Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Society (danger: rant ahead)

Right, so today I think I'll just give up trying to buck the system and move into the mainstream of society. (Don't be alarmed. I won't actually, mainly because of the other adult in the household and because I would feel totally wrong but, wow! today is one of those days).

You know the type I mean. Everywhere I turn I am reminded of what a "freak" I am when it comes to everyone else I seem to meet and the expectations of our society at large.

- at preschool pickup I hear "now, how many babies is this for you?" followed by the blank stare or, worse, the slightly forced smile.

- standing at the bus stop I count no less than 5 cars with kids of all ages (but all under the age of 8) running loose in the car (meaning no car seats or none in use anyway).

- getting an email from the room mother who tells me that the teacher's birthday is tomorrow and the kids should make a card tonight and we should all be there at 2:10 to celebrate (don't worry, when you come to pick up your child you only have to come a few minutes early...What? You mean not everyone picks up their child...some of you actually send your children by BUS?? you have to say it with a great deal of disgust to get the right feeling)

- the "thank you" note from the American Girl party your daughter attended arrives in the mail, complete with a photo of all the girls with their AG dolls (well, most of them have AG dolls)

- a friend (who clearly is also a freak!) tells you how they had to sit next to someone at lunch who was ranting on their cell how all Republicans are anti-woman. (This complaint from my perspective is more about annoying cell use than Republican-bashers only because I know I'm surrounded by that and have come to some peace with it)

So, what the heck. I'm in. I'm ready to run up my credit cards, give my kids anything they ask, let them run free because, after all, they're only children once, they can be socialized when they're older. It's really too depressing and difficult to be the bad guy so often. I'd like to be my kids' "best friend" - someone else will tell them right from wrong. Right? I'm done judging anyone about anything. If you feel it's "right" then, for you, it must be. Who am I to tell you what is best for your or the rest of us out here?

OK, thanks. I know it's a stinky post for Lent but by doing this I believe I can avoid saying it to anyone else "out there". So, thank you for listening. I am weak, I have not yet found a way to keep all these things "in my heart". I pray this doesn't make you want to rant as well. If it does, I'll pray for your patience while I'm praying for mine and, trust me, I'll listen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thankful today...

I have a lot of time to reflect in my third-trimester haze these days. It's kind of fun, actually. It's mostly because I'm dead tired from staying up too late but most people, upon seeing my girth, give me the "mommy-brain" benefit of the doubt. This changes to "why do you have so many kids if you can't concentrate on anything" after the baby is on the outside but, for now, I'm in that special pregnancy place. For that I am thankful.

A friend of mine gave me not one but two banana flips today. How thankful am I for that? Very. The friendship and the flips - in that order.

The pharmacist that filled my son's prescription just called to double check his weight because he was troubled by the dosage amount. I am so thankful for the neighborhood pharmacy who knows you and has time to call to "make sure".

I am beyond thankful for my husband. For so many reasons, not the least of which that he is back to putting my socks on for me. Seems like a simple thing but it's such a loving gesture to me. I am so blessed.

I am home for the night, laundry is almost done. Bed soon. Extremely thankful.

I won't bore you with these again but each day, every hour or so, we should take a minute to look for what we have to give thanks. It improves my attitude and just seems like a nicer way to move through the day.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Intelligence and Humility

Sometimes I spot a theme in my life and you must know by now I believe that's God trying to tell me something. The difficulty I sometimes have is WHAT, exactly, He is trying to say.

I am reading the most amazing book, A Good and Perfect Gift, about a couple who's first child is a daughter with Down Syndrome. I'm almost done with it in only a few hours because it's just so fascinating to me. It deals with so many issues that I could imagine will be a challenge if we have a child with Down Syndrome. The most poignant aspect for me, however, is the author's struggle with her expectations for her child coming from the author's "well-educated" place.

In the beginning she questions whether she can even relate to a child with mental retardation and if she can, where does that fit with all she has believed to date? She ultimately realizes that each child is different, each with his own challenges and strengths. Just because society places such great value on highly educated people doesn't mean those who are unable to perform to that level are not skilled at some other area.

Have you ever met someone who was really well-educated but still down-to-earth? In my days of academe, I'll admit, they were few and far between. After Pat and I were married, I was invited out to dinner every month or so with a professor who used to visit from Chicago to work on various projects. I have met some really scary-smart people in my life but this The funny thing is, we would go out with him and bring the baby and he was just so welcoming and interactive with each of us. Perhaps in the academic world he was not as unassuming but I'm pretty sure that can't be true. Humility of this ilk isn't something you can just turn on and off. He is brilliant, probably knows that to some degree, but continues to see it as a gift to use, rather than flaunt.

I don't think there is anything at all wrong with being intelligent or well-educated. My point is how you choose to use that gift. If your whole goal is to tell people how smart you are, to make the most money, to have fame, etc., I think you missed the point. I think the most intelligent people who are also the most humble are aware that, even if they posess great knowledge in one area, there is still so much more to know.

The Day 2 Intention for 40 Days for Life is as follows:

May the King of the Universe, who entered this world
as a helpless infant, give us the humility to be

"Give us the humility to be healed"

Wow. What a powerful statement and how true in my life. How many times have I had a disagreement with dh and afterwards thought, "now why, exactly, did I need to be right in that discussion?" It's even worse when I know I am "in the right". I have to pound it into your head until you get it. I wonder what my life would look like if God took the same approach with me? I'm sure my head would hurt almost every minute of my day. Pride is strong and it's so difficult to be wrong, to be weak, to lack authority. Yet the King of Everything entered this world as a helpless baby. If only we could have a bit of that trust that He will lead us where we need to go.

So, after starting this post yesterday, I'm finishing today. Let's just say today was not a "parent of the year" award-winning day. Sick kids, tired mom, short tempers all around. Fail, fail, fail (except for the lovely morning I had with Nino). Anyway, the great thing about it is I knew where to go. Writing this last night made me cut the bad part short, retreat to my room, and beg for forgiveness and help.  It didn't change the difficulties but it did make them a bit more bearable. I think I'll post this one on my mirror. I know I need to read it daily.

I know you're waiting for the big tie-in for Intelligence and Humility. I don't have it, sorry to say. I guess I've just been feeling like it's good to be smart but it's better to be kind, patient and forgiving. As I look around at society and feel more and more like the "smart" people who run things have it completely wrong, I wonder if we wouldn't be better off with a few more kind, humble and forgiving people in charge. I will be working on my kind, patient, forgiving side. Goodness knows it could use some tending.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day or whatever you call it !

Hard to believe but Lent is upon us!

Shrove Tuesday - From "to shrive" or the "shriving bell" which called one to confess one's sins prior to the beginning of Lent. This is the first year I've done so. I think it will be a tradition. 40 days is plenty time to fit in two separate occasions of Penance. Starting and ending Lent with forgiveness. I like it.

Pancake Day - Named so for the using up of fats, eggs and flour before the fasting of Lent. Any day you can have pancakes and Paczki on the same day is a good day in my book!

Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. And Gold Represents Power.

Yum...lemon-filled at that!

Mardi Gras - "Fat Tuesday" - same, party, have fun. Tomorrow we begin the dark days of Lent.

Truthfully, I do think they will be "dark" days around here. Less TV, less arguing, more reading, prayer and snuggling. As we build to the events of the Easter Triduum, it is so important that we prepare our hearts and minds as much as possible. Even as an adult, that is difficult for me. To fathom how and why One would take on the sins of the world (and for the likes of me!) is astonishing, humbling, overwhelming. I am hoping to take Sil to Good Friday services this year so that she can begin to appreciate some of the power of that day. It has always been one of my favorites. (I'm Slovak - we tend toward the dark and serious things). Yes, the soundtrack from "Jesus Christ Superstar" will have to make an appearance as well ;)

But, for today, let's party! Enjoy ourselves and our families and have a feast. Blessings to all of you, my friends. May you have a faith-filled and very fruitful Lent!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

70's on 7

I'm out in the Cabrio, and this comes of my very, very favorites. We used to have the 45 and tried to memorize all the lyrics. One of those "gotta dance" songs. Ahhh, childhood :)

Life is a Rock

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can you imagine???

For those of you who are not aware, I am a huge fan of Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York. In fact, if I did not detest all that is New York (as far as living there) I might even consider begging dh to go. That and we have a pretty awesome Bishop here :)

Anywho, I read his recent blog post Love, Prayers, and Best Wishes from Rome and could not imagine the experience. I hope one day I can repeat the Confession part. What an amazing, life-changing event that would be.

For now, it's St. Winifred this Saturday, which is good enough for me. If you haven't been in a while, GO. 'Tis the season.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That silence thing...

I've noticed, since posting about silence, I've been a lot more self-selective on what I actually write down. I suppose that's good in a way, since it means I'm trying to be more conscious of what I pass on to you. Still, it doesn't make for much of a blog, does it? I've also had the flu for a week so that accounts for some of the lost posting on my part. (and, the whining about the flu was never posted...silence ;))

So, just a few random things that have been happening as of late.


Did you ever try to plan a few different things and just have to pick dates randomly, only to realize it's turned into the perfect storm? Well, that's life around here this week.

Monday-Thursday (they promise, we'll see) - painters working on the stairwells and living room
Monday - pre-school St. Valentine party
Tuesday - 1st grade St. Valentine party
Wednesday - Mom's day out St. Valentine party
Friday AM - assuming the painters are done and the furniture is back in place, the cleaners arrive for their 2-hours of toil just before...
Mother-in-law arrives at noon.

Yeah, I'm sure that's gonna go without a hitch. Still, I am hopeful. I know for a fact that they have no retreats and plenty of room at St. Emma's that weekend if it doesn't work out so I'll be planning my backdoor escape. Yes, seriously. I may have mentioned that I had the flu (that's the stomach flu) for a week and I'm really not emotionally or physically ready to play hostess in a house that's ripped apart. I know that I am a flawed individual but I can only take so much disruption at once. So, I'm praying. What else can I do?

Valentine's Day and other Parties

This won't turn into a rant, I promise. I'm just so happy to see that the tide, for the moment anyway, seems to be turning away from the ridiculous abundance back to the thoughtful token. I was pleased to see that at least 70% of the "take" this Valentine's Day consisted of a lollipop/pencil/some small trinket attached to a card. Perfect. Yes, there was the bucket 'o candy and junk toys (seriously, it was this little bucket!) and the little hug with a kiss (cute but I have to throw the drink away - makes my heart heart) but, generally, it was completely within reason. Perhaps being a silent witness to the simpler way is making some sort of inroad after all.

In case you're wondering, my kids took lollipops with Holy Cards of St. Valentine attached. We figured a little background and an extra prayer is never a bad thing.

As for the other parties, I have to REJOICE that Dominic's first pre-school birthday party (these are 4-and 5-year-olds) will take place in the boy's HOME with games, snacks and cake. That's right, no Chuck E. Cheese (I still have never been there) or skating rink rental. I am so pleased to see that. If they have a pin the tail on the donkey, I may just tear up! I say all this knowing that I may rent out half a basketball court for two hours for Dom's coming birthday. Forgive me. I will have a one-week-old in the house (you know what that looks like, yes?) and I feel kind of badly that he'll have his birthday so soon after. Could just be the hormones. Stay tuned.

Standing up for Life

For those of you who aren't aware, 40 Days For Life will be starting on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd. If you need more info, go here 40 Days. We have been involved in the Pittsburgh branch for more than a year and it is a difficult, rewarding, life-changing experience. The political agendas these days make it even more important to support Life.

Along those lines, two wonderful women from my Catholic Mom's group will be running the Pittsburgh Marathon as part of a group called Momentium that raises funds to support local pregnancy centers. If you find yourself with a few extra bucks, please support these women in their efforts. The moms and babies thank you :)

OK. Time to go check homework, make cocoa, snuggle, make dinner, and do all the other things that make my vocation so awesome. I love my life :)-O

Monday, February 13, 2012

The OTHER Feb 14th Feast Day

I know lots of people will be having fun celebrating St. Valentine tomorrow (us included). However, I'd also like to give a shout out to my homeboys, Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

Saints Cyril and Methodius, watch over all missionaries but especially those in Slavic countries. Help those that are in danger in the troubled areas. Watch over the people you dedicated your lives to. Amen

Besides, I think having your picture on a 50 Korun bill is pretty cool...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HHS Mandate

This is a great website that explains just how important this issue is for ALL religious organizations. Please sign the petition and pass it on!
Stop HHS

Monday, February 6, 2012

Birth, anxiety, and life lessons

I think I'm beginning to mature. Yes, I know, some of those closest to me would say "well, at 43, it's about time." However, I said "beginning to" so I'm not actually there yet. Still, I see flashes of insight that can only come from being at a point where I can accept myself and my place in this world. I am beginning to see that there is a bigger plan and that this life, while the blessings are abundant, is not as I would have predicted or chosen.

I went to visit my friend in the hospital this past weekend. She was 6 or so hours post-birth of a beautiful little angel and it was truly a blessing to be able to see them both at that moment in time. There is something so wonderful about a mom and a fresh little person. Even if she's done it many times before (and I think even more so then) the wonder in her eyes at the miracle before her just makes it such a magical thing.

I have to laugh when I recount my discussion with DH when I got home. "You should have seen her" I say. "Six hours out and an IV port in her arm, connected to nothing. That's it!" A mix of wonder and indignation on my part. I guess, after searching my memory, I haven't really visited a new mom in the hospital since I started having kids. So, for maybe 10 minutes (but probably more like 6), I felt sorry for myself. You know, the one who has tubes running in and out of most orifices for at least 24 hours post-op each time a new miracle arrives? (Yes, we can debate birth plans and outcomes but, really, that's not where I'm headed).

I think, although we are a result of the choices we've made, we are ultimately part of God's plan. Everything is either because He deemed it or because He has allowed it to happen. As much as I wish He would just steer me down the proper path, He is a good enough parent to allow me to fall and get back up. The most important thing, in my "maturing" process, has been my focus when I get back up. It used to be outward-looking, blame-placing, navel-gazing. Now, even during my most doubt-filled moments, I have to look up. I have to say, "I'm done here. I'm scared. I'm spent. I have no more." Always. Always, He picks me up. Always, there is a reason (I know this, even when the reason is far from my grasp).

When I studied Existentialism in college (another post for another time) there was a phrase that keeps popping into my head these days, "It cannot not be this way." I'm sure it wasn't exactly that because the syntax is terrible but that was definitely the idea. There is no other possibility for this situation in my life. More and more I find that to be true. This is how I explain my path to this marriage, these children, this life of mine. Now, however, instead of thinking I'm running the show, I know that He is in charge. Yes, I make dumb (DUMB) mistakes that are allowed to occur but I am always welcomed back. All I need do is ask.

So, I don't have an answer to why I have to deal with such difficulty in giving birth (or why, after so much difficulty, I am still open to trying again) but, ultimately, that doesn't really matter. The reason may be as simple as me learning that I'm not in charge of everything. So, in these days of anxiety leading up to the "what-ifs" of baby #5, you will find me at Mass, at Adoration, in quiet reflection. I know you can't bank grace and I don't think that's what I'm doing. I need all these graces now. The rest, I pray, will come when they're required. I am just so amazed that it works this way. All I have to do is ask and trust? How can it be that simple? Why didn't I know this at 25? Hmmmm. I guess, somewhere, there was a plan.

(For the record, I know that my hospital visit was to see and hold the miracle of new life. At a time when I was getting caught up in the tangential concerns surrounding my pregnancy, it made the big picture so much more clear. What a wise thing for a 6-hour-old to know ;) )

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Practicing Silence

I've been trying to catch up with the rest of the book group by reading as much as possible from I Believe In Love, our current selection. Again, I am struck by the workings of the Holy Spirit. Lately, I've been receiving so many clear answers to my questions and, when not so clear, at least something to ponder further in prayer.

My major dilemma these days is: do I act as a quiet example (the best, most well-informed example possible) or instruct and educate when I see people who have forgotten or were never really taught the basics? This comes up often in my life and I've even thought about it with regard to this blog. Should I really try to change minds (by blogging) or simply live my life and let those around me witness and, perhaps, think a bit differently.

During Adoration this afternoon I picked up the book and turned to the chapter on The Apostolate.

But you know, before the apostolate of word and action, there is the apostolate of prayer and suffering, without which the external apostolate would be nothing - nothing at all. Words and actions come only in the last place, after what I call the apostolate of silence in love, which was the great apostolate of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth for thirty years.

Some would say "spooky" but I prefer "intervention of the Holy Spirit". Seriously, now, the whole chapter is about Saints who lived quiet lives and did great things, and the Holy Family, whose lives for thirty years were unknown, the public life of Jesus coming at the end. Their apostolate was to live their quiet, faith-filled lives and prepare for the proper time. Wow.

So, OK I get it. I'm going to do my very best to spend my time quietly living as I have been taught, instead of worrying about the behavior of others. Perhaps silence will be my Lenten activity. Sounds good to me :)