No Dumb Ox There

Today is the feast of St Thomas Aquinas!

We have a special devotion to St. Thomas in our family, for a number of different reasons.  Not the least of which is this one’s special devotion to him too:

Anyhow, there is SO much to say about Aquinas. I’m sure many of you are familiar with him, him being one of the greatest Doctors of the Church and most profound theologians we have.  His writings span denominations and bridge gaps because he writes about the truth of faith, which is love.  He lived it, he embodied it.  He was taunted for his size and his quiet gentle ways: hence, the epithet, “dumb ox.”  But, oh, so not.  He was brilliant.  He was large, yes, but I like to think that perhaps he was bodily large simply to house the largesse of his faith hope and love.  His size was such, perhaps, so that our own dumb minds could maybe make the connection; that he was more than most of us, we just had to look closer, with better eyes. Perhaps not. Our bodies are our bodies, whatever they are.  But, his mind, heart, faith…well, it was bigger than any of us can fathom.  Or, than I can truly fathom.

Aquinas is the patron of students, which also means I hit him up for prayers quite often.  But, one of the things that I love about him is his humility. Despite being one of the greatest minds in the Church, ever, he held that prayer had taught him more than study.  Now, that is where I need to dwell.  Prayer.  So much of the time I turn to me,  my mind, to figure things out. I need to ever keep steady in prayer to find the same , no, better, calming reassurance.  So, today, again, I ask St Thomas Aquinas, to pray for THIS dumb ox to grow in humility and faith.  No dumb ox there.  But oh yes, here.

Happy Feast Day!

St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

And, now that you’ve read my quick gloss simple mom thoughts on why I love this saint, if you want to have more erudite thoughts and a much broader intellectual taste of what he’s about, watch this (from the excellent Fr Barron, and his Word on Fire series):

After the Rage

When one of your kids has a big ol’ blowout rage -an out of control, can’t really reach them and you have to wait it out and keep them safe kind of rage – the aftermath is it’s own entity.  The exhausted sentinels of the mama heart and the synapses that have whirred themselves into a lather trying to process and evaluate in the charged moment and assist are just flopped down into a heap of……restless tired tangle.

And I only write this because it’s easy to think that it’s only all perfect in any given family.  And the nature of blogging is that we only want to put our best type forward, isn’t it?  I’m vain, you bet.  But, I also know that what I treasure about blogging is that I can and  have connected with so many who say, “Hey, me too! I ‘get’ that!”  And just knowing that others are out there who do understand…well, it’s always a help and a hope.

Because parenting is hard.  It’s not for sissies.  And parenting kids who have issues…well it feels really hard some days.  Whether it’s attachment or adhd or cognitive or development delays or just hormones  or teen stuff some days…..those buggery issues can just throw a wrench into the best laid intentions or desires.

So, you moms out there who are or have been in the trenches?  I get it.  Today, I’m there with you.  Our family is far from the model family and this blog is a real blog of real life not a plastic fabrication. Today I tripped into and am climbing out of that muddy restless tired spot.  I’m thankful for the helping hand of dear friends and watching the dust settle; motes flickering by me in the steel grey sky of this rainy day.

Three o’clock will come and I’m back on duty and need to be able to be present – body mind and heart – to help hang on to those small slippery hearts and  hands.  I say a whispered prayer that they can be calm enough again to be pulled into my lap for awhile and we can breath each other in and feel our hearts beating close together.

Gentle One

It’s the Feast of St. Francis de Sales!

Tapestry by John Nava

I love this saint, his book Introduction to the Devout Life is a classic and worth reading, oh at least once a year.  It is literally filled with such depth and goodness, yet so accessible to us, me, today that as I read it I have to stop and smack myself in the forehead, again and again.  “Doh! Of course!”  Then I have to put it down for a bit to let it all soak in.  And every time I read it I am reminded of how hard I make the easiest thing in the world: to love.

So, with that, for today, his feast day, I give you this quote (From the Breviary):

“Ah, I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity.  Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove – that is, gentleness itself.  Are you wiser than God?”

Doh! Of Course! (sigh)

St Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Forward March!

So, today is the annual March for Life on in Washington, D.C.  It’s live streaming on EWTN, right here.  It gets rolling around noon, I think, and is worth a peek or staying tuned in. My Tom and Hannah and Marta and Hannah’s best buddy Anna are all there, cold and tired but standing up for what they believe.  I’m proud of them for it!

Many of you might not be comfortable with the advocacy for this issue. I get that.  And I spent years, years ago, in the camp of “pro-choice, not my place to dictate to others” etc etc etc.  And, it’s not  my place to dictate to anyone, to be sure.   But it is my place and my blog to say what I believe and why I  believe this March for Life means something.

The March for Life is important because in our modern culture, life has been trivialized and denigrated and devalued.  It has.  Look around  you, look at the news.  Our popular culture and the focus on celebrities marginalize anyone who isn’t “hot” or the new “it” tabloid darling.  We feed on sound bites and scandal; effectively turning even those with true tangible need into mere commodities.  The images provide the hook and maybe, if they’re lucky, a soundbite.  Sound cynical? Well, maybe.  But I see it.  And that mindset provides the slippery slope to dismiss, or worse, to rank people by a skewed perceived ability to meet or attain the feeding frenzy of our warp speed. attention deficit, pop media values. And it’s wrong.  It is, in fact, I’ll say it, evil.  Evil devalues us, all of us.

This March for Life also is a march for ALL life, the unborn, yes, but also the disabled, the aged, all who are devalued because somehow, they are not good enough.  This March fights stands up against the tide of ingrained racism and stereotypes and valuation that has become entrenched in our culture.  This march is a march to stand up for the value of ALL human life, for it’s dignity, period.  I am Catholic.  I am prolife.  I am a mom.  I am pro-life.  I am a woman. I am pro-life.

But here, once again, is why I’m prolife.  These are what turned me for good and for ever.  Take a look, again:

Sunday Night LIVE!

Right now, and for the next coupla hours, you all can have the amazing experience of being able to be at the Vigil for Life!

It’s streaming, right NOW, right HERE! Of course, an even better feed would be on your own television screen, but if you’re already here….you can run the feed in a window up in the corner even…just saying….

It’s at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and it’s filled to overflowing with people from near and far, of all different backgrounds and ideas and even houses of religion (tho make no mistake, it is overflowing with Catholics, lay and religious alike…an awesome gathering).

Before Mass, folks wait for hours, Tom said approx 10,000 present, turning folks away. Wow

 

But the one idea that unites everyone in this Mass, is that life has intrinsic dignity and is precious, all of it, all of them, no matter what, no matter who, no matter how or where.  It simply does.

This vigil is a witness to it.  Tangible, visible, audible, spiritual, bodily.  It precedes the March for Life that takes place on the Mall tomorrow, but it is in my mind the most moving part of the whole weekend.  Because here is where you can see and hear and feel hearts and souls being lifted beyond the constraints that bind them here.  And, even better, lifted together.

Go, look, listen, imagine, pray.  It’s awesome.

**Keep your eyes open for my dear ones, Tom and the big girls are right there too.

Little Girl Lamb

It’s the feast of St Agnes today.

St Agnes by Zurburan

She is often depicted in art with a lamb; her name means “lamb” in Latin, “pure” in the Greek.  Thus, the iconography.  Not surprisingly, she is the patron of  young girls…more specifically,  the patron of young girls who have been victims of sexual assault.  Correspondingly, she is the patron of chastity, which is a topic I have been mulling for years now with the teens filling my house.  How to teach what the concept really means, the fullness of that word..not the tiny limited prudery that is inferred by our attention deficit surface dweller culture, but rather the mind blowing actuality of what true chastity/keeping to the truth of who we are – heart soul and body – can bring.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post, to be sure.

Anyhow, I  have four teens now. St Agnes is a patron I will continue to hit up for prayers; for my girls’ courage and perseverance and sure inner guidance to what’s true and truly good….for them not to get sucked into and wounded, literally or emotionally or spiritually, by this sordid hard world we live in.  Because we all need all the help we can get.

St Agnes, by El Greco, of course.

From the Collect (prayers for the day): 

Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes, may follow her constancy in the faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

Shadows in Adoption, part 2: Food

A while ago I wrote a bit about those “shadows” that you find in adoption.  I was not, and am not, talking about those big monster issues that sometimes are part of the whole adoption process: RAD, or serious attachment issues, and such….rather I’m talking about those remainders that snag here and there.  I want to shine a light, again, on those little flickers of shadow that cross our days or behaviors here in our house with some of our kids.  Because I suspect that they might well have flickered across a few of  yours as well.

So, this post is going to address that gnarly issue that so many of us struggle with: food!

Ah, food issues.  They are legion, no? Yes.  For so many of us, myself included, food has issues.  Some good, some bad, some snarly, some prideful and snobby.  It’s all over the map.  But for our adopted children, especially our children who might have been adopted a bit older (or a lot)….those food issues can be complex and run DEEP.

When we first brought our Gabey home he was 18 months old.  And he had the standard food-transition issues.  First he wouldn’t really eat, only wanted bottles of milk. So many many bottles of milk.  It was total comfort food and we were happy to provide that. In fact we did, and took him BACK to the bottle so we could cuddle and rock and feed him and have that eye contact as much as possible.

He dug it.  But, soon enough he decided that real food was appealing too, and quickly branched out.  He impressed us with his instant taste for spicy salsa (but, hey, he’s Ethiopian, we figured he had some exposure…) and his happy joy in smearing ketchup and gobbling fries and pasta and all the usual toddler  yummies.   After about six months, he seemed very much just like any toddler, some days picky, some days voracious, always up for a cookie.

So, we didn’t pay too much attention to it for awhile.  I mean, he was a busy busy toddler, seeming to be tracking on all counts.  Language?  Yup, gaining at warp speed.  Gross motor? Yup, very fast agile busy little guy; could keep up with big brother, no problem.  Fine motor? Yup, paid attention to tiny details and was in normal zone for a toddler.  Cognition? Oh my, very very sharp, figured things out fast and great memory.  No worries.

But one thing was a little skewed and it was his eating.  Over the past few years, his drive to eat has gained momentum.  And that is an  understatement.  This boy is DRIVEN for food.  He is kind of fixated on it.  Not to the exclusion of everything else.  He loves to play and go wherever someone else is  going, he wants to be in on any activity.  He will follow his uncle around like a puppy; hoping to  help with those cool tools and be allowed to use that wrench or drill or oh any tool he can grab.  But, if he’s not distracted by some fun, if any whisper of boredom hisses, he is begging for food.  Relentlessly.  And when he eats, he will eat to bursting if we let him, asking for seconds, thirds, fourths…. Unless it is green veggies or carrots. No problems there…gross.  Don’t get all shocked, we cut him off -but by redirecting the urge.  

This evolution into this obsession with eating, more more more, initially had me presuming he was simply,  um….gorging.  Then I realized that it’s more than that.  Deeper.  It’s as if his “Off” switch is broken.  Or at least gets stuck.  It is as if he is impossible to fill.  Sometimes, now and then, he will say, “I’m full.”  But not often.  Watching him ask with such need and such a push to the request has sounded a tiny bell in my head.

This boy, my boy, I think he was hungry.

I don’t know.  Not for certain. I don’t have documentation of his being hungry and I don’t want to project drama or be unfair.  But, I think he was hungry.  Not starving maybe.  But the hard facts are that he was unable to be raised by his family.  He is an orphan.  And, the government orphanages and even the best care centers aren’t exactly overrun with funds for the abundance of every nutritive need.  It doesn’t work that way.  And my boy, well, my mama heart has to wonder.  Was he hungry?  Just some? Enough that now, way deep down, he might worry about being hungry again?  Even though we have, thankfully, an abundance of food and no one goes hungry in our house (unless they are putting on a hormonal girl drama, by their own choice and standards of Oscar worthy merit).  

So, what to do? I don’t want him to become obese or unhealthy.  And, truthfully, he is getting really stout.  But I want  him to know, for now and for ever, that he will not be hungry.  Even if he doesn’t know that he needs to know, now.  He does, it seems.  Karen Purvis says, “Never deny food.”  And so, I won’t.  I can’t.

So how do you provide the security/food your child needs and requests while at the same time keeping them healthy?  Well, here is what I’ve got, so far.  [If any of you have other brainstorms, please let me know in the comments!]: I do NOT deny him food.  And yeah, go ahead, tell me to only offer him celery.  Right.  Look at that face and tell me again. 

Ha.  Rather, what we say is “You bet.”  But we also say, “First, finish your dinner (not with extra helpings).” And we also say, “Let’s count, have you counted five fruits today? Or veggies? How many? Two? How about an orange? ”  We go for fiber and produce to fill the need if we can coax him into it.  But, honestly, some days, as he comes home from school and asks for a cookie I just say, “Yup.

Because if I have to pick, I’ll pick attachment and bonding to this boy.  Easy choice, slam dunk.  That security in our love and his safety here in our family is more important than “husky” size pants.  Will I encourage him to move and run and jump and play sports? Yes!  Will I encourage him to eat healthy choices? Yes!  But will I also withhold food when he tells me his tummy is hungry?  No.  I will not.

It’s a shadow.  But one that I think is best to see in the light.  And maybe, with time and yes, good healthy cooking, this one might fade away.

Let them grow

So, it’s Monday again.  A whole week zipped by!  Well, maybe ‘zip’ isn’t exactly the word I would use, if I was being precise.  Rather, the week lurched and slogged and bogged and wept and pulled and pushed and shoved itself along.  It was, by and large, a deep indigo kind of week, for me.  So, I went for silence.  But in the silence, this old brain is always on the spin cycle.  Not that I’m saying that that is a good thing.  But there it is.  Spinning; always turning.

Which means that for me to begin a whole NEW week, I need to clear it out. Hence, housecleaning! Hence, a post! Yay!  Booboo went back.  Jon returned to campus.  He was ready.  We never really are.  But I know it was time.  Hopefully he is safe and sound, as it was so late last night that he didn’t text me upon his arrival….I’ll feel better after I hear from him.  But his departure has me gelling some of the swirling random thoughts and actions of this new year, so, here we go:

We moms, or me/mom, have a tendency, I think, to hang on so tight.  You all know I do.  {Maybe this is just an American thing; my french sis-in-law doesn’t have this angst.  Maybe because we are, by and large, such a pampered nation, and we have the utter luxury of raising pampered kids.  So we hang on to them, not tighter in love than other moms around the world, but rather, tighter in attempted control in many ways.  But, I digress.}  Yet, I’m working hard on not so much now; on relaxing my grip a bit.  The loosening is working hard on me.  You wiser, older moms (ARE there any of you out there, older, I mean???? Wiser, surely! But, older? Hmmmmm) already know this.  But, we have to let them grow, up and out and beyond.  And it’s harder than it seems.

When these cute little kiddles are tiny  babies, we are SO in the moment, right where we should be.  We are so fixated, so sleep deprived, so intensively needed that we can’t really be anywhere else.  And, that’s a good thing.  But, soon enough, the baby does sleep through the night, or at least a FEW hours and then we are on to wondering when they will sit, crawl, stand…walk! And, that’s it.

We cheer and whoop it up and marvel at it all.  And we urge them on.  Until, oh about Kindergarden.  Then, they are stepping out, not only out of our lap in our living room, but out the door and into the big world of school.  And we cry.  We moms, we shed the tears and our heart breaks just a bit. Oh, we cheer them too, but with a pang.  And so it continues for the milestones: losing teeth, first grade, middle school, first teams, then high school, teen stuff, jobs, makeup, big humungous mens’ size shoes, driving (extra oh!), dating (extra oh!),  and the biggie: graduation and off to college and beyond.  Whew.

Now, it’s easy, and right and proper, to say, “Of course we cheer them on and guide them through the milestones! Heck, we work our fannies off to get them there and through; physically, emotionally, logistically and financially!”  And we do.  We all do.  But, and now I’ll speak for myself here, I’m just saying that there is maybe, sometimes, a tiny tendency to hold them back.  It can be subtle.  But, all I’m saying is that it’s all too easy to kind of think, “They’re not ready for_______ (fill in the blank)“.   And, really, I’m talking about the small mundane things.  You all KNOW when your kid is or isn’t ready for a sleepover or a camp or a phone or whatever.  But the small day to day things: the chores, the expectations, the bedtimes sometimes, the capabilities….it’s easy to hold them back.

I guess I’m saying that sometimes I might short shrift my kids.  I underestimate their growing up.  Or, I want to close my eyes to it.  But, eventually, the teens need to shave, a small boy reeks and MUST wear deodorant, every day, they really can take a bike ride through the neighborhood without me, or walk the dog alone.  The older son(s) really can take trips on their own steam and dime (yay for that one) and be safe and have the time of their lives.  They really have the judgement to make their own decisions about the big stuff.  The high schoolers do too, on more than it seems.  Or they will fast if I remove the the unwanted safety net of checking on grades and work and whatnot.  Frankly, no matter what I want in some of these realms, those decisions and actions are out of my control anyhow.  They are theirs.  Not mine.

I do them no favors by holding them back or trying.  I must, and want to, let them grow up. Now, I believe in sheltering them when small from  some of the hardness in this world. But my scope there is more limited than I wish and better they learn it from us, with guidance, before they learn it wrong, potentially, from someone else.  With some of my kids, in a multiracial family, some  of those lessons must come sooner than I wish as well.  I have to let them, help them, grow up with wisdom and courage and strength. But to over-manage them, especially after their capabilities are ready for the challenge, does them a disservice.  As a control freak, that is a trap that I can easily step into to, and scowl at the misery that ensues.

So, I guess this post is a reminder to me that my kids will be better and stronger if I let them grow up, into the people they were made to be, rather than clinging to the small youth that they were.  Because they are not, anymore. Even the baby, he is five now.  Sure, a little boy.  But, he too, is growing fast.  And while I am pretty sure that I will always, always, cry at any goodbye…..I hope to embrace and cheer the markers and milestones with less pangs.

To see the change as another layer to the remarkable person this child, that child, is growing into.  No loss.  All gain.  More and more.

Resolutions Redux: simple tuneup?

So, Christmas is now, really, finished.  I have just spent the morning taking down all the decorations and stowing them, vacuuming the needles, giving thanks for having my college boy home to help.  I’ve also completed a minor existential meltdown, and am now lurching out of the hangover from it.  The only way I know how to move out of a surprise trigger overwhelmed exhausted meltdown is not – as my dear husband suggested with concern – to take a nap and blow off the chores.  Rather, it’s to brainstorm and take a clear hard calculating look at just what isn’t working in this house and problem solve to fix it.  I’m guessing that once again renews my membership card in the “Type A” club.  So, yup, you guessed, that takes me right zippity back to those shaky resolutions!

As I ponder those loose resolutions of last week a bit further, I see a trend. I know, I’m a little slow on the uptake, you all were way ahead of me.  Bear with me.  But I see that what I am really yearning for is not just order and control, though of course I am (by my very nature) ALWAYS seeking order and control…but rather, what I’m yearning for is the peace, PEACE, that comes from an orderly manageable life.  I always have my worst snaps of temper when I feel overwhelmed by just having too too many things to do and not enough help to do them or time to try, plus too many moods and attitudes to surf on top of it all.  I’m not saying that to excuse my OWN temper or mood, but rather to sort it through my own dense thick brain stem.  So yes, mom fail today.  Ok, daily, on small to big things, but still……

To allay that sense of kicking through the chaos and detritus in my house, literally and metaphorically, I am kind of resolving, here (eek, publicly)  to resolve a bit better.  (I know, still hedging…..baby steps people, ok?).  But instead of simply resolving to tighten the budget or declutter the house and/or get my aging legs in gear, I am resolving to order the systems in our house a bit. To simplify.  Simply: I want to create a haven.  Our home needs to not only be the required stopping spot, the dumping ground of backpacks and groceries.  Rather our home needs to be a peaceful, happy, haven where kids can come and breathe deep and with a smile.  I want that “Ah” feel, that exhale.  It needs to be  “AH, HOME.”

Too often that exhale gets sucker punched by the latest kid snit or tantrum or pushback; the waves of moods (and their disordered mood/selves, for some, for reasons just beyond their control) can pound our little/big family.  This morning I daresay it got sucker punched by mine.  Sigh.  So.  The need is there.  My desire to do the job to make the systems work for us all to be able to have a calm ordered life, amidst the hustle and bustle, is palpable.  Thanks to my dear son for stepping in and helping with all hands on deck this morning, lifting me right back up.

So, to fine tune those resolutions: Yes, I am being frugal at the market and glad for it.  Yes, I am considering the media firehose that is aimed at my teens, in particular.  Yes, I am decluttering and ordering the house some, but more so, I am eyeballing the systems in place  and tweaking them (laundry/clothing/closet systems, storage, smart use of space to minimize clutter/effort).  And, I resolve not only to take better care of myself by exercises that bring me endorphins AND solace, but I resolve to get enough rest/sleep because I just don’t have the buffer any more to, um, buffer the stresses.

So, Christmas is now finished. We are back to Ordinary Time, liturgically speaking.  Which is ok.  Now is the time to find and order, our ordinary home.  I’m not  promising perfection. But I want to just try to make a little progress.  To simplify a few things.  That will be a good start.  Baby steps, one at a time.  First up, the little boys’ room.  Whoa…..Onwards.

Mom, it’s my birthday!

Oh, my baby is five. And he has told my “It’s my birthday!” today, oh, 83 times I think so far.  And it’s only 8 am.  He says it with wonder and mild surprise, every time.  It makes me laugh.   Happily, he also dives in for a hug each and every time; which makes me grin.  Because yup, it’s my baby’s birthday, and he is five.  Oh happy happy day, to be five.

He is no baby, anymore.  He will be quick to tell you that. And I will be quicker still to tell you he will always be my baby.  But, be that as it may…he’s a rough and rowdy five year old now!

Happy Birthday to my Gabriel!

You came to us, and we to you, when you were just a tiny little toddler.  And now  you have grown into a loud busy wild sweet funny smart big boy.  For your birthday today we will sing songs, take you to your buddy’s party (thanks Beck!) and celebrate double.  We will cook  hot dogs and serve spiderman cake tonight.  We will clap and cheer and hug you tight all day long, for your big birthday.

And so, on your fifth birthday, here is what I see:

  • I see a little boy who runs FAST and jumps high and laughs hard:
  • who loves to make jokes
  • and funny faces
  • and go places, most ANY places will do.
  • I see a big boy who just loves silly things,
  • and be mischievous; as is proper to any true five year old.
  •  I see a boy who is literally too big for his britches,
  • but still loves a cuddle,
  • especially at bedtime and first thing in the morning…
  • unless you’re the dog, and then it’s a cuddle and a nuzzle, anytime!
  • I see a big boy who loves superheroes,
  • especially spiderman and batman,
  • who is learning to read and write his name,
  • but isn’t too too interested in numbers, yet…
  • unless we are counting cookies!
  • My big boy loves to play outside, swim, ride bikes and scooters, and play basketball and jump on the trampoline…
  • but he also loves loves to watch tv (oy).
  • Happily, he loves to also listen to stories and begs me to keep going when it’s time to stop.
  • He still has the little crinkle on his nose when he smiles,
  • and he knowingly uses it to charm…most everyone.
  • My big boy still has, and I hope he keeps, his sensitive heart.
  • It is a big softie of a heart, but it has a little bit of a carefully constructed turtle shell around it too.
  • We try to keep extra special care of that precious part of him.
  • Because his heart, it’s tied to each and every one of ours….
  • our lives would be so much paler and poorer if we missed our Gabe.
  • Because this big rowdy five year old big boy…..?

We are crazy about him!

So, happy happy happy happy happy Birthday to our Gabey!  

It’s an exciting day and we love you so!

FIVE!

Did you hear that? It’s his birthday! What d’ya know?  Too fun!

Epiphany!

It’s the Feast of Epiphany! I love this one!

The Star of Bethleham by Burne-Jones

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.” Matthew 2: 1-12

"Halt of the Three Wise Men" by LaFarge

Now, there is much to comment on about Epiphany….between the eastern and western traditions, the customs, folklore, liturgy, prayers, food (cake!) and so on.

But here is what I think about on Epiphany:  Men came from afar.  Far.  Like traveled and schlepped and persevered.  Following the glow of that star, with wonder and halting trust and maybe some arguing about the wisdom of such a journey (but hey, maybe I’m just projecting my own mode here…it could be…). But, for me, one of the nuggets is that they, quite literally, stepped out in faith.  Followed, but a dim light (sure it’s a big ol star and all, but heck, it was DARK and it was far)….and they kept on taking the next step.  They endured the journey.  Persevered.  They followed.  They followed not because they KNEW for sure what was up or where they were going.  They followed in faith.  And, they were rewarded with seeing Christ  himself.  And a baby! Which is always an automatic grin, right there, but Christ and the Holy Family?  Well, that had to just be a marvel and an awestruck wondrous smile.  They could see touch smell stand in his presence.  And I suspect, if we could but ask them, they would say that it was worth it.  Totally.

Today on this feast, that’s what I’m holding onto.  Following the light, hoping to stand in the presence and  joy of that same light when I finally get there.  In the meantime, following with hopeful perseverance.  That’s my epiphany, today.

Happy Feast Day!  Rejoice!

On the Radio! Radio……

It’s my boy! Ok, my favorite novice friar.  And all his novice brothers.  Every day!

NOON.  Be there or have a slightly less lovely day.  Just saying. NOON.  That’s the time (eastern time, I presume).  You can also find the online streaming, here.

I’m so excited.  I might even get to hear him cantor, which I love, anytime.  Even as a group though, they sound terrific and what’s  not to love about the chanted psalms?  The Mass? I don’t know either.  Anyhow, I’ve even figured out how to download it through an app on my phone for when I’m out and about: TunedInRadio (also RadioNinja, and 00Tunes will find this station).

So if you want a little peaceful break in  your day, at NOON eastern time, tune in Sacred Heart Radio from Cincinnati and listen to my dear boy and his new brothers!  Follow this link to find out more…I love these guys!

This Sacred Heart station streams other EWTN content during the other hours, as does another local link, WRSN radio.  So, lotsa catholic content online and on the airwaves.  But, just in case you’re interested in the new novice brothers…..every weekday at NOON you can hear my favorite guys: right here.

Oh boy!

My boy….last time I saw him…..:

Rickety Scaffolds: Resolutions

So, it’s the new  year! Happy goodness, right!? Well, yeah.  I had a great New Years Eve as I went out to see my dear Dad for his 80th bday and we had a whole big ol’ bash for the celebration, also joined to my sisters 55th bday; a double whammy.  So it was a big deal.  BIG fun.  Full of laughs and goodness.  Exhausting crazy pricelessness.

The birthday kids - I LOVE them!

Now of course though, I’m in re-entry.  This re-entry is doubled and magnified by the whole “new years resolution” tradition.  Now, I’m not a resolver; not usually a “New Years Resolution” kind of gal.  What kind of fool do you take me for? I know  myself well enough to know that I can go on a tear, and then sputter out.  My good intentions are like a firecracker: big show, big bang start, spit and sputter to a sad withered left behind ending.  No surprise there.  And, not so uncommon either, eh? But, I’m feeling the press.  It might not last. But, I’m feeling the press of needing to impose more order on the bedlam of life here in the coffeehouse.  So, for a few bright burning moments of this fresh new  year, I’m brainstorming a bit.  Yeah, got lots of qualifiers in this post. Hence the title, ricketly scaffolds….I know my attention will wane and wander.  But, oh, how great to build a new, cleaner, smoother stronger scaffold for our family life! So, here goes the first brainstorming:

  • I am looking at tighter budgets for groceries and sundries and such.  I’m not so great at serious coupons, but can be frugal overall and am a scratch cook on the good days. And saving/freeing up cash, what’s not to love?
  • I’m looking at time patterns and thinking of ways to cut dreck tv viewing  (none on school nights anyhow, but how to ramp up the worthwhile programs while still engaging teen girls….anyone? The little boys are a snap to nudge into better content…the teens…now there is the challenge!) and improve the quality of media in the house.
  • I’m thinking about my friend and her terrifying inspiring efforts at playful engagement…maybe another post there…still stewing.  But, maybe: game on!
  • I want to really dig in and order the house.  I mean, I was just hanging out for the weekend at my folk’s house and it was a big deep inhale of clear clutter free air.  So refreshing! Such envy!  I mean, sure, they don’t have 8 + kids and various friends and visitors crashing about and all, dropping all manner of items in their wake, but even so…it’s a worthy goal, that ordered home, isn’t it?  To open a closet without the threat of concussion? To peruse a shelf without having to bring a flashlight and crowbar to mine the depths? I think so.  Surely, somehow I must have inherited just one or two of those purposeful organization neat freak genes, right? To that end, I am dreaming thinking of going room by room and clearing, organizing, decluttering (don’t freak out Tom, I did this when you went to Haiti last time  with the schoolroom/dining room and it was fabulous…but such a big job that I sputtered out after that one room).  I want to find a way to purposefully, functionally order the things we need and use, the stuff we might want to access/use I want to neatly stow, and the stuff that we just tend to collect like weird hoarder magnets I want to give away and set free.  I think I leave the kid bedrooms to the last, because that’s their personal space.  It’s tempting to start with them, as they tend to be the worst hurricane sites, but even so, I think I need to start with either the public space or MY junk space, the art room (the catchall room that used to be a garage).  
  • And, last and maybe least, I’m thinking of moving my body more, more intentionally.  By this I mean lasting, sustainable, intentional movement.  Not back to my running days.  My body still has chronic gripes from the beating it took from those long years on and off.  But as I’m looking down the barrel at 50, this year, (I know, still shocks me too!) I am really thinking about longevity and pushing back the stiffness and soreness and tired.  So I’m thinking stretches and walking and such.  Not to sound like an old fogey…but those are where I get lazy. I’m really pretty strong from all the hefting and toting and whatnot that just IS in my daily life.  I walk fast, and zip around…but I think I might need to be better at keeping flexibility and endorphins cranking.

So, rambling finished for now.  Any of you, especially you larger families, out there have any great tips for organizing genius ideas or simplifying households or market or whatever, please leave a comment! Especially regarding the teen media issue…it just keeps getting harder and  harder to raise kids without the sludge of the culture taking too big a hold.  I told  ya, I’m brainstorming!  As I said, these are just a rickety scaffold of ideas and things I’m turning around in my head.  I might just bail on it all as life starts cranking up again, oh, this afternoon.  But, now that I’ve made it semi official by throwing the brainstorm online…I can remind myself when my energy flags!

Happy New Year to All!

Theotokos

Happy New Year!

And Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God.


Sounds simple, a no brainer right?
Doh….Mary gave birth to Jesus. Yup. We’re n the midst of the whole Christmas season, surrounded by nativity scenes, Mary pregnant on the donkey, Baby Jesus in the manger….that’s the quintessential “mom” scene.
This IS one of the uber Catholic solemnities….one of the ones that cause some division. But in my humble opinion, that division is not justified; it’s a tempest in a teapot (to use momspeak). So, why the big deal…”Mary, Mother of God?”

Well that term took some theological argument discussion. Ages ago, literally. Way, way, before the “Big split (into the whole Protestant/Catholic deal).” Even way before any real divide between Eastern and Western Christianity. Because it speaks to Jesus and his Divinity and while it seems obvious, it wasn’t so much…and you know, folks like things really pinned down officially and academically. Hence, long ago – 431 AD – they even held a council of the bishops of the world, those who had received the faith, entrusted to them, on down in succession from the Apostles, to officially pin this all down. Because someone was teaching that Jesus wasn’t divine from the moment of his conception or even birth, but taught that he was elevated to divinity later. Was Jesus divine from the moment of his conception, or was he born only human? Did Mary give birth to a human person or a divine person? Was Mary, or was she not, in that sense, “Mother of God?” Can we even speak those words? Well, God chose and prepared her for Himself, from all the women of all time, to be the bearer of His Son. And while the first person of the Trinity, God the Father is the sole source of Jesus’ divinity, from “in the beginning”, and Mary the sole source of his humanity, by the power of the Holy Spirit these two natures are inseparably, indivisibly, united in the one person Jesus Christ from the moment of His conception – thus declared the great council of Ephesus. And as God’s Son is Divine and not only human, well, then Mary properly IS to be called the Mother of God.
The precise title “Mother of God” goes back even further, at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos.


Really, it just remains kind of mind blowing to me. Mary had the choice to say, “Um, nope, not doing this, too hard, too strange…really? Mother of God? I don’t get it….let me think about it.“ But she didn’t. She said “Yes.” “Fiat.“ And thus the world began to be brought back into the proper order and we were all given the best present ever.
“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
’til He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth”

So today I am looking at icons. Because today, on the last day of Christmas, we celebrate the mother, the Theotokos, the “Mother of God.” And really, icons are about the only way to begin to wrap your mind around all this. Because who can imagine God, really? You can’t. I can’t — not really as He is. And as soon as you think you are…well, you’ve fallen into presumption now, haven’t you? So, icons are perfect for today. They function as “little windows into heaven.” Icons (Ikonos — Images, in Greek) are images of the true Ikon, the one who images the Father, the one who shows us the Father, the face of God, that he revealed to the world “in the fullness of time” born of a woman, of a pure and holy virgin. Whom He loves more deeply, more perfectly than any other son loves his mother, and whom “all generations shall call blessed”.

They are not meant to be realistic or have realistic lifelike perspective. They represent what we cannot fully see with just our own eyes and senses; they image the world beyond the veil, the divine, the eternal. And so today I want to look at these icons and ponder them. Ponder what it means for her to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos…what faith and trust it took to say ‘fiat’, ‘be it done unto me according to thy word.’ To contemplate the fullness of it all and take maybe one or two(or the multitude that I need) lessons from it.

Today ends the Octave of Christmas. The new year is launched. It is set in motion with a remembrance of the greatest faith and hope and love. We step into the new year on the right foot, so to speak. Today we celebrate mom, Mary. I like that so much. And, it’s really no coincidence that it’s also the World Day of Peace. Because we mom’s, we are all about peace: the seeking, the getting, the craving, the searching, the making of peace.
Peace almost always begins with the mom.

Thus, we need today’s World Day of Peace and New Year to coincide with the Solemnity of the Mother of God. It’s a big job, a big day. We need the the biggest hope and love of the best mother….because she brings us her Son.

Mother of God of the Streets, by Robert Lenz

Happy New Year!
Happy Feast day!
Wishing us all a peaceful day and new year to come!

**Reposted from last year, I’m outta town, so bear with  me.  But it’s a great feast day and I want to mark it.