Monday, December 29, 2014

Quiet wandering

I wish it were quiet and I wish I were wandering somewhere West...or with a beach perhaps.

Alas, neither of those are happening any time soon.

However, I am pleased to announce that I just put up our newest "house tattoo" and it's splendid. Right in the middle of the sleeping quarters...just the thing to inspire motivation of those on their way ending or beginning their day.




The Wise Men are slowly making their way to the manger. I think their star maps are much better this year (since the map maker is the one moving the WM). I love handing off jobs to the older kids. I have waited for this.

Wishing you all a continued joyful Christmas season (yes, the bloggers are wrong...it's NOT over yet!) and a happy, quiet New Year.

We are blessed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Responsibility as the Human Family

I see those bumper stickers sometimes about "we are all the human family" or "we are all members of the human family" well, yes, we're not dogs or dinosaurs so I suppose that is true. I'm even willing to grant that we are all, as a collective society, joined together. I think people stop short, though, when they forget that, as a family, we have a responsibility to all the others in the group.

Today is a uniquely special day. It is both the feast of the Holy Family (which falls on the first Sunday after Christmas unless Christmas is a Sunday and then it falls on Dec 30th) as well as the feast of the Holy Innocents. The combination of these two feasts, on this day, at this time in my life, is not lost on me.

You see, the Holy Innocents is the feast on which we remember all those innocent baby boys, slaughtered on the command of one man. Herod was the king of Judea and, after the birth of Christ, he was visited by the Three Wise Men who were on their way to visit the newborn king of the Jews to pay homage. Herod, fearful and filled with rage, ordered the massacre of all baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and it's vicinities. Jesus, with the Holy Family, escaped into Egypt. The little boys of Bethlehem did not have that luxury.

What an amazing example of how one action, by one selfish/deluded/frightened/you add the adjective individual, can wreak havoc on an entire group of people. I walked into the school room and saw "my decisions affect others" written on the chalkboard. This was a writing punishment for #2, several days ago, but I left it up in hopes of reminding anyone who reads it that we don't live in a vacuum. Our choices and actions will affect many people we know and even some we do not. We have a responsibility to make choices that are in keeping with the true law that is written on our hearts and that do the least damage to those around us.

I'm also thinking about the immediate family...those who are married, with or without children. I think the worst thing we can do for the future of the world is live this life as if it were ours alone. When we make decisions, act on our feelings, do what we want at any given moment, there is a whole generation behind us watching and learning (whether we intend it or not). We show them that marriage is not a lifetime thing, that families don't need to spend time together, that "quality time is better than quantity time". Relationships are fleeting. Don't expect that someone who is with you today will necessarily be there tomorrow. Don't get to know anyone too deeply because it's not about that. It's about who best serves our needs today. (see? I didn't even mention FB)

Sorry to rant. Today is a beautiful feast of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the ultimate family...one on whom we should strive to pattern our own families. They faced trial, adversity and death and stood with one another. I sometimes think about how Joseph must have felt, being in a family with these two perfect people. I'm sure it was a challenge but, he rose to the occasion. Perhaps that was his cross; being the least perfect in the Holy Family. He's still a Saint, though, so there is hope for all of us.

We are headed to Mass, the cemetery (to remember some of our human family and pray for the babies lost) and then to the creche (to celebrate and ask the intercession of the Holy Family). We will pray for all of our family and the entire "human family" - let us all start living as if we have a bigger responsibility than what we "feel like" today. Love one another, ask for forgiveness and forgive one another, expect great things of one another, be thankful for what you have and where you are.

Holy Family, pray for us!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The End of an Era

As of this afternoon, our house is without an assembled crib. Depending on whom you ask, it's been at least 9 years since this was true (I know we used the bassinet for #1 but she went out of it a few weeks later). Regardless, after almost a decade, it was a hard dismantling for me. After unleashing on DH about his lack of sentimentality, he came in a few minutes later and said, "Actually, I'm kind of glad you did it...it would have been really hard for me." Awww, I love that guy.

Some shots of the "great room(s) makeover of 2014"

 Sniff...well-used but still sad

 We stopped before it was finished. The dark beds will be bunked

 Heavens, he's cute! Needless to say, his bunk will be the bottom.

 Ikea pullout chair, formerly known as #4's bed

Moved next door to the playroom for lounging purposes. #4 got #3s bed and will have a padded headboard a la Grammy next week. "New to you" ;0)

So, as with all things in life, change (good and bad) are inevitable. Wishing you the blessing of mostly "good" change and the strength to make it through the "bad" as we move toward yet another new year (I guess I'm old since time moves so quickly now). 

We are blessed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vinsujem Vam vinsujem

na to Bozie Narodenie:
i stastie i zdravie, 
od Boha pozehnanie.

I wish you, I wish you
on the birthday of our God:
happiness and health, 
many blessings from God



We are deep in Stedra Vecera (Holy Supper) prep around here. Pierogi, mushroom sauerkraut soup and bobalki are on the menu, with a little cheese thrown in for our non-Slovak guest (and half-Italian kids). I'm against that, for the record. I think we're raising a whole generation of kids that expect to bend the rules when it doesn't fit their taste and who will have sooo many fewer "remember doing that when we were kids?" stories. Sad, really.

Like, what happened to Midnight Mass being the first Christmas Mass? When we were little (not too  little, I was probably 6 or 7 when I started going) I remember getting to church at 11, singing with the children's choir, then having Mass. The babe was placed in the manger and at midnight Father said, "Merry Christmas, Joy to the World" or some such thing, and you knew THEN it was Christmas day. That's what we were here for; Jesus' birthday. The Savior of the World is born!

So, what happens at 4 PM Mass and why? That's rhetorical. I know people with little kids want to "get it done" early so they can sleep in and leisurely open gifts on Christmas morning. That's why we go to 7 AM. The kids are too asleep to realize there are gifts around and we start with the important thing...Christ's birth.

I suppose the same could be said for the anticipated Mass. I'm not sure it works here, though. We are "anticipating" Christmas. If you've had a baby, you know the anticipating and the actual birth are two entirely different things. Besides, isn't that what Advent is for? Aren't we anticipating Christmas all during Advent?

I know this sounds rant-like, but it's not. I do appreciate everyone who gets to Mass and/or in some way acknowledges that this is a special day. If there is no Christmas, there is no Easter and we are all back with Adam and Eve (who celebrate their feast day today in the Eastern Church, according to my Slovak book). It is good if, even for an hour on Saturday afternoon, you can think about Christ humbling himself to our level (that's humbling beyond anything we can ever imagine! We're really low!) to then eventually die for us. That is Love beyond all measure.

I do think, though, that it's settling for less. It's allowing people an easier path when it's not really necessary. Will people complain that they either have to take little kids to Midnight Mass or "interrupt" their Christmas day just to go to Mass? Perhaps. I think they would get used to it, though. And maybe, just maybe, we would all start to remember where we should begin the celebration.

Some words from our Pope Francis:

make Christmas "never a feast of commercial consumerism, of appearances or useless gifts... but that it might be the feast of the joy of welcoming the Lord in the crib and our hearts."

Wishing all of you great love and joy this Christmas. We are so blessed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My "favorite" child...

I know no one likes to discuss it but most parents, if they were honest, have a "favorite" child. I don't mean they hate the others and love this one alone; just that in one way or another the relationship seems to work more easily. Sometimes, when DH and I discuss our children and the pluses and minuses of each personality, we say "oh, we would happily take three more just like him!" That kind of favorite.

I think, when it comes down to it, he is like me in enough ways that I "get" him without too much effort. He is my birthday twin (month, at least, which we share with the King of the Universe so, there's that...), he is loyal, sentimental and funny. He has a willful streak but, like all good Italians (and with his name, he at least sounds like he is) his anger burns brightly but quickly extinguishes. I just wish he would eat a little more. He is one skinny dude.

Happy 6th birthday to my sweet middle child who I would never, ever guess, is #3 of five. As his shirt says, "I'm just that good" ;0) May your year be full of fun, family, and sweet surprises and may Our Lady keep you wrapped tightly in Her mantle.

 the cake...you know we December babies enjoy everything Christmas

 I knew as soon as I saw the eye patches that he would love them. He may be a Pirates fan after all. (especially since he also got a jersey for a gift!)

 Welling up a bit listening to his godmother's voice read him a story. I was more than welling. What a special moment. 

Now I really should start cleaning this place. Christmas visitors, round 2, begins tomorrow afternoon. Yikes. At least I get more mushroom soup out of the deal. 

Wishing you a quiet, holy, silent Christmas Eve and a Christmas Day filled with joy. I picked up this little gem the other day and I think it will appear with the stockings on Christmas Day, just as a quiet reminder. We are blessed!






Monday, December 22, 2014

And finally...

Our tree arrived on December 5th (yes, I mail-order our tree...I can find more amusing things than dragging five semi-willing kids through the snow/mud just for the "family tradition" - there is mushroom soup for that! LOL). We put the lights on December 12th (the vigil of St. Lucy, since we had a house full of running relatives on the actual day). Then, it just sat. It was beautiful with just the lights and smelled divine. I would have left it as-is but the kids can get so pesty.

We finally got around to the actual decorating on Saturday the 20th. We are not and never will be the "decorate everything on the 24th" people, sorry. I get the idea but with a birthday on the 22nd (more on that later) and my mother-in-law arriving...it's just not going to happen.

I digress. We had our fun afternoon of decorating and listening to carols, playing with the mangers and even completing our manger puppets (a kind gift from far away) to prepare for a play about the "Real Story of Christmas" (spoiler...there is no Santa), open for local release on December 24th.

If I don't make it back before Thursday, may you all have a safe and blessed Christmas!









We are blessed!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My former life...

I was cleaning off some computer storage keys and I found my resume from 2008 (I suppose I was looking for a job while pregnant and with two kids under 3-years-old?). Today in particular, it was nice to take a trip down memory lane and remind myself of why my current life is so much more rewarding, even on the most trying day (think vocation not occupation).

I am blessed!



EDUCATION
September 1994- May 2000         EASTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, ST. LOUIS
WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
Doctoral-level coursework in psychology and psychopharmacology

August 1991- July 1992               UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, Philadelphia, PA
Master of Science in Education
Concentration -Psychological Services in Higher Education

September 1988- May 1991          DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY, Pittsburgh, PA
Bachelor of Arts
Majors -Psychology and English

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE

September 2001- July 2003    LEARNING RESOURCE CENTER DIRECTOR
Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA
Supervise center's operation, including budget planning and management
Oversee staff secretary, learning skills specialist, and work-study students
Supervise and assist study group leaders and peer tutors
Conduct yearly training of peer tutors
Serve as mentor and academic advisor to select group of students

July 1997- September 2001    ACADEMIC RESOURCE CENTER DIRECTOR
                                           Assistant Professor
Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, WV
Supervise center's operation, including budget planning and management
Develop and implement study skills program to promote retention
Supervise and assist study group leaders and peer tutors
Counsel individuals and groups on the keys to academic success
Serve as mentor and academic advisor to select group of students
Teach one section of Freshman Year Experience each fall
Implement programs to promote retention of LD/ADHD students
Member of the Academic Life Committee, dealing with at-risk students

July 1995- July 1997             DIRECTOR OF STUDENT LIFE
                                                    St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis, MO
Plan and oversee first-year and transfer student orientations
Develop and implement the Student Recovery Network
Serve as coordinator for the Residential Life Program
Design literature to promote and increase usage of Student Life services
Act as an academic advisor to all incoming first-year transfer students

July 1993- June 1995             DIRECTOR OF CAREER PLANNING
                                                     Union College, Barbourville, KY
Supervise center's operation, including budget planning and management
Present workshops on admission to graduate school, study skills, and job search techniques
Implement the use of Discover II with students for graduate school and employment searches
Responsible for coordination of GRE and ACT exams






RESEARCH / TEACHING EXPERIENCE

July 1995- July 1997              INSTRUCTOR

                                                     St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis, MO

Responsible for teaching one section of STLCOP SEMINAR to incoming freshmen
Provide course instruction in Turning Point to improve study skills including goal setting, reading, note taking, listening, and test taking

July 1993- June 1995              INSTRUCTOR
                                                     Union College, Barbourville, KY
Responsible for teaching one section of Introduction to Psychology both spring and fall semesters
Create course syllabus and devise course plan following stated requirements
Participate in the planning, implementation and teaching of a Freshman Seminar course

September 1991-                     RESEARCH ASSISTANT Pre-Freshman Program
     May 1992                             

                                                      University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Assisted with predictive research on retention rates in minority and underprivileged
undergraduates
Compiled and analyzed data on the program using SPSS
Presented conclusions from the data

PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

March 2001                                PRESENTER, “Pulling Out In Front: Moving beyond traditional LD accommodations,” National Association for Developmental Education, Annual Conference, Louisville, Kentucky

July 2000                                 GRADUATE, Summer Course In Neurodevelopmental Variation, "Understanding Misunderstood Minds: A Neurodevelopmental Approach to Differences in Learning," University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

June 2000                               GRADUATE, Post-Secondary Learning Disabilities Training Institute, University of Connecticut,
Saratoga Springs, New York.

July 1999                                GRADUATE, "LD and ADHD: What service providers need to know," Landmark College,
Putney, Vermont.

June 1999                               PRESENTER, "Time Management: Tips to help students succeed in college," NASA's Summer
High School Apprenticeship Research Program (SHARP Plus), Center for Educational Technology, Wheeling, West Virginia.

May 1998                                PRESENTER, "Collaborating with the Allies: Creating a cooperative environment among faculty, students, and writing center staff," East Central Writing Centers Association, Youngstown, Ohio.

October 1997                          CERTIFICATION, Myers Briggs Certification Institute, Chicago, Illinois.

June 1996                               GRADUATE, University of Utah School on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependencies, Pharmacy
Section, Salt Lake City, Utah.

November 1995                       PRESENTER, "What's Your Type: Classroom applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator," Owens Community College, Toledo, Ohio.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
National College Learning Centers Associations
National Academic Advising Association
The Association for the Study of Higher Education
The National Peer Helpers Association
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators

VOLUNTEER POSITIONS

Playground Coordinator, South Hills Chapter, Mothers & More, 2008-2009
Secretary, South Hills Chapter, Mothers & More, 2009-2010
Volunteer Orientation Coordinator, National Office, Mothers & More, March 2009 –
Creator and Moderator – The Catholic Moms Group of Pittsburgh (Meetup.com), Nov 2008-

Friday, December 19, 2014

Going it alone...

Today is the 17th anniversary of my dad's death. I know. I doesn't even seem like yesterday anymore. Before I fell asleep last night I tried very hard to remember his voice and I couldn't do it. Sometimes it's hard to imagine him in an animated state (something more than a memory from a picture). I am sad, though not really like last year. This is a more complex thing. Mainly, I'm wondering about other people.

You see, I realize that even though my day is a sad one, tomorrow will be better (or some later day) and even if it's one of the worst days in a long time; I'm not alone. Yes, I am without my dad, with whom I would have loved to sit and parse the finer issues of child rearing. However, even when my kids are too little to understand and my husband is away at work, I have a constant companion.

"I know God is in my heart. With Him I go to work, with Him I go to recreation, with Him I suffer, with Him I rejoice; I live in Him and He in me. I am never alone, because He is my constant companion. He is present to me at every moment. Our intimacy is very close, through a union of blood and flesh."
 Saint Faustina

Recently, I read some of the book, Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. I don't have the exact numbers but she stated some results of a survey and there was a not-exactly-tiny percentage of regular churchgoers who agreed that they had no personal relationship with God. There was a fairly tiny percent (but even so...why?) that said they weren't even sure they believed there was a God! This book is fodder for another post but, for now, I'm wondering about the people who believe but have no relationship.

I think the main reason I can make it through days like this (and why I had such difficulty earlier in my life) is that I know God is there...always, every minute, to answer my call. The answer may not always be what I want but I know that He knows my heart and what is best for me. He is my loving Father. One that never dies and one, I pray, I will spend eternity praising with my own dear dad.

So, what happens with those people? Is that why society seems so dangerous these days? Has the lack of an anchor sent people listing about with no clear course? Is the failure to feel a loving presence in one's life the reason that we are turning into such an angry, violent mob? What do the Jobs of today do if they don't believe or have a relationship with our Heavenly Father?

I'm currently finishing another tiny-but-powerful book, Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen. Fr. Nouwen points out another essential ingredient in working through the sorrows of life without losing your way - intimate relationships.

"Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living. The important question is, 'Do we have a circle of trustworthy friends where we feel safe enough to be intimately known and called to an always greater maturity?' Just as we lift up our glasses to people we trust and love, so we lift up the cup of our life to those from whom we do not want to have secrets and with whom we want to form community."

The urgency of the human condition to have others with whom we share the daily difficulties (and joys!) of life cannot be overlooked and certainly cannot be replaced by 400 semi-acquaintances on Facebook. True friendship and companionship come from time invested and lives made bare. I am so grateful for my three or four friends to whom I know I can turn and discuss the workings of my life. How blessed I am to enter into their lives as they have mine and how much we are able to grow as a result.

My prayer is that more people can realize the loving God who awaits their call. He is a good parent. He won't let you do whatever you want, especially if it is harmful to you, but He will guide you if you just call to Him and then listen. He was so loving, in fact, that He placed a few people in your life who, if you are willing to open yourself up and share your life, will help you grow in unimaginable ways. (Like, a woman with whom I do some charity work just signed her recent email, "see you in Church!" - that kind of friend.)

So, after 17 years, I think I get it (somewhat, anyway). Going it alone, or settling for "friends" who lead you down a destructive path or with whom you always feel second-rate, are choices that make life harder than it has to be. As we close in on the end of another Advent, why not take the time to reassess your support system in life? Two of our greatest advocates will be appearing soon in a little manger in Bethlehem. Stop, pray, be thankful. You will be greatly rewarded.

And, because I love to use oddly appropriate '80s music, here's some Devo for your Friday afternoon...I'll be praying your choice is one which will lift you up and ease your burden.

Don't be tricked by what you see
You got two ways to go

I'll say it again in the land of the free
Use your freedom of choice

We are so very blessed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

9 Days Until Christmas!

You know what that means :0)




You still have a few hours left in today to start your Christmas Novena.


May I recommend the beautiful one at EWTN ?

What should we say if a prince, out of compassion for a dead worm, were to choose to become a worm himself and give his own life blood in order to restore the worm to life? But the eternal Word has done infinitely more than this for us. Though He is the sovereign Lord of the world, He chose to become like us, who are immeasurably more beneath Him than a worm is beneath a prince, and He was willing to die for us, in order to win back for us the life of divine grace that we had lost by sin.

Beautiful. May be just the ticket to keep you in the right frame of mind while finishing up your baking, cards, etc...if you're waiting for our card, fear not! I've decided to wait until the actual Christmas season when my mil is here and I have some extra time on my hands.

We are blessed. Holy hour at St. Bernard tomorrow night at 7. See you there!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Race...

Wow, what a weekend we've had around here. The kids were feeling badly that I got short shrift and insisted on singing "Happy Birthday" to me last night at dinner (a day late but thoughtful!) because we had no time otherwise. I don't know that I would plan it again the way it happened but that's life pretty much - sometimes you play the hand you're delt. Besides, even if there was no singing...there were candles and plenty of celebration!

Saturday morning I was up early (not really, I didn't even make it to Mass like I had planned). Still, earlier than it felt like I should be awake. I remember rolling over, kissing DH and saying "I'm 46 and I have 5 kids...how did I get here?" LOL. It has been a ride for sure. Full of highs and lows, crosses of the good and bad variety, all culminating in my life. I have been so blessed and learned so much.

Unfortunately, it would seem, I didn't learn it at the right time. As I had suspected, muscles tend to remember what they learn early and mine did not learn to run long distances. My theory was proven when sibs # 3 and 4 came in the early winners (they ran distance in their youth) followed by #2 and me (my brother ran hurdles) with #1 at the end (he was a record-breaking sprinter...still has good form!). I suppose I should be looking for a javelin competition somewhere!

It was such a funny morning. Kind of like childhood, I would imagine. My sister was racing to the finish, only later to turn back and check on everyone. My second brother ran with me the entire way...it was such a blessing to spend the time with him. My youngest (but older than me) brother ran with my sister but turned back to join Dave and I as we crossed the finish together. #1 son and his whole family participated...completing the family circle. I am amazed and humbled that we could come together to do this. It doesn't happen that much and that makes it such a special time.

 Pre-race at the hotel. It seems A.J. Burnett was staying there and my brothers were delighted to see him in person. (If you are as clueless as I, he's a pitcher for the Pirates)

 I had to take a picture of the video, sorry. Still, it's good to look at and remember the fun. Yes, that's my next older brother in SHORTS at less than 20 degrees...
 He is "Army Tough" for sure!

 Yes, thanks for asking...my birthday is also the feast day of St. Lucy so I was wearing a crown of electric candles. I know...I kind of like being the "Catholic freak" though. It gives me so many opportunities to educate people. (and, truthfully, in this race, it wasn't all that out-of-place)

Once a sprinter, always a sprinter.

 Post-race after the chocolate milk (what's up with that?) Sorry Uncle Char got cut out (my camera was not cooperating)

Ahhh...a warm place for some adult beverages. More fun to be had there (like one of the old runners who was teasing my brother by showing him his Navy t-shirt...the Army/Navy game was playing).

So, that's what happened on my 46th birthday (well, not everything but the most fun part anyway). I would say it was a great success (not my time, for sure, but it was freezing and setting records wasn't the point anyway).

My dad always loved to watch us participate in our respective sporting events. I can't help but think he was enjoying himself as his middle-aged children made their way through 3.1 miles. I'm sure he raised his glass with us and, I hope, sent down some grace from where he sits. I have a good feeling we're going to need as much as we can spare in the coming days. 

I am so loved and so very blessed.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrating my last day of 45

by cleaning my house, delivering more toys/clothes to the mission, spending an interesting 15 minutes in the Canonsburg post office with my crew, lunch out with DH and crew, laundry, etc., etc.

I know, it probably sounds mundane. No lights, whistles, expensive dinners, big gifts. But to me, the blessings just keep on coming...

 - Cleaning my house usually means company is coming. This company is in the form of my 4 siblings, spouses and kids. A house full of love and laughter. Memories of my childhood as one of five while watching my own five. Surreal in the best possible way.

 - Parading (really, when I said, "where is the line?" to the man behind me he said, "you are the line" LOL) with 5 kids in tow to the post office means I am ON TIME to send a dear friend her Christmas greetings. The entire exercise had her (and my other friends who spend their days surrounded by many peeps) on my mind and made me realize how blessed I am to have these women in my life. Women who know that the act of going to the post office is as much a show of my affection to them as the gift that is sent.

 - Laundry. Tons. I think I did 4 loads yesterday and I'm on load #3 today. How blessed we are to have running water, a working machine in our house and enough clothing to keep us warm. How much we should work at helping those who do not have such luxuries (like taking clothes to the mission) - ooh, double bonus on that one!

Wishing you joy and blessings in the big and small on this wonderful Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, Pray for Us!