pediatricians office was actually open today. Some others, we heard, are closed til the 2nd!

But today, I would love to be doing some “school” unfortunately all of the kid stuff to do locally costs an arm and a leg and everyone is bringing their kids today. Plus we are rather homebound because of Joseph’s lung situation. But for him and William, I wish I could pull out some poetry to work on. Or a science experiment. Even Shelby, who’s not wed to schedule, would enjoy a little more of it right now. And I could throw some of those things together, but homeschooling does pre-dispose a parent to planning and so, it would be really nice to pull out those plans and not feel like it’s all cobbled together on the fly.

So, there you have it, our holiday, and a time of year I find envy hard to fight for those of you brave mama homeschoolers out there! My hat is tipped to you.

PS- I promised a pic of the advent wreath project I worked on, well, an unnamed child tore it up and there we are.


Twas the night before…

Not the Christmas I expected but the one I’m getting. Several of us have spend the last 24 hours struggling with tummy issues but I think this evening, finally, most of us (everyone but me) is turning a corner.

Late afternoon I received a text from a friend whose gone through an incredibly rough year. Thing after thing…just a total string of disappointments professionally, personally, spiritually you name it. It seemed that things would turn around with a recent development, but alas, it has fallen through and this friend is devastated. And faith, is flagging. Not everyone can endure suffering all the time with the strength of Job. My heart broke for this friend as I read the text knowing how badly something positive was needed. And knowing all I could and can do is pray. Maybe this heartache in 2013 will lead to wonderful reward in 2014. I was reminded of what a broken, grieving, hurting world we live in even as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. And how only when He comes again will our hearts be relieved of this pain.

But this Christmas we will celebrate two engagements. Jeff’s brother Max got engaged in September to his girlfriend Sarah and tonight my brother Ben called me to tell me he proposed to his girl friend Lee Ellen and they are engaged now. Wow, no wedding activity in either family for 4 years and now 2, one on each side! We are super excited and love both Sarah and Lee Ellen and can’t wait for them to join our family.

It seemed for a while that Christmas this year might never get here. And that wasn’t always a bad thing. As we faced down mounting car repairs in November, a dead computer, and so many other ridiculous obstacles that I literally threw my hands in the air and said, “Okay, God, what else?” In this season of my life God is determined to show me to trust His will and what He wants and wow that is so much easier said than done. As I contemplate our Savior’s birth and reflect on my personal journey toward it this year, I am in awe of how good God truly is. How He guides us and grants us His grace and mercy. How even in the midst of such struggling, I can see His hand working even if I have no idea of the purpose. I hear my four-year-old sing each morning, “Good morning God,  This is Your Day, I am Your child, Show me Your way,” and realize it really is that simple. Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be open unto you…it is so simple my four-year-old knows it. But embracing it is an adult task and not an easy one at all.

Like so many of my friends, this year, I just slowed down for Advent. I stopped worrying about how, again, we didn’t have a Jesse tree or a liturgically appropriate Advent Calendar. I did what I could. I let God do the rest. It was liberating and joyful and yes, actually stressful at times. But in the end, I wouldn’t change anything. God gave me the Advent I needed and was supposed to have. And the Christmas season will be so much more wonderful as a result.

May God Bless you and your family this Christmas and entire holiday season.

Social Media spreads misunderstanding (aka why it’s so easy for haters to hate)

I was passive-aggressively, yet openly, chastised today for expressing wonder at a paradox of faiths and then basically told, well, you’re uncharitable because I don’t like something.

I can be a little bit annoyed, or I can just go about my business, but if I’m smart, I’d like to share with all of you what this has taught me.

Social media is great and horrible at the same time. I know, same story, different day.

Social media gives us the chance to both meet new people and keep in touch with people. It also gives multiple ways for people to, intentionally or otherwise, misunderstand. Sometimes people use this misunderstanding to grow or give others the opportunity to better articulate their position. Sometimes it can breed better understanding after all is said and done. And then sometimes, it just can’t. And it’s beginning to bore me. Badly.

Last year I left social media for a couple of months and it was pretty difficult because I had family members whose health was any which way and friends who needed that medium to let multiple people know about various issues and it really was difficult of me to say to them “email and text me separate from everyone else!” At the same time I left, another friend left. And she stayed gone longer. Upon my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad first day of Christmas break, this friend suggested to me, let’s do it again. Let’s just walk away. And you know what, I’m not deactivating, but I’m not gonna engage anytime soon. Because I’m tired of people misunderstanding whether innocently or not and I’m so tired of it it’s zapping my energy for things that are good in my life.

So, if I seem quiet, know that I’m there in the shadows on my terms. I’m keeping my mouth shut intentionally and I’m ignoring the melee. I’m focusing on other, more important things. I don’t have time for hate or haters, so I’m gonna stop making time. Now.