Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Kind of House I Belong In

I've never known exactly the kind of home I belong in.

 I decided a long time ago it was wherever my husband and children were.

I also admit I sometimes regret passing up the offer of my childhood home but at the time I wasn't looking for a large rambling two-story house. I only wanted a cottage.

Then my husband and I had five babies. And life grew. And now I toy with the idea of a large covered area outside so we can fit the extended family in when we get together for a Saturday night gumbo or Sunday meal or holiday and birthday celebrations.

Instead I have ended up in my husband's childhood home (ironic much?) and he added on a very nice covered patio attached to the living area which extends us and allows romping room for the boys.

Then this pops up: Danbury Home of Laura Ingalls' Wilder's Daughter

And as the slideshow and legacy unfolds, I realize it's pretty much me.

The house has the charm of the past, is spaciously spread, old but not new and new but not old, and its vintage character has enough knicks and bumps to forgive a houseful of children who knick and bump it.
It's the character I love the most. It isn't square and plain. It's rambling and crazy and winding and all over the place; kind of like my thought process.

There's an adventure around every corner and enough sunlit rooms to dispel shadowy days and enough shadowy nooks to blanket you in rainy day bliss.

Such a beautiful sunroom. I've always wanted a sunroom. And I have a slab on the back of my house where I could see doors like this opening onto such but my husband doesn't see the vision. Where I see a beautiful open room (complete with a/c for these hot Louisiana summers) for writing while the children play, he sees wasted space.

This is exactly what my husband will explain to visitors as my "wasted space" room. But I was so excited when I got it. And it's always promised much more than I could deliver. It's the tactical skills I lack.

I never thought of myself as a visionary but I guess I am one.

{I really do appreciate the mechanical people in my life who have to deal with us visionaries taking up their time and space. But without visionaries, think of all the *wasted* space there would be. Think of all the gaps. ;-) It took me as much time to appreciate them as it took for them to appreciate me, I'm sure of it. Together, we make a beautiful balance.}

Then there are those peaceful window seats. Not worthy of magazine status but open to laps and good books and daydreams and children with toys and lazy cats and playful dogs. And video games, no doubt. And Ipads and all those things my grandchildren will know about that I won't. But the atmosphere...not to mention that huge plated window and household smells...add a lot to whatever lies in our laps.

It's not always what's directly in front of us that matters, but the things that lie around us.

And nooks and bookshelves built into walls. Gobs and oodles of 'em.

There's those swinging saloon doors I've always wanted between my kitchen and sitting room. I even "envision" my three grandsons, gun holsters on their side and cowboy hats atop their heads, running through those doors and glorying in the swinging motion until the inevitable collision occurs.

This house has brick walls I simply love.

I even had my husband keep the brick wall uncovered when we redid a small carpot into a "keeping" room, simply because I couldn't bear to cover it. We let Annie paint it though.

And there are openings in the wall for kids to climb through and peer through. I have three little boys who visit my home under the oaks. Please indulge me in my visionary state. ;-)

And this brick step that trips me back to a half-moon brick step in the house I grew up in.

All the old wood.

And old oak beams that have told countless stories to spiders and flies. And old wood floors...wide with memories...that pound loud the hammering run of children's footsteps. No need to apologize for the dents and scuffs. This house embraces it all. Welcomes it even.


And a butler pantry with a coffee station off the kitchen. Can I sign the check right now?

And bedrooms with doors leading straight outside...because I like the idea of awakening to fresh air and coffee in the morning.

And rooms that curve off rooms and don't go anywhere and then meets home again.

And empty rooms with seamless possibilities. The people in my life will never understand that some people need a built in library because our brains can't hold and our pocketbooks can't afford all the things we wish to learn and all the places we want to explore and all the information we wish to gather.

A library is a cheap investment to a lifestyle we are limited in living.

And a kitchen that's almost like mine...only there's a beloved, lasting brick floor instead of linoleum and it's a bit more encompassing for cooking when there's multiple cooks in the kitchen and we keep bumping into one another. #happensallthetime

And the yard and patio. Need I say more?

The added bonus...and the reason I even took an interest in a house that's so far across the country from my little cottage in the that it belonged to the mute writer who helped her mother pen the books that taught me all I needed to know about home and relationships.

This is an author's house. It speaks to me in a private conversation that only visionaries can appreciate.

The house is not new. By far. But that endears it to me even more. I appreciate a house that allows the breeze from the windows to dust the furniture and natural light to enhance the room. I'm not much for housework but I fancy myself to be. My main form of housework is to tidy-up. A good tidy-up is always a good thing. I've gathered a routine of tidying at night after everyone else has gone to bed and the little boys have gone home. I have a live-in laundry maid (in training, let's say) and a dishwasher who needs training in diligence. Still, it makes me feel better to say I have one though sometimes it's easier to just do the work then to track down and reprimand the hired help. ;-) Tidying-up is what keeps my sanity in check.

A house like this (built in 1879) has had so many years of dust and grim that it's coated in humble, well-intentioned acceptance of the past, present, and future. I love that.

It lives. It breathes. Even more so, it embraces life.

I'm sold.

If it wasn't a handful of states away...and costs double what it would cost down in the grassy swamps of Louisiana. :-(

* * * *
Least anyone think I'm ungrateful for the house I have, I want to say I'm totally not.
I'm a writer and writers put into words their visions. We're a quiet sort of way. We aren't vocal but people have all kinds of things to say about us when they read our thoughts...because many people don't ever voice their thoughts the way a writer does. We're a little more exposed...and people wonder why we hide.
I am at a place in my life...literally and figuratively...where I appreciate what I have and what I don't have. I jokingly tell my family I ended up with a black van and a black dog and I never wanted either: the black van due to the heat element or a black dog because I had a black poodle for 16 years. I've ended up with both.
I told my husband that I have never gotten exactly what I wanted in life but I have always had more than I ever needed.
This post isn't about being ungrateful. This sharing is only a walk down a visionary road. You're welcome to join me but, please, never assume I'm ungrateful.
I'm hoping to coin another post about what I'm reading...and thoroughly enjoying and how this visionary walk makes our lives happier and more content if we only enjoy the decorating of life and looking at it from the many angles that one takes when rearranging the living room furniture. It's a fun walk...if we envision it to be.   +

Friday, June 5, 2015

Create One Pink Flower

It's been pretty quiet here. The quietness is in contrast to the ruckuses spinning in my head and the overflowing life within my home and family. 

I multitask like a crazy in my head.  I drive like a thoroughbred between our lake cities. And my mission field in our little home communities has prompted me to seek training in the area of spiritual direction.

I've got so much I want to do, so much I want to research, so many plans to implement, so many pieces I want to write.

The ruckus silences me.

And I've been pretty OK with that because I know that God opens all avenues when he desires us to proceed.

Still I see others continuing their projects while mission in and serving harder and wider than I judge myself too harshly. I've lost readers because of my silence.

But the world is so loud that I figure it isn't missing my little bit.

Then today God reminds me of something.
(Last two paragraphs: "A Healing Walk with St. Ignatius" by Lyn Holley Doucet)
I fight this daily...weekly...monthly. So many voices out there. They silence me. Then God tells me that He was not content with "creating one pink flower; he created thousands."

I'm one of the thousands of voices out there. And I'm very small.

But I like small.

Yet I am called.

And I must respond.

It's a struggle I have with myself and it's not about me. The silence is about me and I need to break through the silence because it should never be about me. That's a sign that pride is trying to stifle the voice of God.

But the voice doesn't have to be here on this blog and it doesn't have to be every season.

I need only create one pink flower when called by God to do so and then allow God to plant it where he pleases.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Stay Catholic? Why Not?

The Anchoress at Patheos is asking for reasons as to why we, as Catholics, have chosen to be Catholic. Remain Catholic? Everyone likes to know the Whys?, don't we?

"Ready to share your reasons why you will remain with the church as the world increasingly bares its teeth against it?"

My reasons surely aren't anything insightful or wondersome and worthy but I'm sharing and there's worth in sharing.

My take on the question really isn't important. I know why I stay Catholic. There's no wondering as to the Why. I'm a MayMay now, past the stage of wondering who I am and my place in this world. There are so many reasons, it has become part of my DNA. There is no beginning or end. I simply AM my family has been since my first pagan ancestor (God rest his soul, whoever he was)
encountered one of the followers of Christ and was offered (and freely received) a mystery and some keys that opened doors to truth, wisdom, hope, and love in a world that offered none of these things. 

When I talk to my 83 year old dad about religion and faith and I hear and witness how he grasps a belief system of a faith that has gotten him through a lifetime of everything, I believe. I simply believe.

Because I want that kind of faith.

No, I don't wonder about myself. It's in my children that I find my sense of wonder. 

Isn't that so typical? Every parent reading this knows that sense of wonder I speak of. That sense of mystery. That sense that life continues through us and beyond us into something bigger than us. And so I wonder why my children remain Catholic and how it is that both my daughter-in-laws (her and her) and my daughter's best friend (recently) chose to become Catholic when it's neither politically correct nor popular to do so. It's the worst of times...and the best of be Catholic.

But there are the continued trips into our small church with these three little men of ours and they are drenched in an age-old ritual, the spiritual significance which their newly anointed mommas might not fully understand and one which has taken me thirty years to appreciate but...still...they've stood there at the foot of an altar with a family of believers in faith.

A mystery of faith...yes, but who doesn't love a good mystery?  God is a mystery. Do we expect anything less?

In simple humble faith, they proceed. With innocence and purity flowing from their wombs into their arms, they simply show up.

And sometimes that's half the battle. When one has toddlers and babies in a cry room perhaps it's a larger percentage than that. ;-) It's the staying power that teaches you to rest and listen.

Consistency is sometimes a smear away but they keep rebooting themselves and they keep seeking the answers to a mystery handed to them with a dangling of complex keys.

They cling to a faith that has stood rock solid for centuries. They question a faith that has answered the same questions long before they did. They commit to a faith that never sways in counseling them in their dignity as a person, a child of God and an heir to heaven and instructing them in what it means to be who God made them and their children to be.

It's the Gospel alive and flowing down the aisle of a small church in Louisiana and where countless prayers have been uttered for them...known and unknown, intentionally or not, whispered or sung, silent or spoken.

And it humbles me.

This legacy...

This rebirth...
This self-offering of faith.


Afterall, that is the question...

I like to see this new generation as the face of the Catholic in the modern world. In a world that is defiant and demands society to Prove It!, they are proving that you can be part of today's changing culture and still be Catholic, not necessarily what mass media defines as Catholic. 

My children and their children are the now-alive and present faces of Catholicism. They are not perfect and in many ways and for many reasons I'm grateful to show how imperfect we are and yet how our faith has blessed us and supported us and stood by us.

This Church is home and the doors have always been open. Christ is brother and his body receives us. Catholicism has been mother and this bride has always welcomed our victim souls into her protective and forgiving and restful sanctuary.

We are not the stereotypes the media has made us out to be but we are the people next to work and school and gatherings...and we are not bigoted, medieval entrapped, crusty, prejudiced skeletons but, rather, we are your neighbors who love through inevitable change, embrace the teachings of older wiser generations, lean on morals that benefit a greater good, prays for a future we will never see, and peel apart onion skins to get to the root of who God wants us to be. 

Because even while we all fall pitifully short...intentionally even...especially because we all fall short...we are the Universal Church.

And the Church is not only for today; it's for a lifetime.

That's Why!

As a Catholic in the modern world I refuse to allow the media to define my family. For the dog that bares it's teeth, I hope my children willing welcome him and feed him in hopes that he will one day see the true face of Catholicism. Or, perhaps, one day in the unthoughtof future, when he has no faith or no one or anything to believe in, he will remember that once in his life he saw the face of Christ in an imperfect Catholic family. And because of that memory he will no longer bare his teeth but smile into the face of God.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Favorite Child is...

I suspect my children will descend upon me after reading this and smirk about how "Mom can turn anything into a blog post."

I wish they would see how little I have blogged lately because I'm too busy trying to prove to them individually that they are each my favorite. ;-)
And that's a paradoxical statement all it's own.


My oldest child (and perhaps it's the ritual of the oldest child to do so) is quick to boast that he is the favorite.  

"I'm the favorite, right, Mom?" is said more as a statement than a question.
And a part of me feels that the younger siblings feel that he is because they've heard him say it all his life and I honestly don't know how to remedy this. Chances are they ignore his oldest child self-assurance.

 So I'm going to go public here and officially reveal which of my children is my favorite. ;-)
* * * * *

My Favorite Child – by Erma Bombeck

Every mother has a favorite child.  She cannot help it.  She is only human.  I have mine – the child for whom I feel a special closeness, with whom I share a love that no one else could possibly understand.  My favorite child is the one who was too sick to eat ice cream at his birthday party – who had measles at Christmas – who wore leg braces to bed because he toed in – who had a fever in the middle of the night, the asthma attack, the child in my arms at the emergency ward.

My favorite child spent Christmas alone away from the family, was stranded after the game with a gas tank on E, lost the money for his class ring. 

My favorite child is the one who messed up at the piano recital, misspelled committee in a spelling bee, ran the wrong way with the football, and had his bike stolen because he was careless. 

My favorite child is the one I punished for lying, grounded for insensitivity to other people’s feelings, and informed he was a royal pain to the entire family. 

My favorite child slammed the doors in frustration, cried when she didn’t think I saw her, withdrew and said she could not talk to me. 

My favorite child always needed a haircut, had hair that wouldn’t curl, had no date for Saturday night, and a car that cost $600 to fix.  My favorite child was selfish, immature, bad-tempered, and self-centered.  He was vulnerable, lonely, unsure of what he was doing in the world, and quite wonderful.

All mothers have their favorite child.  It is always the same one: the one who needs you at the moment.  Who needs you for whatever reason – to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to flatter, to reverse charges to, to unload on – but mostly just to be there.

* * * * *
 This poem, until my older children reached their 20's, always rang truth to me. Now I see that there is a risk of at least one child who doesn't need us as much. A BIG part of me feels badly for the child who seems to have done everything right or who, at least, seems to have been born under a lucky star and everything comes easily to them.
Because they demand less of my time and energy and money, do they feel like the least favorite?
Yes, they probably do?
In fact, I know they do.
Yet, in talking to them, their maturity and wisdom at this knowledge, and the fact that they are the first to alleviate my fears, amps my own appreciation of them.  They are far wiser than I ever was at their age. Perhaps that comes with growing up with several siblings and knowing that life is not always fair.

In fact, most of the time, it isn't fair at all.
Favoritism is a false prophet.
Of course, Scripture thought of everything and has a complex tale of two sons which shows us how a parent acts when these things happen and how these things are handled in a kingdom apart from ourselves and, until we are part of that understanding, we alone keep ourselves out of that kingdom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Time to Build Up Our Families

My daughter-in-laws and I recently signed up for Danielle Bean's Mom-study Momnipotent. My friend Michelle originally sent me the prompt thinking it would be of interest to me. Being a fan of Danielle Bean's, it most definitely was.

By the time I clicked on the email to open it, I noticed I was a couple of days late to the sign-up.

I also feel like a worn-out shoe. My children are growing overnight. My mothering years are waning, yet harrowingly busy and full.

My friend encouraged me, thinking I might have something to share with the newer moms.

That's when the light bulb went off that Danielle (who had influenced my earlier days of motherhood via her blog and books) had so much to share with my two daughter-in-laws, both new wives and new moms.

And Thursday evenings suit us all just fine.

Daddy-duty/Pops-duty/auntie-duty is being coordinated for a very good purpose so that my daughter-in-laws can be re-ignited/re-energized/re-inspired/re-committed to this lifelong commitment they jumped into called motherhood.

Of course my daughter-in-laws had to see the worth in finding time for this study. I was quick to steady their resolve with the commitment of "It's only eight weeks."

And they had to see the value. Eight weeks to give them the tools to build up their new family.

That's definitely worth the time and effort. So incredibly worth it.

My vocation continues as it did when I first took my vocational vows as a build up my family and to serve them.

There is no greater service.

I brought five people into this world. I owe it to my family, to society, to the church, to the kingdom of God to continue to guide and support them.

Now I serve in a far more reaching way...through my daughter-in-laws.

I am not here to dictate to them, to correct them, to lecture to them to find fault with them. I am here to serve them, to support them, to love them, to catch their backs when need be, and to remind them, from time to time, who they married. They married a piece of my heart and they gave birth to many other little pieces. My heart walks around all over the place these days. That's very important to me.

It's a wonderful, exciting time for our family and I'm so thankful for the two loves God brought into our family fold. They are my Ruths and I don't take that ideal lightly. Naomi and Ruth were not only mother-in-law/daughter-in-law; they were friends born in time of struggle and uncertainty but they persevered.

And I don't have to do it alone. Danielle Bean has made sure of that. And my friends putting on this study at a local church are supplying the home and additional wisdom in a hospitable manner of outreach to new moms. I'm grateful.

We're working this kingdom thing together. :-)

And, with our children in mind, it's a far greater thing that we do than we have ever done.

It's certainly a greater thing than the media has sold us.

Which was the discussion I had with one of my daughter-in-laws yesterday. We were talking about the way 21st century wives/moms escape their duties at home. Coffee shops, beauty shops, spas, gyms, nail salons, bars.

And we talked about red flags. Some flags are brighter than others. Those seem to be the ones ignored the most and the ones we gravitate towards the most. How strange.

And my daughter-in-law made an observation about the reddest flag of all...women going out to party at a bar without their husbands...that they often go when they are feeling lonely. Because they are searching for companionship...the fun kind...the alluring type...the kind that tempts you away from your reality.

And does it ever end well? How many times that has destroyed families. Crushingly so.

And I shared with her an article I read about how many Christian women went to see Magic Mike and oogled and awed over this light-porn flick. I have no doubt the movie has some type of message to share, movies usually do, but the Facebook feedback I got was how, even Christian women, were enthralled by all the grinding and gyrating and deceptive lifestyle it promoted. It might have been this article; I'm not sure, but it's a good article to read.

And what does that tell us? What does that lead us to believe? How many women become discontent with their lives and their husbands due to movies such as these and FB stats of other women enjoying themselves in this fashion.

And they go seeking to make it their reality while their husbands are at home. And their babies cry themselves to sleep. Oh, those sweet babies.

Why are so many families being split apart and why is everyone so hell-bent on finding happiness and satisfaction outside the home instead of within it?

I'm not anti letting one's hair down and getting out of the house. It's a necessary thing. It's the manner you do so that speaks volumes. I prefer going out with my husband, going to the movies with my daughters, sitting on the patio enjoying my grandsons, laughing over the things my sons say, being present to my children around the kitchen table, being silent while the rest of the family interacts in the living room, feasting around the crawfish pot and picnic table with extended family, sipping coffee with my parents or with family and friends on Sunday morning at my brother-in-law's, taking walks around the park, catching a free movie night under-the-stars, celebrating birthdays together, vacationing together, carving Halloween pumpkins together, sneaking ice cream stops, touring New Orleans and Natchitoches with my people I love, camping in the woods every Easter and Thanksgiving, or going out to eat with a group of wonderful like-minded mothers who I am blessed to call my friends.

There's no end to the list of activities available to do as a family.

There is no reason for anyone to be lonely in this world, as long as they have family.

These gatherings are not late night bar nights. They are so much more.

These times are usually spent around the home and with family. It's what makes life full and enjoyable. They give life meaning.

Sometimes insanely so...but still...

These type of gatherings...centered on family...built on tradition...lived on what builds family unity.

We live in a state that does this well.

Of course, I understand that you are not me and your tastes may be far different than mine. I'm a homebody, a minority, and I'm not a person who pushes her personality or preferences onto others. But when there are families at stake, well...

This is my life and it took me years to find it and to settle into part because I was so tuned into the entertainment and lifestyle that the media and world told me I should be enamored with.  It wasn't until I rose above it that I saw how shallow and meaningless it was.

And I wanted something more. I wanted something that had meaning and intent and lasting effects, something worth living for, worth dying for. I found that in family life. I want my children to see its worth and its beauty.

To pass this commitment on to another generation of Christians in my family is not something I'm willing to take lightly. I want my daughter-in-laws to want this in their backyards, I want them to enjoy the art of being present at gatherings such as these, to simply enjoy the moment. I want them to do this for their husbands and children, not for me. I want them to do it because God has called them to this, not because I asked them to follow.

I'm grateful they are willing to make the journey with me because the questions we ask ourselves through this vocation are important and will define our very lives.

The question a wife/mother must ask herself is this:

What am I doing to build up my husband? my children? my house?

And that certainly is a walk of faith...if not a leap.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
~ Matthew 7:24-27

* * * * *

How are you building up your home? Your family?

For me it's mainly by being present and making memories through traditions.

What are your ways? Please indulge me. I'd love to share them with my daughters and daughter-in-loves as they build up their homes. :-)

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