Monday, March 30, 2015

I've noticed

that sometimes, when I'm winding up to start my day full of distraction and anxiety, the Holy Spirit drops a little bit of quiet into my inbox. That and a priest, in his 8 AM homily, reminding us to "tell the people who matter in your life that they matter today" followed by a wonderful conversation with two amazing women and later a third via email...well, that's pretty cool. I am blessed that, even during Holy Week, the Spirit has time to reassure little 'ole me. If He's doing such great things for me, imagine what's in store for you! (listen and follow)

Today's Morning Offering...

"Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices."
— St. Teresa of Avila  

I am blessed.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!

Happy Palm Sunday! We're off to a Slovak Easter Preparation Party but I had to pass along the Pope's homily from today...too good to miss. 

Some good thoughts as we enter into the Holiest of Weeks.

A prayer request...There is a man in our church: an older man, father of many, foster father of many, truly saintly, faith-filled follower of Christ. A while ago he was to have heart surgery but wasn't well enough to proceed. Now he is well enough. His surgery is tomorrow at 5 AM. Would you please send lots and lots of prayers to heaven for Joe between now and then? (or when you read this - God's time is not our time) For him, his family, his parish...that we may all be willing to follow God's will as this man has been doing, so visibly, for so long. Thank you.   

We are blessed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five on preparation

Well, like it or not, a week from now we will be almost through Good Friday. More on that later. Here are some of the ways we have been and will be using the last few days to prepare...

1. Living Stations

Our Catholic school does an amazing job with this every year. We went Wednesday night and it is always a great reminder of the things to come. We celebrated the beautiful evening (60 degrees!) by walking to church and back and on the way home, little man sang this the whole way...I'm thinking we have to walk to Mass on Sunday (it's going to be colder but, oh well) so we can sing all along our trip. Love that.

2. Prayer

We're ramping up the prayers around here as we close in on the Triduum. Different places (driving, walking) and different times of day. Breaking up the whole rosary into manageable bits. Adding new prayers. We're doing whatever we can to be present while learning. On Wednesday, while making dinner and finishing craft projects I said, "Let's be Benedictine" - "Ah," said #1, "Ora et Labora". So, we prayed a rosary during our work. No one complained. Go figure.

3. Church!
There are SO many opportunities to go to church during Holy Week. We still have some sickness hanging on but I'm hoping it clears so we can go to daily Mass at least once, Mother's Stations on Wednesday, #1 serves Holy Thursday then the whole day of Good Friday. Good Friday services are my very favorite (Easter Sunday is a very close second- it's the people, not Jesus...working on it). If you're at services on Good Friday, you are likely a devout sort of Catholic and there is no where else to be if you want to walk that last walk of Christ's life on earth. I am exhausted by the end but in the best possible way. The overwhelming sadness makes a good base on which to rest then explode with unfathomable joy on Sunday!

4. Good Friday Passion Lunch

Have you been to Catholic Icing yet? She's a genius...truly. She is one of the few Catholic moms that uses her blog, not to make money or spend the day complaining about her "blessings", but to really help other moms pass the faith to their children. Last year we started the Good Friday Story of the Passion lunch. She tells the story with props (!) that are food (!) and our little ones LOVE it! It is a good way to talk about and share the Passion as a family while also sharing a meager meal. Just enough to keep you from passing out at Good Friday services ;0)

5. Rest

Let's face it, it's a really packed few days. That's why, after the Last Supper, the church visiting, and the emotional toll of Good Friday, it's good to rest on Saturday. We will take the basket to be blessed, gather for the traditional Slovak fare and just enjoy family. Early to bed so we can be awake and ready to shout "Alle...." Oh, #1 would kill me if I said it...persnickety, that one.

Many blessings to you on this most Holy of weeks. May the Passion flood your heart and bring you the unending gift of the Resurrection.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Yes"...even if

Happy Feast of the Annunciation! What a great day to celebrate Mary's "yes" to God. I love the reading because it contains my very favorite phrase, "for nothing will be impossible for God" and because it's wonderful to imagine the Blessed Mother being visited on that fateful day.

Here she was, innocent maiden, and an angel comes to her and delivers this news. I always tell the kids, "if an angel shows up, please pay attention because it's really important" and I often wish we had more angels appearing in our lives. Then, when I consider it, perhaps there are many...the wings are just tucked away.

Back to Our Lady. She asked one question for clarification and that's it! Can you imagine? We would have a million questions/concerns/worries. We would have to poll our FB friends to see what the consensus should be. We would have to wait for the Instagram comments to show up. Nope, not her. She just said "yes"..."even if" a million things.

I don't think it will ever be as easy for us as it was for Mary (and by "easy" I mean to achieve that level of trust in God's will for us). Elizabeth greeted her with "blessed are you who believed" because she knew how difficult it was to really, truly, believe that God would do what He promised. Hanging out with all of these humans can lull us into a false believe that everyone, at one time or another, will let us down. We think God is the same...not true!

Here is the final prayer from Fr. Humberto's blog today:

Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.

How often we try to take complete control of our lives! We are the eternal two-year-old..."do it myself!" Please, don't say that "God controlling our lives and history means that we have no free will" - we, like Mary, are free to say "no" and do the opposite of God's will any time we choose. Plenty of people do. Have you noticed, though, that it's usually clear the path we've chosen? I am getting pretty good at telling the difference between "this is a disaster that I have created because I knew better than God" and "this is a trial that I have to endure". I usually suffer much more with the former and grab my rosary much more quickly with the latter.

Last night we were up because I was having a "but what do people think" evening. This is a huge trial in my life. I do feel led, often, and I usually just go, just say 'yes', and it all works out. Sometimes, though, the dark one is very near and I hear all the "what if"s creeping in...mostly it revolves around "stuff" and "perceptions" what will people think about where we live/what we drive/how we raise our kids, etc. I think yesterday it stemmed from my taking #1 & #2 to the vigil. There was a specific moment when I was unsure of the sanity of my decision but it all came to good. It was a teaching experience that could have only been learned there. It is something that probably went unprocessed now but that I know will come to mind later when these young ones are faced with serious issues. I trust that the seed planted will grow slowly and give them the grace they need when the time comes.

I know that when I follow the Spirit, there should be no doubts in my mind...I should be locked on the path that I know is His will. Alas, I have forgotten my blinders along the way. I am in the world and I do get tripped up more than I would like.

I am grateful to be blessed with a spouse who will give up precious hours of rest to walk with me in my uncertainty and remind me of the "yes" moments in my life and how wonderfully we have been blessed by them; whether they be triumph or trial. He is a good foil for me. He remembers things like telling #1 before he left for work, "set up your cello, look to heaven, then play your best". That middle part often gets forgotten in my daily rush.

I wish I wasn't so weak as to give into the doubts so often. So, I will continue to pray and listen and try to follow. I've tried the other path and I know it leads to sorrow and isolation. This way, even with the detours, I am sure that God will be my constant companion...never once leaving my side, even when it is too dark to know Him by anything but blind faith.

Blessed Mother, watch over us and continue to support our "yes" to your Son so that we may gain the ultimate reward. Protect our spouses and children so that we may help them to say "yes" in their lives. Help us to be a clear witness to others.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pilgrimage, Day 2

Thankfully, my travel companion is quickly exhausted by cooking shows. I think we were both asleep by 9:30. That meant we were up early, grabbed some breakfast and headed out. First stop, Our Lady of Good Counsel.

I have always loved this image of the Blessed Mother. I used it as the Icon for the Catholic Mothers group I started and ran for five years. I am ashamed to say it but I didn't actually know which image this was for quite some time. I do remember hearing it was OLGC and thinking, yes, that sounds exactly right. I'm just now learning more about this the others, some fascinating stories surround.

The specific OLGC parish we visited on Saturday morning also holds some history for me. It was here, a little over ten years ago, that DH and I stood as godparents for my niece. She was the sweetest little curly-haired girl. I made sure #3 and I stopped by the baptismal font so he could see where she was graced by her very first Sacrament.
We went into church which had just finished Mass (I know. We should have but I was worn out from driving and we would be going to Mass in a few hours) and he sat down to pray the rosary with the group while I stood in line for confession.

I will say, since my beloved Fr. Al, spiritual director/confessor/priest who married us, this was the first deep and meaningful confession I have had. He died in 2004. That's a long time ;0). I don't mean to make light of my other confessors. This was just so easy and conversational...he listened, asked important questions, challenged me on weaknesses and applauded my efforts. When I talked about #1 being open about her vocation so early he didn't seem shocked or troubled...he asked about her and gave me ideas of orders she should explore. It was an amazing experience. After about 20 minutes he said, "well, you should go, I'm sure there are people waiting." Oops. Sorry everyone.

Father, when we were talking about raising children and family-of-origin, said something so profound to me. He said, "We were the children of poor Irish immigrants who became successful and that was our undoing." It sounds like he's saying no one should be rich but that wasn't it at all. He was saying that some of his siblings, after finding financial success, became very confused, values-wise. It was so helpful to me to talk to this man who has his own personal and family struggles. It was such a gift to sit down with him on a random Saturday (ahem) and receive, not only absolution, but recommendation and insight.

With a clean soul (and son who was thrilled that I didn't run off and leave him at church) we headed over to my brother's house. We spent a few nice hours talking, catching up, doing what families do. My other brother arrived and we headed out to church. My niece, who was baptized so many years ago, was being Confirmed...and I was the sponsor.

What a blessing and honor it is to walk with her. How nice it was to physically place my hand on her shoulder as I've been praying from afar all these years. The bishop had some excellent words about living as a Catholic in society (how it's very, very difficult but so important) and about penance and finding your vocation. I think he spent a full ten minutes asking the young men and women to stay open to the possibility of a religious vocation (Yay!). Really, a nice day.

Disclaimer...OK, you know me. I usually don't make it a whole day after confession before something crops up that I am too weak to overlook. The sponsor group this time around was a giant pool of near occasions of sin (DH has his stories from 2 years ago). Specifically was the young lady (in her 20s) seated next to me. She had her phone out almost continually during the 30 minutes before the Mass was to begin. When she wasn't checking her Instagram account for the most recent update, I could see her hand actually twitching before she reached to check again. I let it go but, when it was clear she wasn't going to change her behavior over the next 60+ minutes, I leaned over and said, "please put it away". She was agitated but thankfully she popped an IceBreaker into her mouth and all was well (no, I didn't say anything...see? I can withhold comment sometimes.)

The two older ladies behind me, also sponsors, were also a trial. They didn't participate in any of the responses, etc. during the first 15 minutes and then, I heard one say to the other, "watch can always tell the ones who go to church every week." Did I mention they were sponsors? No, I didn't say anything and when Satan jumped on my shoulder and said "Now's your chance to flush them out...stand up when you shouldn't, start clapping, jump on one foot, whatever you want...they will follow you!" I merely suggested he return to Hell and stop bugging me. See? Good. ;0)

As always, it was good to watch and participate in a Sacrament. For all of our flaws, the Catholic church is an amazing institution to behold. Watching the bishop anoint my niece with Chrism (mmmm...smells amazing) and seal her with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit was truly a grace-filled moment. I will continue to pray that these gifts will serve her well in life as she makes her way along the path of this world, heading toward the next.

Congratulations, Faith Catherine. May God bless you now and always. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Since every trip we take is a pilgrimage...

I didn't plan this one either but it seems like when we just ride out the storm, something usually turns up. I am grateful for the opportunities we had this trip.

If you've been following along, you know we've had the stomach flu something fierce around here...I had my ER visit and then it was quiet for 4 days then, it wasn't. The two older boys got it on Tuesday, Blondie had it 18 or so hours later and we left Catechesis early Thursday night because #1 was feeling so badly. We made it a mile down the road before she half-filled the bucket, handed it to me (after we pulled over) and said, "I threw up my dinner." I had to laugh. The poor thing is earnest even when she's sick. Oh, muffin started that night too.

So, our Homewood Suites reservation went from 7 people to three then, Friday morning, I noticed #2 wasn't eating..."What's wrong?" Him, crying, " I can't tell you or you won't let me go." You are correct my friend...all I need is to be emptying buckets the whole way across the turnpike. By then, DH was also sick. Quickly, so as to not breathe any more illness, middle child hopped in the car, I canceled St. Vincent that afternoon and we headed East.

A microphone would have been helpful...we had to shout the rosary to hear one another. Yes, I had to take the van with only one kid because it was SNOWING and that, ironically, is the vehicle with the best tires. On the first day of spring. Oh, and I heard it was lovely here that afternoon. Well, we drove through 5 hours of slush just before the final hour of this...
It was a mess. Still, we pushed on. When I have a friend (or several) ask for prayers just before we leave, I kind of figure it's going to be that kind of trip. Thankfully I'm becoming smart enough to pray and offer up more than I used to (although when we got to the highway in Philly and people were driving through this and texting, I was testy...I admit it.)

We finally found the hotel and got checked in (they gave us the smaller room rate for a mid-size room after hearing our flu story) relaxed a bit then headed back out into the storm. I really wanted to go to confession but hadn't managed what with changing sheets, buckets and so on all week. There were two parishes that had Friday night confession listed in Philly so I picked the closer one. Ahem. It would seem that confession was slated in the big book for Saturday. I didn't know so off we went.

We went to Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem, PA.
This is the website picture (it wasn't sunny and you couldn't see the grass). I guess it's the main church. I don't know because all the signs led us to the "chapel" which looked like this...

Think cozy and paneled classroom (the light reflection is the casino across the street). I was impressed with the sheer number of statues they had and the monstrance that was contained in a glass case above the altar. DH says it's one of the first Philly parishes that had perpetual adoration. So, we knelt down and prayed a bit.

It was eventually clear that no one was coming for confession (priest-wise at least; there were about 10 people in the pews/chairs). There was a lot of Spanish coming from out in the hall then the cutest little nun came in and asked #3 if he wanted to hold a candle (to which he burrowed under my arm - we have very shy children at times) so she smiled and moved on. It then became clear that we would be participating in Stations of the Cross (Hooray! Since we didn't get to go yet that day and it's a Friday must during Lent,) We were going to say them in the hotel before bed. This was so much better.

It was better because, as sister announced, the odd number Stations would be read in English and the even would be read in SPANISH they also prayed the Our Father and Hail Mary after each Station. That was so unbelievably cool. After, #3 turns to me and says, "we need to learn some prayers in Spanish!". Thank you, Holy Spirit, for this wonderful detour and the chance to see how other Catholics celebrate Lent.

We left, hit Giant for some takeout mac n cheese then snuggled in our beds and watched a Food Network marathon. Yes, #3 loves cooking shows. Yes, this makes him even more my favorite ;0)

Holy Spirit inspired pilgrimage continued tomorrow...the big event!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Father's Day

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. St. Joseph is so revered by the Church for his dedication to Jesus, Our Lady and God's will that it's also a Solemnity. That's RIGHT! I get to drink my Guinness today instead of waiting until Sunday ;0)

Seriously, though. We, especially we Catholics, spend a great deal of time praying to God in the Holy Trinity and Our Blessed Mother but sometimes St. Joseph gets a bit of short-shrift. I wonder about his life. What would it be like to live with two sinless people? Surely he hit his thumb with a hammer on occasion or lost his temper with Jesus. I'm guessing he had a lot of sanctification, just from living his life. How wonderfully he did so. How much he loved and protected these two who came into his life without his input. I'm guessing, more than once, he looked to the heavens and shook his head, wondering "why me" - in good ways, more than bad, most likely.

Today is also the day we celebrate as my husband's "name/feast day" His name is "Easter" and no one is going to celebrate that day (cause, you know, we're busy) so, this is next best. It should be a feast for all the fathers...especially the ones who take up their crosses each day by not only going to work to earn a living and support their family but also come home to their "second job" of raising the kids alongside their wife. As my husband would say on one of his grumpy days, "some dads have golf or running as a hobby is kids". You know it, my friend.

How grateful I am! Like St. Joseph, DH did not come into this a young man and his stamina amazes me. Even yesterday there was an exchange between us that made me realize, again...after so much time (he turns 50 in two months and we've been at this gig for 10 years now) he would gladly welcome new life and was, at least somewhat, sad to think that the opportunity has passed.

If that were not enough, today on his feast day, he stayed home to take care of a very sick little girl while I took the two older ones to a class downtown. While I waited the two hours for them to finish, I had time to run into town, pray at the 40 days vigil, and run back to pick them up.

He washed sheets and fixed lunch and distributed sips of Gatorade. This is the kind of father and husband I have found. I am a very blessed person.

So, I will give him some extra hugs and kisses and prayers today and try to remind him (and me) of how lost I would be without his love and assistance. Now, I will go sit with the baby who has begun the two-day illness because tomorrow, I will leave DH again to struggle alone while I drive two of the boys to Philadelphia for their cousin's Confirmation (I'm the Sponsor, I kind of have to be there).

Is any of this the way we had planned? Of course not. Yet, I am grateful for the extra opportunity to see my husband in action as a caring, dedicated father. This is the Lent that keeps on giving ;0)

We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This blog is currently on hiatius

until we have rid ourselves of this evil stomach yuck...older boys had it last night. Tiny didn't want to leave them to go to MDO today (he is such a sweet pea, that one).

I am forever grateful that my beloved is one of those people for whom bodily fluids/products hold no repulsion. Me, not so much.

I am blessed :0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Because it's confusing sometimes...

I like Guinness as much as the next person (mine will wait until Sunday) but hopefully we also think of/say this when we think of today's great Saint:

The Breastplate Of St. Patrick (the last part anyway)
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

 Saint Patrick, Pray for Us!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spiritus est qui vivificat

When I came to the Duquesne campus as a transfer student in the Fall of 1988, I knew the meaning of the motto but I didn't know quite how much the Spirit would act on and give life to me over these many years. 
God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit,
do not thrust me away from your presence, do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. Psalms 51:10-11
Today I was blessed with a good amount of both memory and wisdom. Enough to start to appreciate all the gifts that God has given me both recently and long ago. Both the blessings and the trials came together in my mind today and I feel like I had enough insight to take away the proper message. I pray that, anyway.

While I was waiting on the platform for my dear friend to accompany me on my day's journey, I had the pleasure of taking in some of the revelers headed down to the St. Patrick's Day parade. In the past I probably would have thought some not-so-charitable thoughts about them, their outfits, their blatant drinking (or terrible attempt to conceal such). Today, though, I smiled a little smile and thought back.

 A wee bit Irish?

Hey...what's that in your bag?

I smiled because, for a minute or two in my mind, I was those crazy people. Getting up early to imbibe many an adult beverage and toast to this Patron Saint of Drunks or whatever we called him then (hey, we were good Catholic college students. We knew there was a Saint involved so how could it be bad?)

My friend arrived shortly and we took our trolley down to Wood Street. Our day-long retreat wasn't there but we decided to first head to the vigil to say some prayers for the unborn, the post-abortive parents and all the revelers...that they would be safe and watched-over today. It was a good day at the vigil, if there can be such a thing. Many well-wishers and "good-morning" givers and of course my dear friend.

Did I mention it was raining? Oh, it was POURING. Of course, today's first reading had that well-in-hand.
“Come, let us return to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
to live in his presence.
Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD;
as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.”

What an excellent reading for today. He rents but heals; strikes but binds. That was the message everywhere I went today, while I kept flipping back and forth from the mother of five above and this person...
Since everyone will think I'm on the right (I know, the Swatch is a giveaway. I think I loaned that to her) I will tell you I'm the one in the middle. Sweater from The Limited and sweet plaid pants that came from who knows? but which wonderfully completed my St. Pat's outfit.

So, back to the now. We arrived at our destination. 6th floor of the union. Formerly known as the "Commuter Cafeteria" today the site of

It was an amazing day. Starting with the 10 or so people that answered the call of the Holy Spirit to be there today. I never have a connection to all of the attendees at a retreat but there are usually one or two that are clear evidence of the echos.

Today it was a woman who "didn't act Catholic when she was at Duquesne" (sing it, sister) but who came today in hopes of making a connection and growing in her faith. During a discussion on John's Gospel of the man born blind, she was questioning the motive of the disciples. Suddenly there was a thought in my head. A thought from a different direction. A thought I would never have ever thought myself. So, of course, I just said it. She was stunned and moved and so grateful for new insight. It is such a blessing to be a tool of the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful when someone says "yes" and it helps me. How thankful I was to return the favor.

Oh, and then there was the retreat master who graduated from the same high school a year ahead of my husband. He was an amazing priest who had served missions in both Tanzania and Australia and had such insight. I pray that he will work his way into our lives some way or another. Listen and follow...

For the first time today I also realized my friend, who is a convert, did not go through a formal RCIA program but instead studied on her own with a priest before coming into the Church. She spoke in her introduction about her regret in missing the entire RCIA process. Oh, what was our day-long retreat focus? The gospels of the three scrutinies (the woman at the well, the man born blind, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead). Ahem.

Finally, we attended Mass in the chapel where I spent so many Sunday nights for Mass, good and bad, and where I ultimately continued to form the base from which I would start to make my life decisions. There were plenty of bad decisions but, as the reading says, if we strive to know Him, He will raise us up. So, there was some good confirmation for me today that, although I have made many mistakes in the last quarter century plus, I have progressively tried to be open to the urgings of the Holy Spirit and my life has been filled with joy (even in trial when the only, and most important joy, is the continual presence of our Savior).  In closing, a photo pilgrimage across campus. There is something so much like coming home when I visit. I will have to make it a more regular habit.

 The beautiful cross inside the student union

 New and beautiful mural on the campus ministry house 

 I love the chapel windows

 We stopped at the grotto to visit sweet Bernadette

 Jesus on the crucifix amidst the city skyline

 Our Blessed Lady

We were even given a beautiful sunset by which to walk back. We are so blessed.

Happy Laetare Sunday!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The problem with pre-writing...

Full Disclosure: Sometimes I write my "Five on Friday" during the week then schedule it to post Friday morning. It's not usually a problem except for weeks like this one when some of my friends are scratching my heads right now.

Here's the deal...that 5 on Friday post makes my life seem ho-hum at best and zzzz at the worst when, actually, it's been the continuation of The Best Lent Ever!!!

If #1 were standing here she would say, "you were being facetious just then, weren't you?" Well, maybe a little.

Seriously, though, I wrote that 5 post on Wednesday afternoon and set it to post early Friday. Here's what happened in the meantime...

How cute are they? I'm going to have them sneak into other homes and write it on other people's boards since we were already aware. We headed out to our "basement church" (the top one is closed this Lent - they say for "renovations" but I think it's to make people have more to repent from - like getting angry that they can't kneel or saying bad words when their kids move the squeaky chairs for the 10th time that evening.) Regardless, we went and I had an "in the zone" kind of evening. I figured it was the Holy Spirit getting me all graced up for something important.

Oh, yes. Waking up at 7 AM Thursday morning with the queasy, puky feeling previously reserved for pregnancy (and this is only peri-menopause!) So, I slept most of the morning except for the times I woke up to empty my stomach of all the nasty juices that are supposed to be used to break down all food I haven't eaten. Did I mention that I started my 24-hour fast for 40 Days at 7 PM Wednesday and it ran until 7 PM on Thursday? Easiest.Fast.Ever. (Have I also mentioned how extremely thankful I am that I have a helper on Thursday?)

By 1 PM the headache that was building had reached the point where I expected blood to spill out of my ears at any moment so I summoned DH from work to take me to the ER and wait the hour until he had to relive the sitter, he being relieved by my aunt (I find it's always better to have a physician with you, regardless of age, so they can give a second opinion immediately).

That storage of grace was needed...and more (I kept trying to start a rosary but lost track) because I hate hospitals. This time, like most others, they mean lying on a bed that should be reserved for the morgue, being stabbed numerous times by someone "trying to get a good vein" (I know it's not their fault, my veins stink) and being strapped down and shoved into a tight, little machine (panic attack, anyone?) Who knew when you get a CAT scan that they wrap your arms around you in a Velcro wrap (think straight jacket). I am totally serious. The C-Section cross-pose is looking much more attractive after that.

So, I made it out alive with only one blown vein in my hand and, at least 95% certainty that there is no bleeding in my brain. "It's probably a virus"...I think that's a direct quote from the discharge papers. No offense to family and friends (whom I dearly love!) who may be in the medical field. Sometimes I think it's about as accurate as those financial people who pick stocks for a living (hoping DH doesn't read this post...)

It wasn't a total loss, though. I tried, as often as I could, to offer up the pain or distress for others that might need extra grace at that moment. I said "Jesus, I trust in You" about 400 times over the 6 hours. I also heard, loud and clear, "By the way, this is just a highlight reel of what you go through with every pregnancy...are you ready to give up that dream yet?" I have to say, lying on that bed, I was ready to let it go. I can honestly look at my life and be humbled at the gifts given me. For what more could I ask?

He seemed pleased with that because not only did I wake up in time to see the reminder that #1 was the only server for Mass this morning but also felt well enough to accompany her. Our effort was not in vain
Can you see a sunrise and not be overwhelmingly thankful to God for the day He has given you? Not me. I am blessed! (and praying for a mediocre second-half of Lent. LOL)

Five on Friday

I thought this was the Lent edition but it went awry so it's the "random" edition.

1. Drink of choice

So, for Lent I gave this up
actually all forms of adult beverages. I won't say I have a problem (I've not risen to the "wine-in-a-coffee-mug-dropping-the-kids-at-school" mom - I kid you not, it was a 60 minutes story - but it was becoming routine...enough to be missed over 40 days). In its place, I spend several evenings each week having a glass of this
I'm pretty sure I should have given up tonic instead. It's like the gin never mattered. Oh well, more ideas for next year.

2. Sacrifice

Lest you think I've escaped my Lenten duty, I will say that I'm not sure I've ever had a more prayerful Lent. Holy Hour, Divine Mercy Chaplet/Rosary, Adoration (with and without my little people), Mass, Stations, 40 Days Vigil (we are now known as the "R" family on the blog...that cracks me up a bit, no idea why). I have been doing as much listening and following as I can. Always, I can do more. I wanted to take the kids down to vigil yesterday but it was really raining and I didn't want to deal with the complaining (because one Lenten penance I'm struggling with is sloth). I'm glad there is always more to aspire to - I will keep working since we still have many days to go!
can you say "bad attitude girl"?

3. Home school

When we were in South Carolina, we were blessed enough to visit with some dear friends who had relocated down there. While we were talking, we came upon a truth that seemed to resonate with both of order to properly home school, we have to send the little ones somewhere else! I'm sure there are plenty in the HS community who pull off the "little people participate with the big ones" or "sit quietly with busy baskets while the big ones work". Well, around here, that works about 40% of the time...not really enough to get a good amount of actual work done. We manage and catch up on weekends but when Blondie asked to go to kindergarten, it got me thinking.

I looked into our local Catholic school. I don't have any huge issues with the school and the nun who runs it seems to be on track but it's still five days a week. Too much for our budget (time budget mostly). So, I looked into the programs at the Christian school where the two little ones do Mom's Day Out and where #1 has helped in the past. Bingo! Kindergarten enrichment for 3 hours, twice a week. Oh and, unlike the Catholic school, they celebrate "Farm Day" when the calendar says "Halloween". If I didn't know I was Catholic, sometimes I wonder if I'm in the wrong place.

4. But what kind of Catholic?

I'm not going to lie. Sometimes it gets tiring being the "weird Catholic family" even in the confines of our home parish. We were presenting at the Baptism Prep class the other day and during the "come to church" speech, it came up that, "you don't have to be one of those Jesus-freak Catholics"...oh, my. I looked at my husband and said, "I think we qualify at this point". Truthfully, we're just trying to follow the teachings. I'm astonished by the number of people who just don't go to Mass on Sunday. Are they not aware that it's a mortal sin? When I was working, I always turned my grades in on time too. I never got the "suggestion-not-commandment" memo.

I digress. I was perusing places to purchase paska (what a great sentence...try that five times fast) and went to my go-to ladies at the local Ukrainian Catholic church. While looking, I read the most recent bulletin. Check this out.

From the Desk of the Pastor:
Dear Friends in Christ,

To my great edification I’ve received clear confirmation that people pay very close attention to the church bulletin. Last week’s bulletin had an announcement that Easter baskets would only be blessed on Easter Sunday, and not on Holy and Great Saturday.
 The way people have responded to that decision has helped me to see that my parishioners are the best any priest would ever hope of having. I say that because people have let me know that they would like their baskets blessed on Holy Saturday, but each person has done this in a manner that was so charitable and helpful.
 Allow me to share with you my fears and hopes for our parish. The reason priests blessed baskets on Saturdays was because of the excessive number of people trying to have their baskets blessed on one day, Easter. Today, our parishes don’t have the numbers which we used to 50 years ago, so it seems to make sense just to have it all on one day. But, this is beside the point. The point I want to make is that Easter, Holy and Great Pascha, is the holiest day of the year. If the calendar were a solar system, then Easter would be the Sun. Everything in our church life revolves around this supremely holy day. My fear is that people will come to get their baskets blessed on Saturday, after attending the Holy Saturday service in the evening, and not come to church on the actual day of Sunday. Now, I  understand that technically the Holy Saturday service is an Easter service, the vestments are changed to bright ones and “Christ is Risen!” is sung. However, to attend only that service and to not attend Matins or Liturgy on the morning of Easter Sunday is like coming to a wedding and leaving before the vows. My hope is that we will be one parish on this day above all others. We are a parish with three Sunday liturgies and we never have one liturgy wherein all are present. I believe with all my heart that Holy and Great Pascha is the one day of the year when we should all be together in church as one family in Christ. On that day, we are neither Ukrainian nor American, neither young nor old, neither rich nor poor. On that day we are all together to sing those glorious and goose-bump inducing words: Christ is Risen!
Sorry about the format and that it's long but...WOW. I think I would drop dead if I read that in my bulletin. I suppose that's one benefit of having a small, homogeneous population, most of those whom don't like the "rules" have already left.

5. Now for something totally different...

I read Town and Country

It's not my fault, really. It seems my aunt has gotten a bogo deal for the last 20 years and I'm the free subscription. It is kind of amazing to look at some of the extravagance in our world (mainly our nation) and how it's "normal" to some people. Mainly, though, it either angers or depresses me...depending on the day. Sometimes I enjoy the irony. Take this cover. The "Earth Angels" and their plan to end world hunger. I remember looking at the picture write-up and noting the costs of the dresses and jewelry. If they donated the value of their ensembles, they would certainly come up with enough to keep a tiny country (say Djibouti) running for at least several months.

Now, more often than not, I use this publication as the "don't" list for things to do when trying to get to heaven. For example, there was an article entitled "Hunger Games" last month about going to insane lengths (flying from New York to Europe and back in one day) to experience some trendy and/or exceptional restaurants...mainly for the purpose of bragging to friends and colleagues (and Facebook). DH and I spotted at least 4 of the 7 Deadly Sins in that one article. If it wasn't so sad I would use it as a teaching aid for the kids.

Wherever this weekend finds you, I pray it is one of great rest. Remember, always, to give thanks to the One from whom all of your blessings flow.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homeschool at Dinner

Crock Pot jambalaya with okra...

Geography, Nutrition and a new veggie or two for Kids of Steel. I love it when it all comes together :0)

Fasting tomorrow. Say some prayers for 40 Days for Life, would ya?

We are blessed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What is important?

I went to my annual OB exam this morning. It's getting to be more routine now that I only see him once a year (although the nurse did jokingly say "any news? any announcements? when I walked in). I probably enjoy this exam more than most women because, in my case, it's about 10% awkward exam and 90% counseling session. I'm not sure who was counseling whom today but the discussion revolved around depression in middle age.

The good doctor said he sees it sometimes in fellow doctors. They hit middle age and they decide to get a new spouse, a more expensive home, a new car. His thought is that they, as doctors, make plans for their lives and they imagine the accomplishments and money they make by mid-life will insure their happiness. We both agreed this is rarely the case.

It's funny because someone I know, at this very moment, could be one of those doctors (the new house and new spouse anyway). The drive for new and different "things" brings a temporary high but eventually that passes and you just have more debt and an older house and spouse.

You can keep trading in on newer models, I suppose, or you can realize that true joy doesn't come from comes from relationships, the most important of which is a relationship with the Creator. Without God, we are just doing our thing...well or poorly...until we die. I don't know about you but that seems like a pretty scary thought. Nothing but the here-and-now. No accountability to anything just do what makes you happy at any given moment.

#2 is preparing for First Communion in a few months and he has started to journal in a really wonderful book.

The first few pages are a "read aloud" story about a little girl who is taken before the King so that he can prepare her for battle against the devil, the world and herself. #2 nodded along until the part about the "Triflers". These are minions of the devil, present in much of the girl's life, who make the wide, easy road seem so much more enticing than the narrow road that leads to the King's mountain top. They want everything now and they would rather not work at all if possible. I think it may have hit him a little too close to home.

Since we read the story, there are mentions of "triflers" and "trifling" on a regular basis around here. I like when the kids "get it" when it's such an important lesson. I hope they can carry some of these beliefs into their young adulthood and beyond. As for my good doctor, father of six; he said only his youngest son still bothers him about the fact that he has an old truck, "not a doctor's car". Guess there's always one ;0)

We are blessed.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I'm back ;0)

I was winding up to write a judgment column yesterday (it's the buzzword, non?) since the Gospel was so appropriate but I'm not going there. Not now anyway. Suffice it to say that, if you read the Gospel, perhaps you can see that Jesus wasn't always a big, fuzzy teddy bear. He called out sin and bad behavior when necessary, sometimes in very demonstrative ways. He did believe in a right (God's law) and wrong (not God's law) and he wasn't always charitable when people chose wrong. Ok. 'Nuff said.

I have been praying and pondering lately because there are lots of "opportunities" happening in my life and I'm not sure where to go with them. Let me preface by saying while not a convert, I am most certainly a revert. I spent the first part of my adult life saying "no" to God's law and suffering for that choice. It's wasn't always suffering, there were plenty of days that I was happy and fulfilled. Knowing what I know now, though, it was always fleeting. There were no roots to my joy. Coming from that background, I have some fear that my kids will make the same mistakes if I don't lead them in the right direction and some reservations about my ability to lead them since I often feel woefully underprepared in all-things religious.

I'm sill not a fan of guitar-church :0(

I was catechized in the '70s by well-meaning but misdirected people. When it came to the fundamentals of religion, they seemed too big or scary or complicated to pass on (which is odd because the fundamentals aren't really all that complicated). As recently as Sunday I still see examples of people getting lost in the details and missing the big picture. That is unfortunate. I'm trying my best to steer my kids away from that brand of thinking and toward an overall relationship with God...complete with the fundamental teachings.

I do not know my Bible. At all. I'm hoping, now that baby is almost three, it will become more a priority. I have been blessed with a child that is gifted in scripture quoting so she helps me a lot of the time. I am trying to bring more direct teaching into school when possible. We certainly point out when some situation is perfect for a Bible reinforcement. Lately, though, the discussions that happen just as a result of being open and riding the wave of the Holy Spirit have been too good to interrupt.

Today, for instance. It should have been a regular school day. However, looking outside at the sun and in our refrigerator, it was clear that we would need to head out for groceries. We were discussing a local family hour of adoration at breakfast and Mr. G said, "I like to go there". So, we headed downtown to the original Family Hour at the Oratory. I planned for ten minutes (to say decade #3...we said 1&2 on the way down). It ended up being 15 minutes. Bonus.

I suggested, on the way to shop, we stop by the 40 Days vigil, since we were driving near anyway. They suggested we pray decade #4 on the street. On the way, there was discussion of other faiths (#1 had been reading about Luther) and what they believe. I quickly realize how little I know about religion once the questions start (my one World Religion course was long ago). We talked about the Real Presence (since we just left adoration) and the role of the Blessed Mother and her Immaculate Conception.

We arrived, hopped out of the car, greeted the vigil members and began our decade. When we had finished, we started getting back into the car and one of the women approached me. She wanted to explain, in a very kind and reverent tone that, in her faith tradition, they don't believe in praying to Mary and that she felt uncomfortable asking for Mary's intercession which is why they said the Our Father but not Hail Mary during our rosary. I was taken aback (this had never happened before) and just smiled and told her that Mary is my constant companion as I journey through motherhood but also that everyone has to follow their faith as they see it. She agreed that we were all following Jesus and we left it at that.

I'm not sure if I handled the interaction with the woman at the vigil correctly (I have some trouble seeing this from the non-Marian perspective...why would you not use an ally who was that close to the Savior? Who can better lead you to Him than the one in whom He grew and formed for 9 months, not to mention who raised Him into a man?).  I am, however, very grateful for the discussion that ensued in our car. The kids heard the exchange and, considering what we had been discussing on our trip from adoration, it was one of those "thanks for the extra discussion opportunity" moments. The Holy Spirit, from one five-minute interaction, provided the substance for 20 minutes of discussion about how we, as Catholics, view Mary and the Saints. I was blessed with some wording that, I hope, made it a bit more clear and they were renewed in their excitement to learn more. I love that. I love having these people around all the time so that when something like this happens, we're together to hopefully catch the opportunity.

In the end, I am conscious of my shortcomings as a Catholic mother when it comes to the "book" learning I should be passing on. I think, though, that learning day-by-day how our faith surrounds and aids us, especially in our interactions with and compassion for others...well, I'm very grateful for that blessing. As St. Katherine Drexel said, everyone has a different path. Perhaps we are the "unschoolers" of Catholicism...for now at least. I'm going to continue to follow this path, trying when I can to add in the book learning and I will trust that the Lord will witness our desire to follow Him and He will make it good.

We are blessed.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I was writing a post but I stopped.

I need to sit and process the last few days and then maybe I will have more to say. In the meantime, I would ask everyone to reflect on this week's gospel:

Gospel Jn 2:13-25

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.

We are blessed. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fridays in Lent

I have always loved this day, Good Friday being the best of the best, of course. It's something in my Eastern European nature, I suppose. We can be bleak people (remembering, of course, the joy that follows!).

We missed the first week but last week we began a Friday tour of the West End to attend Stations of the Cross. The kids have class at St. Vincent at 2 and dancing at 7 so normal Stations didn't fit our schedule. Still, my middle kid and I love them too much to pass up. We were blessed when I finally found a church (cluster) that offered them at Noon every week.

Last week was Guardian Angels and this week, Holy Innocents. What an amazingly beautiful church! Gorgeous stained glass and the frame over the altar displays the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I can imagine it in its heyday, filled with people gathering to thank God for their lives, families and trials.

Alas, like many churches, the neighborhood turned and the church couldn't keep up with the "progress" of everyone leaving the city and having fewer kids. The school, right next door, is boarded up. Really sad to see. It was good that we could be there today and have a discussion of what happens to all of these old churches that no longer have people to fill them.

We tried, after, to go to the 40 Days vigil but parking at lunchtime is really difficult and the little man, who is still sick was done with the whole prayer thing. So, we figured the Holy Spirit was calling us to nap time. They are there and I'm on my way. Happy Third Friday of Lent. We are almost halfway done - keep up the good work :0)

We are blessed.

Our Holy Innocents ;0)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blessed Day

"Act, and God will act, work and He will work"
— St. Joan of Arc
This was yesterday's quote of the day but I think it was a day early. Today, it seems, when I am conscious of what's happening and spend the time to be present, God is all around. I'm reading a really excellent book (more later) that says largely the same thing...we must remember, always, to notice and thank God for everything since that is from where everything comes. 

#1 is doing really well with her swimming and I've taken the opportunity to let her stretch her independence just a bit when we're at the gym. Today was her "test day". I left her in the pool a bit early to get warmed up and I went to workout while she took her lesson and got herself dressed and ready to go (read: hair brushed and dried). She did wonderfully and look at what I got...
 A treadmill with numbers in front of a huge window!!!! That blinding light is just the sun reflecting on the 5 inches we received last night. Wow. I can't believe it worked (the kid, not the treadmill)! Wasn't it yesterday that I was screaming at three little people who were trying to get changed after swim lessons? Ok, maybe it was two days ago. I'm diggin this "grown up kid" stuff.

Well, not completely.

Because my helper was here today, I also had the blessing of time-with-each-kid time. That's not too common around here and it is so needed. You can just see them blossom when I get to sit down and dedicate that time to them. The morning was filled with school so tiny man got to talk Terri to death about everything you can imagine (How did we miss all the "but why" children before this one? Whew...I'm glad we saved him until last. It's exhausting!) 

Then it was my turn. I love this little dude. I can't believe what an actual kid he's become over the last year. It is amazing to sit and listen to him. What he's thinking is surprising a lot of the time (like when we went to Starbucks and he said, "you need coffee because you like caffeine") I told him he was too young to know a word like caffeine and he told me he heard it from me.
 First we built a city with a farm, castle and Eat n Park
 Then he spent lots of time making "Knight Joey" and "Fireman Joey" and telling me stories. 

So, today I'm reflecting on the passage of time and all the work DH and I have been expending over these five little blessings. It is really, really exhausting sometimes but wow, on days like today? Such a vivid image of the future. I will miss my babies but I am really enjoying the bigger kids they're becoming. I see the light waaayyyy at the end of the tunnel...but I see it. Even last night after Holy Hour when a lady came up and said "how come your kids are so well behaved every time I see them in church?" and I replied, "I'm not sure...because they're always here?" She laughed and said, "yes, I suppose that's why." Time spent. No short cuts (unfortunately).What graces we are given when we try to act according to what God has planned for us! 

When I was running I happened to hear Janet Jackson's "Control". 

When I was seventeen, I did what people told me
Did what my father said, and let my mother mold me
But that was long ago
I'm in control, never gonna stop
Control - to get what I want
Control - I got to have a lot
Control - now I'm all grown up

I used to love that song when I was in high school and full of parents-and-adults-keeping-me-down angst. How I pray that our little people will be loved enough to not need quite so much rebellion and learned enough to know we're never really in total control of our life. Not if we're doing it right ;0)

We are blessed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pray for Us.

“It is a lesson we all need – to let alone the things that do not concern us. He has other ways for others to follow Him; all do not go by the same path. It is for each of us to learn the path by which He requires us to follow Him, and to follow Him in that path.” (St. Katharine Drexel)

For all you KDKA radio fans

Mr. G was working the room at the St. Val's fish fry and picked up a sweet dry erase board ;0)
You can't tell by the look on his face but his mom said he was happy to win the KDKA dry erase board and to meet me. He's Tooo cute!

Monday, March 2, 2015

What about my MEEEE time?

I just had mine. I was running on this...
It's my "mystery" treadmill. Since the circuit board quit (although the belt still idea, I'm not an engineer) I run for 20 minutes and it's a "mystery" how far and how fast ;0)

I do that because of this
Whatever the flu shot was this year, I'm thinkin it didn't work on the under-two crowd. Poor boo.

I had to run because, well, it makes me a nicer person. That 20 min is all the me time I get today. If you stop to see me, I'm stinky so you have been warned.

Now I will return to my kids and their school and prayers before we all get to work on the moose juice and cat's mac n cheese for dinner.

The treadmill and lack of sufficient me time? #offeritup #firstworldproblem (see, I could tweet if I wanted to).

I am so blessed I'm giddy with it. :0) Enjoy the day!