Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Wisdom & Sharing of Grief

I always said my friend Colleen was wise. She always builds people up. I knew that in the days before she had a blog. We used to talk quite regularly.

And that's why I wanted to make sure you heard for yourself, the wisdom and the faith of Colleen. You can in this heartfelt talk with Danielle Bean.  Colleen is...in one word...inspiring.

She went through Katrina a month before we went through Rita. She moved to Kaplan and invited me to visit. Good times!

I remember when Baby Bryce died...you were all so generous in sending Colleen and her family a basket of dinners and Tastefully Simple items (as well as a book and other items). In Houston I got to hug Colleen and press the proceeds in the palm of her hand. I know she appreciated each and everything you all did for her. Ruth made a beautiful gift of a chain of roses and we asked you for prayers.  And you all prayed. Many rosaries were cried over and Colleen felt your friendship and support.

Today (Sept. 1st) is the first anniversary of Little Bryce's birthday into Heaven. Would you please pray another rosary today for Colleen and her family?

Annie and Bryce

Monday, August 30, 2010

For Those Who Love Babies & Baby Pictures

Waiting on a baby is one of the sweetest, most joyful moments in life. 
At least our family thinks so!
Even my older children wanted to be there but...alas...they had Chemistry class, nursing clinicals, and work.
Poor things...they missed out on all the fun.
And I do mean fun. Like making chickens and cow udders...
Some moments are quiet and reflective and prayerful.
Quiet fun.
And then the party starts all over again. Joyful rejoicing!
Welcome to this great big world, Seth Michael!
Ariana gives her baby brother a nod of approval. MaaMaa holds her new grandson.
Nanny clicks pictures like crazy.
8 lbs. 11 oz.
You aren't in this great big world alone, Seth. We've been keeping vigil.
And we're so glad you're here!
Love, Nanny and Parian

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mother Dolores Hart Talks About Answering Our Call

I remember the year....1993....years before I (or anyone I knew) had a computer or Internet.

I had written some articles for the editors at the Catholic family magazine The Family (which is no longer in print) via snail mail. Seems like such an ancient way of corresponding, just so you'll know how long ago this was. :-)

One day I received a letter from the editors in my mailbox. They wondered if I would travel to meet with Mother Dolores Hart and interview her for the magazine.

Mother Dolores who?

My own mother was thrilled. She remembered Dolores Hart and King Creole and the fact that this former movie star (with a fan club equal to Grace Kelly) turned nun was the first costar to kiss Elvis Presley onscreen.

I was still not impressed. Goes to show you how long ago this was. I was a young mother in her twenties. I remembered the day Elvis died but that was about it. I was unimpressed with Elvis, unimpressed with old movies, and unimpressed with an elderly nun who lived in a monastery. I had never even heard of Dolores Hart...movie star, nun, or otherwise.

My oldest son was fixing to start kindergarten. My daughter was starting pre-K. I was working part-time outside the house and didn't want to. I had a newborn son who didn't sleep at night until he was three-years-old. Sleep was uppermost on my mind at that point in my life. That baby was my own morning-noon-evening-night monastery bell and there was nothing quiet and tranquil about it. My own domestic bells rang so loudly and dearly in my life I didn't have time or energy for any other bells and whistles except, maybe, a timeout whistle.

I would have had to travel for the interview. After thoughtful contemplation and prayer (probably during one of those fifteen minute catnaps my infant son blessed me with), I finally send a letter (via snail mail) back to the editors turning down the assignment. Several weeks later I got a nice letter back from the editors saying they appreciated my consideration, understood my circumstances, and thanked me for my timely reply.

That was the end of that. I've thought of it a couple of times since but have never regretted my decision. I knew which monastery bell was calling me and I answered it.

But looking back on that time, I find it ironic that seventeen years later I am reminded of it...and take greater awareness and interest in old movies and old nuns who live in monastery. And, yes, I've heard of Mother Dolores Hart which makes me appreciate this interview all the more.

One day I'll figure out how to put vidoes on my blog. In the meantime: click here to listen to Mother Dolores speaks with Raymond Arroyo (If it doesn't take you directly to her interview, forward to approximately 27:19 to watch Mother Dolores with Raymond Arroyo)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Beginnings of Our Atrium

Thank you to Oma for taking the pictures as my camera has been lost...and is only recently found.
* Wooden priest and vestments from By Way of the Family
* Hands-on Magnetic Rosary Board I bought locally (Abbeville, LA, I think)
* Jesse Tree (my son cut the board for this one)
* Baptismal doll in christening gown
* The Ten Commandment work station
* The Pearl of Great Price Parable display pieces
*Basket with birds and eggs in nest for meditation on this Scripture verse:
"As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, My home is by your altars, LORD of hosts, my king and my God!" (Psalm 84:4)

and this one:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)
* Minature Mass Kit from Our Father's House
* The Mass Explained to Children by Maria Montessori
Our church parish has been blessed to receive a learning space in which to create an Atrium for the hands-on, contemplative learning of our children. Our pastor, Fr. Jim, was so impressed with it at the open house that he gave permission for another room to be cleared out and beatified for this working area.

The very next day a gift was donated to our church parish for the Atrium. And it's truly a gift!

More pictures coming soon. Much more! But, first, we have some painting to do. ;-)

Weighing in on Danielle's Article

After reading Danielle Bean's latest column Newsflash to Jennifer Aniston, I began to type a comment. Next thing I knew, the combox had become a blog post. To know the difference you have to be a blogger.  A blog post is a bit lengthier than a comment and deserves more space. ;-)

You also have to know when your comment has become your own personal opinion and needs to be moved from a public soapbox into your own private karaoke machine. ;-)

So without taking up more of your space and time ;-) ...

"However politically uncomfortable it makes us, we need to more fully appreciate the complementary differences between the sexes and admit that no one sex can give a child everything he or she needs.

A child is not a lifestyle accessory or a possession that any of us has a right to. Let's be honest about the hurt we cause when we deny children a traditional family life. Even if it conflicts with our own desires, let's do all that we can to give every child a mom and a dad. Even if it requires sacrifice and humility, let's wake up to the consequences of selfish choices and do the right thing -- for the kids."
~ Danielle Bean

For those who disagree w/ Mrs. Bean's article, I think Mrs. Bean was saying that children "deserve" the best of both worlds...father and mother. She says that we should "do all that we can to give every child a mom and a dad."

She isn't saying we will be able to, she says we should do all we can. Is that too much to ask for? At one time it wasn't. Today it seems a novel idea.

It isn't that every child will have that. Not all of us had it in the 30's or 50's or 70's and inbetween. I believe if we reap through the New Testament, we will all agree that St. Joseph probably wasn't around for part of Jesus' life. It is agreed he was not at the Crucifixion:

"Would Jesus, moreover, when about to die on the Cross, have entrusted His mother to John's care, had St. Joseph been still alive?" ~ Catholic Encyclopedia

We all know single parent families, women who left abusive situations for the good of the children, loving fathers who died, fathers who have left their families, etc.  Some of us were raised in these homes. My father-in-law, the second oldest of five, had a father who deserted the family, leaving my father-in-law to become both a provider and a surrogate father to his younger brother and sisters after the death of his older brother. He became the best of fathers to his four sons and four daughter-in-laws. I have often wondered if the pain of that rejection is what laid the foundation and commitment for him to be the best father he could possibly be when it was his turn to father.

If it was...his father taught him that much. The lesson of what not to do when one becomes a father was taught and taught well. Strange twist, huh?

Nowadays children are being denied any kind of father and all the life lessons that fathers can teach.

Mrs. Bean certainly wasn't saying these children are being raised less than perfect. What is perfect? Life is not, as we all know, perfect.  For those times there is the Christian assurance that we, as adopted sons and daughters, have our Father who art in Heaven. That's a great consulation to all Christians.

What I believe Mrs. Bean is saying is that we, as a Christian culture, need to raise the bar for families. We need to tell the next generation that they deserve a mother and a father. There is so much that can be learned from both sexes. Children deserve these lessons...the good, the bad and, yes, even the ugly...because, through these life lessons, God can work great things. Children deserve the lessons that can only be found when male and female raise a child according to the natural law that God endowed us with. In doing so, hopefully, the next generations will have an ideal to go by, a higher standard to live up to.

Anything less is less.

We are not blind to the reality.

My oldest daughter, who has been raised her whole life with a fully-present father, sees the obvious. She was sharing with me just yesterday that she served a co-worker's father the other day and never once did this father acknowledge his own daughter who was working there as well. Never once did he approach her. Never once did he ask to be seated at her table rather than a co-worker. Never once did he cast a glance her way.

Maybe he was an absentee dad when she was growing up. Then again, because of the stereotypes we have labeled all over him and because the world offers no forgiveness, maybe he feels that no matter what he does or what he says, he will be rejected. Why try to cross over the bar? The world has already sealed his fate. He might trip while crossing the bar which has been set so low. The fear of rejection and ridicule keeps him stagnant.

Society is increasingly deceived by Hollywood and accepting of something less than the best for our children. What parent offers less than the best to their child? And is actually HAPPY about offering less? In succumbing to the theory that we can justify the decisions we make at the expense of our children's lives is truly selfish and ultimately deceptive.

What we need to look at is a joint effort within our families and our communities of building-up the men, husbands, and fathers around us rather than tearing them down. For approximately two generations men have been torn down. It has been said that apathy (the absence of emotion) is far more dangerous than hatred.

With no father figure in their life, a child grows up with apathy towards men, especially those who might offer them the relationship of father. From there they have nothing to build on when they become fathers or look for a father for their children. Apathy follows them and extends into all their relationships, including their relationship with God.

Women who have been hurt and wounded are telling men we don't need you when they choose to raise their children without a father and, in doing so, are telling the next generation that they don't need men either, whatever their experience might be. Men are a waste of your time and energy, goes the message. This equates to saying that if males are not worth our time and energy then neither are the relationships found with them. This equates into most relationships being considered (rightly or falsely so) a waste of our time and energy. More and more we are seeing people not willing to invest their time and energy into meaningful, longterm relationships. This creates a dangerous spiral effect. Where does the spiral end?

We are creating (ie: have created) a society which thinks men are weak, egotistical, spineless, and selfish. We are not holding our sons up to be a better father, a better man when we allow Hollywood idols to send out such one-sided opinions. We are telling our sons (through Hollywood standards) that we don't need them to be good role models. Since when does Hollywood define us and set our standards? Certainly not in my house.

It's a sad standard Hollywood sets...and a weak one.

We've done quite a job, in the past two generations, of educating, empowering, and lifting up our daughters. In the process of building up one sex, the other was brought low. Too low.

This isn't a competition, folks. We need to regauge, remeasure, and rebuild! We are here to get each other to heaven. Heaven or hell should be the gauge. Not who can out-do the other in this world.

Men will live up to the expectations that are set before them. They did in the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. They do it physically at training rooms and gyms everyday across the nation. Why can't we challenge them to do the same mentally and spiritually within their families?

Raise the bar, ladies! Insist that you want something better for your children. Don't settle for a faceless sperm donor! Your child deserves a face and all the facial flaws that come with it. He also deserves the smiles that face is capable of giving.

Will society set the bar higher? I don't know. Maybe not. But I like to think that tomorrow's fathers (who are the sons of today) deserve the chance to have the chance and that today's fathers and mothers have the wisdom and, yes, the strength to offer them the chance.

That's what traditional families offer. Something that is still alive and well today. Just ask me. I can show you numerous couples who live this life everyday.

Two Moments in Time

(Photo credit: Keisha Townley)

(Photo credit: Bernadette Savage)
{this moment} - A Friday ritual @ soulemama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Life of Substance

I have often felt misunderstood. Not worthy. Not deserving. Unheard. Unheeded.

Often the walls of my house speak contentment to me. Oftener a friendly voice lifts me up. Even oftener a gifted voice from this inner tangled blogging world which others criticize and warn us against, affirms me and sets my back on the right path.

But not today. Today I was gone from home. The voices were silent.

And today was a day I faltered in my worth. Questioned my decisions. Justified my goals. I forgot that I...

"...actually exist more, fully, wholly, when I do that which I was made for? Worship. Communion. Love. Prayer, hidden and intangible, it is the day’s true product, it’s ultimate purpose."

Not sure why I beat myself up time and time again. I've had a good life. A very good life. And I know I am worth much more than what the Ford Modeling Agency would ever rate me. Much more. Still others around me...in their own humanness, their own sensitivities, their own faltering...make me feel less than I was born to be.

Coming home late I found a simple email in my box. My friend Kimberly had counseled: "Get a Kleenex" and left the link.

I was not surprised at all when the link led me gently to Ann's "common backdoor, the one off the garage, the one which purposely has no walkway at all from the laneway to the doorknob -- a failed deterrent. Folks don't mind at all walking right through sunflowers and hollyhocks to get to a back door."
 And I...
"...walk straight into the tossed shoes, the dropped bats and balls and shovels and gloves, walk right into the mudroom with its mud.
Right in through (the) laundry, (her) piles, (her) underwear and crusted socks."

I don't cry easily but these words made me cry: "The things done in love, this the only work in our lives that will last forever."

The three baskets of laundry show the filth in my life. The cookie sheet with scourged lasagna sap still stuck shows the residue that sticks to my days. The ant-covered dog food at my personal backdoor sidedoor show the messiness of my welcomes. The cluttered top of my refrigerator announces the clutter of my checkbook and scrapbooks and picture albums and homeschooling which clothe my tabletop and windowseat.

And this is my life...my life in abundance...while telling myself that I want order but, really, if I'm honest with myself: "Too often, sadly, I want product, others to see product, so they can see: I have worth."

And I know that that is not me. God did not create me to produce as He did other people. I am simply not of the producing variety. I can do nothing with cloth. Forget yarn. Nothing with wood. Even less with metal. I cook and bake but the presentation is not always pretty. If I were on your debate team, we would lose. Sorry, but we would. Other members of my household have observed that my oldest daughter cleans the house better than I do. That would hurt only I don't like to clean so that takes away the sting. When Kayleigh cleans you know the house has been cleaned. I really do view it as a blessing and try to hug the obvious. When I clean no one says anything. Mom's hands in the sink mean nothing. Mom's hands in the washing machine means zilch. Mom's hands in the dust cloth means zero. Mom's hands in the toilet means even less.

And so, while I do not seem to produce anything substantial, I still know that God created me to procreate with Him. I do not take this as only the procreation of children (though I must say children are something I evidently "produce" very well :-) but rather a service to God to procreate in prayer and attitude and presence, "to worship, to pray, to love, to be hidden and intangible", to study His words and use His words, and just to be.

For some people that type of production...that which is "hidden and intangible"...is simply is not good enough. This simply will not do. I am always insufficient in their eyes. For me that is all I have.

There is nothing about me organized and perfect. Try as I might, nothing I do is ever "good enough." The smallest negative statement can deafen the greatest applause around me. People come in my backdoor sidedoor and see messy tabletops and unfolded laundry. They do not see clean towels overflowing on the folding counter near the ones yet to be cleaned. They do not see the one stack of perfectly planned school books next to the two stacks yet to be done. They do not see the fresh-dripped coffee near the crumbs of this morning's buttered toast.

Why do people see the worse?

God tries to tell me, "Let it be."

I don't want it to be. I want people to see that I "...try everyday. I do. Really, I do."

Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love. ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

I want people to see the aura in my home and in my life instead of the dust, the sunbeam through my kitchen window instead of the smoke coming from my oven, the essence of flowers in my bathroom rather than deodorizer.

Yet that perfect world doesn't stay complete. By the end of the day it fails me, leaving only its smear on my blog if I take time to capture it...which you can't very well do when the camera is lost.

I realize while trying to please many, I fail to please any...including myself. Where I falter the most is in the fact that I don't really mind the clutter and the family messes and the residue of life in a family of seven plus all the family and friends who come through my backdoor sidedoor to dirty my coffee cups and soil my carpet and leave my laundry room door open.

Why should we defend ourselves when we are misunderstood and misjudged? Let us leave that aside. Let us not say anything. It is so sweet to let others judge us in any way they like. O blessed silence, which gives so much peace to the soul! ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

I love those people and I love my life. My life is full to overflowing. It overflows in every single aspect...in the laundry baskets and the kitchen sink, from the gumbo pot, out the vehicle's sidedoor, on the bookshelves and on the pantry shelves. Life overflows and I am grateful. So grateful.

Except when the other six living here overload the laundry baskets and don't help with the kitchen sink and get irritated with my upkeep of that vehicle and pantry. Then I am ashamed of my gratefulness and brought down to feeling insufficient and unproductive...again. Only it is not the people who live here who make me feel inferior. Ironic, isn't it? They are the reasons and the purpose I do what I do. Remember, I love who I have and what I have.

I am only made to feel insufficient when someone else points out the nevus of my home and family. For me love overshadows the dirt and the grime. It is only outsiders peeping into my laundry room and trash can with pride on their minds who destroy my peace of heart.

I falter yet again and glance at the messy condition of that unperfected backdoor sidedoor knowing that, where I see the fullness most people see that clutter. Where I see sunshine, fresh air and exercise they see muddy shoes. Where I see uncultivated wildflowers, they see weeds. They judge me and make me feel inferior by their perfect lives and their organized front doors which no one ever uses. Only the whirl of my washing machine matches the cycle of my days.

Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors. ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

When reading Ann, I feel different. Here is someone who understands backdoor bliss. To feel so understood, despite ourselves, to be told that your hidden life matters much, that you are worthy, deserving, heeded, heard even when the voice who speaks doesn't know you from Eve. It makes a poppy field of difference.

I've heard that voice before. It reminds me that my value is not found in the produce or the perfection. It's found in the "process of prayer and love" and that is where my focus should be. I am going through a process; not a victory march. I am not on trial.

Even when my family does not think I am doing enough for them (do they ever?) I have to believe that I am doing the best I can. The best I can with my abilities, my mental state, my knowledge, my experience, and my talent.

 "Our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity." ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

The "process" of cleansing my family's clothes becomes more a cleansing of self.  I am molding myself more than molding the playdoh on my coffee table. I am frying my personal flaws more than I am frying Sunday's chicken dinner. I am airing out my own hang-ups more than I am airing out laundry on the line. This "process" goes deeper, much deeper, than what is seen on the surface of my home. And, most the time, only God sees the process. Everyone else sees the product that is not as beautiful as the ideal that is in their mind.

The questions I need to ask myself at the end of the day shouldn't be: Did I empty the dishwasher? did I fuss at the child who didn't empty the dishwasher? did I slam the dryer door on that eighth load of laundry?

The questions I need to ask myself (and no one else) at the end of the day should be: Did I love well? Did I do what I do out of love for my family? Did I love these people well?

"You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them." ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

Constantly that voice has to remind me of this. I'm pretty good at tuning voices out. The Holy Spirit speaks and acknowledges that we need not do great things in order to be worthy. He visits our heart's home through the common backdoors of others and reminds us that the process is His and through this we are made Whole: perfect and complete.

Jesus needs neither books nor Doctors of Divinity in order to instruct souls; He, the Doctor of Doctors, He teaches without noise of words. ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spiritual Advice from Mother Teresa

These are valuable spiritual notes that I am taking with me into this new school year...in all our outside activities as well as here at home....most importantly here at home.
Mother Teresa reportedly gave her Sisters the following rules to follow in order to practice humility:
  • Speak as little as possible about yourself; Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others;
  • Avoid curiosity;
  • Do not interfere in the affairs of others;
  • Accept small irritations with good humor;
  • Do not dwell on the faults of others;
  • Accept censures even if unmerrited;
  • Give in to the will of others;
  • Accept insults and injuries;
  • Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded;
  • Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone;
  • Do not seek to be admired and loved;
  • Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity;
  • Give in, in discussions even when you are right;
  • Choose always the more difficult task
(HT: Lisa)
* * * * *
Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.

* * * * *

Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.

* * * * *

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer has Flown...

...and I haven't done a good job of documenting my family's summer on this online photo album so I'm going to update with Twitter/FB captions and photos.

August 14th: "Saw a purple dragonfly on my clothesline this morning. I've seen green, blue, amd brown but never purple."

August 13th: "Dance schedule in place. Now I can hopefully plan the rest of our lives."

August 11th: "Sometimes you simply have to sit back and watch the show and know that some people need the applause...even if you don't."

August 5th: "Rain is coming. After seeing waiting line for Redbox @ Walgreens, I'm happy to have Netflix at home. Bring on the rain!"

August 2nd: "My mornings never go smoothly...unless i stay home."

August 1st: "Girls having slumber party @ my aunt's, Mark and Garrett working on soccer goals @ MBBC, Kayleigh working. I'm home alone...enjoying the nothingness."

July 31st: "I have a piece included in this book which is coming out soon. I'm sure we could all use some Stories for the Homeschool Heart to get us motivated and inspired for the upcoming school year. Preorder today!"

July 31st: "Rumor has it that Kansas soccer fields have some very HOT artificial turf...in more ways than one. Melted the glue right off the cleats. And the Italian coaches were great! Garrett & team are headed home today. Please pray for safe journey."

July 30th: "August just might prove to be busier than December."
July 29th: "Watching a pirate remove his hat to pray leaves an impression."

July 27th: "VBS...Lunch w/ all my girl...Japanese folk artist at Library...Puppy dog origami puppets @ home...Meerkat Manor while it rains...Perfect!"

July 26th: "Nursing a child w/ injured back while ordering school books and getting online inspiration."

July 23rd: "Just finished canning 6 small jars of watermelon rind. We all agree it tastes like sweet squash."

July 23rd: "My 8 yr old got two black eyes after a fight w/ an exercise bar, cut her own bangs, and has pink neon converse teenie shoes. She's growing up nicely."

July 18th: "Back home...sipping my Blackberry Arbor Mist."

July 18th: "Taking a walk down the Cane River w/ husband & Annie."

July 18th: "Up and on rd at 5am for Nachitoches. Hotel would have been much nicer."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Uncultivated Wildflowers

I just had to share these words from Evlogia:

"There are many weeds in my garden, I just choose to think of them as uncultivated wildflowers."

Aren't they beautiful words?

For me, the words above sum up how I view life, or, at least, try.
I went to lunch with my mother one afternoon and we babbled for over three hours about our Christian faith, our beliefs, our readings, our ideals, our observations.

We solved not only the world's problems but the Universal Church's as well.

It took us only three hours to solve everyone else's problems. There weren't enough hours in the day to solve our own. The faults we have within our own being, the weeds which choke out charity and hope and peace and love, are insurmountable. Our own tools are not sharp enough to cut through the dense overgrowth.

I (including what uniquely makes me me---my faith, my beliefs, my readings, my ideals, my observations) are not perfect. I am, in fact, uniquely flawed. So I keep weeding and cultivating, but I never get it quite right. God has to send many, many, many horticulturalist into my life to weed and cultivate me.

Still I remain flawed.

Still imperfect. Still uncultivated. Still no rosebuds. Still only a wildflower. Never a rose.


And it's a huge BUT...

...God finds me where I am.

A weed among other weeds.
All imperfect. All flawed. All with various faiths, beliefs, readings, ideals, and observations.

But flowers nonetheless. Flowers which He chose to plant. Flowers under cultivation.

And He is the gardner.

That's good to know.

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