The Mite and the Hydra

Last week’s reading at Mass was about the widow’s mite.  You know the parable: when the poor widow gives all she had at church. And how that offering is worth more, relatively, than the great riches offered by the wealthy man. So often the take away there is focused on how we should give til it hurts, financially. Encouraging us to generosity without fear. In some (questionable) speeches and books it’s portrayed as the sure formula to riches rebounding to you; based on the “God will return a hundredfold…” concept. Well. Yes. God will. But if you think that means that God will immediately return a literal hundred bucks into your wallet if you drop a dollar into the basket……then I will just have to disagree. And change the subject.

But, I have been mulling this over, all week.  I need to sort the tiny threads that are floating about my tired busy distractible mind. Hearing this parable, again, I started to think about how I, and so many moms I know, are just overrun. I know, hard to see that connection to the widow’s mite.  Hang with me.

In our insanely busy modern life, our insanely busy modern days are just slammed. And so many moms are just feeling that they can’t keep up and maybe, maybe, they are somehow failing a bit. Ok, just to be clear, I am now switching to all about me, me me. Because lately, my days are so slamming hectic and I pour out every single bit of energy I’ve got into the kids, the doing, the driving, the tending, the putting out fires, the driving, the soothing, the analyzing, the driving, the doing the doing the doing the doing. And then, every night, I fall into bed after 16-18+ hours of ninety to nothing……..and I feel like, maybe, I failed. Again. Like I gave it my all and fell short. Or, at least fumbled. I fumble it all. Every (literally) blessed day.Then my tunnel vision often kicks in. It’s all I can see. The fumbles and the task list. Then those two things can swiftly make up my entire sense of the day.

The list, that Hydra. It’s beating me. It’s just the same as that mythical monster, one head gets cut off, task finished, and another two spring up in it’s place.  And sometimes I want to cry or cuss because I really feel like I’m giving my all. Everything I’ve got. And it’s not enough.

Or …is it?

Last week I went to confession. It’d been weeks and weeks since I’d been able to go due to soccer games and events and…the list! No time. Literally. The Hydra eating up my time. Hydra heads popping out all over, gaping maws open.   Without confession, regularly, I get smudgy and start fumbling more and more. I cuss more and more. I feel overwhelmed. Which makes me cuss and get resentful.

So confession helped. It always always does, of course. It’s a balm. Peace. Breathing. Meeting with the priest, I started in on my other list: my fail list.  We talked. The priest told me I had forgotten; I had forgotten that I was “dear to God.” That I could breathe. I was giving my ALL.  I was giving my all. And while I felt like it wasn’t worth much (fail fumble…the hydra hissing at me)….it was worth more than I could know.

I’ve been thinking this week (self-indulgently? It could  happen...)…perhaps, perhaps, my offering is something of a “mite?”

In a vision that comes from a different perspective – a divine love – my meager offerings might be worth much more than I count. I am not a ‘widow.’ And yet, I am.  I am poor in my ability to do much, well, or enough, ever. I am poor in true love of others and patience and humility and detachment. But, even so…I was reminded that if I give my all – what I can do out of love – then it is, STILL, worth much.

Ah. Breathe. Perhaps this notion is indulgent.  But I tell you, it’s like opening a window and sucking in fresh air.  It’s ok to recenter and do what I can. That’s enough. And, that, that knowledge that lets my breathe and slash the list to a proportionate size….that is my hundredfold return. It’s not in my wallet. It’s in my deepest core. Worth so much more.

The hydra waits for me to forget, I know. But, if I can, I will work to remember the widow’s mite. My limits, they are what they are though I work, and will, to expand them. My “I can do this much” is poor and not so much.

My mite, however, can be worth much.  My mite is worth the love I put in it, not the success or task number accomplished. Hydra, slain.

Sweet Sixteen

It’s Marta’s Sixteenth Birthday!

I would say we can’t believe it but of course, she’s been anxiously waiting for this big birthday and reminding us and everyone she knows or meets that it is her birthday, today.

If this pic doesn’t say “birthday” I don’t know what does!

Marta is going to have a good year ahead I think! School is going well, as a sophomore  she is back in the groove with the role as the girls varsity basketball team manager (she even has other frosh managers to boss around, she’s in heaven!).  And, for her most special birthday present, she got her hearts desire. No, not to drive, though you’re right. THAT would be her hearts desire.  But, her OTHER desire: to see a concert.  So, she and her sister both got bday tickets to a concert for tonight, each get to bring a friend and Dad and I get to go be the old fogies at the Regina Specktor concert.  I hope it’s teen friendly and fun.  I know it will be a thrill for Miss  Marta, her first concert EVAH…..

Anyhow, our Marta.  You are just such a teenager girl!  Happy moody bubbly sleepy talky fashiony picky silly crazy moody funny girl, through and through.

We wish you the very happiest of Birthday’s.

We love you!

And hope you have a Sweet Sweet Sixteen!

Happy Happy Birthday!

We are so proud of you!

Now, CAKE!!!!

To be seventeen….

Not again, the first time.  To be seventeen the first time is a wondrous thing.

It’s not that gooey overhyped age, SIXTEEN.  Nope, it’s a step forward and beyond to a whole new zone: SEVENTEEN.  Heck, in some ways its such an inbetweener age….but it can’t be ONLY a marginal one can it?  I grew up with Seventeen Magazine (Yes, once again, I’ve just dated myself.  Still).  Seventeen is such an age of…promise.

And my Hannah, it’s her age, today!

Hannah at Scripps, college visit

Yup, my Hannahbanana is 17!

Nope, I can’t believe it!

But, then again, as ever, I can.

Because she is a very different girl from the 16, much less the 15, year old we’ve watched the past few years.  Seventeen is a blooming, not of that fresh beauty – she’s had that!  But of promise.  Seventeen is the age when a lot of that INNER beauty starts to shine forth, the real stuff, the deep beauty.  Seventeen is an age that harbors hopes and dreams and instead of seeing them SO very far off in the distance, too far to touch or feel like they are possible….those dreams are right close.  Those dreams are possibilities.  Those ideas and hopes are just, almost, within reach.  They only need some focus to clear them and strength and determination to meet them.  They need hard work and faith in yourself and the willingness to go get ’em…or fall down trying.  Which is ok too.

Seventeen is when I see my sweet firstborn girl start “owning” the who of her.  She is standing strong now about who she is and what she’s about.  She has ideas of changing the world, maybe a little bit at a time. But I tell ya, she’s got some big plans and I’m cheering her on along the way.  I hope she can, the world will be a better place, our education system needs enthusiastic young folks like her to set it on fire.

She’s got plans for college and beyond.  She’s dreaming big and working hard to finish high school strong and be able to step forward to her next adventure.  She was always, always, stubborn and determined.  NOw, finally, we are starting to see her embrace the confidence to become the Her of herself.  Seventeen, it’s all about the promise that this newly confident and able young person can see…..and, it’s beautiful.

My baby girl is seventeen.  So tonight we’ve got plans for her birthday party with bestie buddies and her traditional birthday…..fondue!  She’s not a cake gal, she’s a fondue gal.  Of course!

We love  you, our Hannah.  

Seventy times seventeen….

We are so proud of you and so happy for your birthday!

Metaphysics in Adoption

By which I mean….in the processing of adoption and the trauma that comes with it.  Always, big or small, young or old, domestic or international.  There are metaphysical questions and pondering all the way through.

See, you all didn’t know you were immersed in such big thoughts now, did ya?

Nope, neither did I.

I’ve been an adoptive mama for almost fourteen years.  I’ve grown along the continuum of thoughts and ideas about adoption.  I’ve ranged from the not totally naive and ignorant (my mom was adopted; I had some exposure within my own family, but still, you dont’ know until you know…ya know?) to the much more experienced, sometimes jaded, but older and hopefully wiser zones.   I’ve adopted, as most of you know, newborn, infant, toddler, older, domestic, international, transracial, special needs, gifted, known trauma, virtual twins, singles,…the list is a long one.  But every now and then I still am just gobsmacked regarding the depths of what this is all about.  I’ve written so many words on adoption.  All of those words are still true for me, even as they sometimes conflict and even as I might be in a different place now, or then.

Today it occurred to me that really, adoption has a very metaphysical layer to it.  Seriously.  And when you’re homeschooling because you’re working on some of those adoption and attachment issues (while not wanting to blow off the whole educating your kid concept), the metaphysics might just rise up and smack you right in the face.

Once again, today was a rough day with the school stuff and my son.  He was just kind of amped and antsy and tough on the connection angle.  I was working the steps of connecting and redirecting and having moderate, sporadic success with his attention, focus and engagement.  I quickly braced for a ‘working day.’  And so we did.  We took breaks from our activities, we redirected, he got his energy out with big physical activity like basketball and whatnot.  It all helped.  But, there, just under the surface, it was bubbling.  Those BIG feelings.  The ones that are just too big and too hard to contain.  The ones that usually come out with just a few small extra wrong nudges, or one ill timed angry tone or sharp sentence.  These big feelings came out as anger, again:  uncontainable, billowing, loud, physical, pushy, mouthy anger.  They were spoiling for a fight.  Nothing was gonna stop ’em, they were like a freight train.  So, thats when, if you’re smart and on you’re game, you step out of the way.  And if you’re tired and not totally on point, you make worse by not disengaging quietly and waiting it out even as you stay present.  These are the ones that rumble and roll, loud and jangly.  It’s kind of like a slam dance.  And yeah, it’s not elegant and it’s loud and can hurt toes and feelings sometimes.  T

This time, his dad talked to him on speakerphone, helping redirect with that dad voice and words.  After he hung up, we started over…but quietly and with a measured distance.  Still too raw, those BIG feelings.  Needing space.  Not a few minutes later they billowed out again.  Rage.  Shouting at me, hard angry words about the reality of me as mom.  Meaning, the accusations of me questioning my reality as mom.  Then, heartbreakingly, the wide eyed words of the deepest hurt lost little boy.  And the wracking tears.   My own heart split in two, again,  I held him and rocked him, sitting there on the step in the afternoon sun.

But now, the rage was gone.  The cracked open space had room to talk. Directly, we talked about how that feels and how it’s a hard hurting thing. Those deep feelings, they are real and ok to have and ok to talk about.  We shuffled through some of those hard places, brushing against them.  The leaves brustled around our feet as the words sank in and the time, I swear, stilled for a few moments.

I felt beyond time and place, I felt our hearts beat together again in this hurt spot.  As my southern sister put it, “All that time brings the safety to make the unconscious, conscious.”  That’s what we have here.  It’s the opening up of space and time and hearts and hurts.  It’s a metaphysical equation.  It’s the beauty in homeschool, for this young boy.  It’s the hard work of adoptive parenting.  It’s the growing and healing of a broken heart in a beautiful boy.  My son.

Some might fault me for writing about this, that someday he might read this.  But, it’s not just about him.  This stuff, the hurt, the BIG feelings, the time and emotions billowing and stilling, ebbing and flowing…it’s all our kids.  It’s adoption.  It’s not considered much, not enough.  But it’s a key component of adoption: metaphysics. Metaphysics studies the essence, the deeps, the origins, the why’s, the hows.

We are called into the deep of it, to see and hear and feel these things, each of us. For our kid’s sake.  Consider the metaphysics of adoption. The essence…..indeed, the heart.

Calling Aunt Melva…Raising Teen Girls

I need to call my Aunt Melva. No, I need to go take an intensive course with her on how she raised her five girls.

I can remember hanging out at their house and marveling at the fact that all the kids there were GIRLS. She had five. My five Arizona cousins. I love them all. I had big times with them growing up. But my Aunt Melva….she’s the one that pops into my head when my girls start driving me crazy.

They look so happy, don’t they? Changes on a dime! {please disregard the dry cleaning…ahem}

This weekend has been one of crazy intensive girls. I mean, the hormones seem to be sky high round here. The moods shift and swing in crazy unexpected arcs. Seriously, it’s enough to make a mom want a drink. Ok, me.

This morning, in the swirling prep time before Mass, I thought I had it together. Gabey is home sick so I’m staying with him and will attend the late Mass. But I surfed a few moods, did some hair, offered tastes of the pumpkin roll to a few…and then the surface starting cracking. Moods. Issues. Thunder rumbling through the kitchen with sparking tears, instantly.

Sigh….  It’s the change of seasons of course: autumn. I love it. But I always forget that while we love the colors and smells and crisp days, it brings the time change or the “Why hasn’t the time changed? Why is it so dark?” issues. Explaining this to M is tough. I just keep telling her it will be better in a few weeks. She’s frustrated. And the clothes. One day it’s very warm, the next awfully nippy. Which is fine and kind of fun. Unless it’s early in the morning and you need to get to Mass. Then, somehow, none of the girls (The boys do fine, they wear the same year ’round practically. So easy…ah….) can find anything to wear. A couple of them have legitimately grown. A couple are done growing. So some need a few more Mass clothes for the cold weather, a few have them…not that they can find them. And when a girl who has big troubles in the morning is pushed to hurry, she is like a T Rex bashing through your kitchen and frankly, it’s tiresome and pushes my buttons more often than not.

So, mom fail.

Not so great when you have a fuss with  your daughter on her way out the door to Mass, and she slams it as she goes.  Sigh.  And all about clothes…which makes my belly hurt because it’s first world problems.  She knows better and is, I know better than to engage and fail.

I need a pro.  I need my Aunt Melva.  She got through these years, with not four but FIVE teen daughters at one time in the house.  It’s the multiples of them that make it ever more complicated of course.  A swirling whirlpool of hyper hormones and flashing eyes.  Aunt Melva, thought, she managed it all with humor and grace, as far as I can tell.

Maybe she’ll come to my house and take up residence for awhile.  Maybe I’ll go hang with her for an interim intensive!  Sigh…teen girls.  I don’t know about you, but I need an Aunt Melva, right next door.

**UPDATE**  So, Mass is such a balm.  Such grace and softening of our hearts, opening them again.  Made up with daughter.  Hugs and laughs.  It helps that this one is such a mini-me..we understand each other to the core, good and bad.  Though even that idea is worth many posts to sort through it all. Oy!  But, the Sunday is restored to it’s proper balance.  At least for the next 5-10 minutes, I hope.

Zombie letters

So, yeah, I’m reading zombie letters {in all my spare time, bwah ha ha}.

Surprise? Maybe.  But you know, that’s just how I roll.  At least, when it’s about a catholic/zombie apocalypse!  That’s right, I’m that hip.

I’ve found the weirdly entertaining epistolary novel, “Ora et Labor et Zombies.”  And while I wasn’t expecting much; because really, Catholic, apocalypse and zombies??? How many things can go wrong with that? Right, that’s what I thought too.  But Julie sparked my interest with her review and so I clicked over.  I love the concept, it’s fun and different in an “everything old is new again kind of way.”  Ryan Charles Trusell has gone all in for his big idea of this little book.  I like that.  I decided to order just the first letter, just because I loved the concept. And, I figured I’d see pretty quickly if it was worth investing any time or money into.

So, first: the letter arrived quickly and was immediately engaging.  It made me want to read more.  Yeah, that surprised me too. I knew I was smitten by the actual form of the letter/book, the tangible hands on craft of it. The artist side of me was pleased by the hand printed cover to the letter, the font, the paper, the idea of it.   But I’m a reader above all, so I reserved my judgement til I started reading…and happily, the writing drew me right in!  Now, it’s an odd position to find myself in: I am charmed by the zombie letters.  Yes, now you know I’m a freak with very eclectic reading tastes!  I guess.  But I am, I’m anxiously awaiting each letter of this book in the mail. It’s fun.

The concept of an old fashioned epistolary novel so appeals to me!  You know I have a new appreciation for the art of letters now, after writing to my son in the novitiate for a year.    I have loved a number of novels written in letter form, it can be a charming device (or a mess.).   And, weirdly, this novel works.  You wouldn’t think, but it does. And you all know, that, for me, it’s the Catholic hook that draws me in and snares me.  But it’s not overloaded Catholic, if that makes sense.  It’s a natural weave of it (as Catholic is, truly, by it’s essence).  At least so far, I”m not finished yet and I’ll let you know if it falls flat as it wraps up.  But, it starts with a bang, with the husband, Tom, writing to his missing wife Ava.  The action picks up from there as the mystery of what is going on unfolds.  I would tell you more, but I am not finished yet, myself.

Now, let me say, this is a real book.  It is written in letters and arrives in  your mailbox, on real paper, via the postman, one to three letters at a time (your pick).  That form, this old fashioned way of reading a novel (think Dickens), is actually working for me right now with my overdrive swamped time of late.  I’m not tempted to ignore the kids and duties and just keep plowing on through the book (which I might do if I had the whole lot in front of me, I get sucked in that way.) Not a cheap read, either, to say the least.  This is what Mr Trusell has to say:

“ON PRICING:   Anyone who is both familiar with the concept of Ora et Labora et Zombies AND good at math has no doubt thought to themselves: $3/Letter x 72 = A Lot Of Money For One Book. 

  Believe me, I’ve thought it myself a few times throughout all the planning and number crunching leading up to its publication. However, the price of each Letter does include postage, and the quality of paper plus the 4-6 page length of each Letter require me to use a 65¢ stamp, this in addition to stationery and printing costs. 

  I think of it as providing a unique reading experience to people for the weekly price of one gallon of gas (maybe) or one cup of coffee (maybe)..”

I agree, it’s pricey….if you’re considering the book as a whole.  True.  But, again, consider it another way: it’s less than the weekly guilty pleasure of that latte and/or the grocery magazine.  It lasts longer and is supporting the arts, in another quirky and yet appealing way. My teen daughter was hooked with the first letter too, so it’s not just this old fogey who is having fun.  This is a retro and clever find in our pervasively digital world.  I’m surrounded by books, both E version and real spilling out of my bookshelves.  But this, this has it’s own original charm and pleasure to it.  I can support the small artist AND writer in an almost personal way…and have a fun read to boot.  What’s not to love?

So, how many things can go wrong with the idea of a catholic zombie apocalypse?  Too many to count.  How many things have gone right? The important things: it’s original, charming, pleasing to the touch and eye and engaging. A simple pleasure.  Fun times.  Zombies.  Who knew?

Peeking at the Horizon

What’s that you say? Well, that means it’s time to venture forth, to go and gaze at the future.  That’s right.  It’s time for the college visit trips.  It’s time to gaze past the high school morass and consider the horizon, scan the vistas ahead. Whoa.

Today my Hannah and I leave for the first of the few college trips.  This one is the mega trip, with the most colleges crammed carefully factored into the itinerary.  This trip has one or a few contenders, but the main goal of this trip is to create the comparison base.  After we return Thursday night, exhausted, she will have seen a wide spectrum of school features: larger, smaller, tiny, urban, suburban, Catholic, secular, pipe dream (a reach to get in), and safety (a fair bet on getting in).  The goal of this trip is inspiration and motivation and just plain info to file and compare.

We are basing, the first main part of the trip, out of my sister’s house in LA.  So, that part of the visit is just pure happy for all of us.  A great place to land when we are tired and eat and yak and decompress.  We will face many hours of driving through traffic in and out of LA every day.  But, it’s all good bonding time.  No kidding. And I’m grateful for it.

I’ve done these trips before, with my big boys.  They were exhausting but wonderful.  Now, to be able to have that time with my Hannah? Oh, I’m so grateful.  The underlying tension between the excitement of the big adventure on the horizon, college, and the frisson of disbelief that it’s so close, already, takes an emotional toll on both of us.  Plus, I’m all about the best education, per each kid’s unique style personality etc, the right fit…but at the same time I’ve been dipping heavily of late into a lot of articles on open-source learning, Gatto, Holt, and the failure of the educational system as it is.  So….is this trip gonna be a little schizophrenic for me? With my mind skipping here and there and back again….um….maybe!   So, I guess the plan is to just live in the moment. Soak it in.  Let her soak it in, all of it.  The decisions come much later.  This trip, it’s for this moment…..and a sneak peek at the horizon.  I’m excited.

Foundation Work

So, as you all know, I brought Little Man home to do school here, with me.  To help him learn to learn and at the same time really work on the attachment stuff that has been pinging on my radar.  Well, this is week three.  By last week even, it became clear that this move was so important.  For now.  Critical even.

It seems that the attachment work best begins at the foundation.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  But, it did.  Does.  A little. And then, not at all.  Because if you’re gonna work on something, you’d best start where it begins, right? Right. And it seems that by  bringing him home we have unsuspectingly opened the doors and provided the time and space and focus to let some of those issues surface.

I know, I’m being obtuse. Not on purpose. Or I  might seem to be rambling.   But, it’s this kind of unexpected strangeness.  A change.  Rather than just helping him get on a better academic route, for his learning style, I feel, very much, like we are working on repairing cracks in the foundation here.  Anytime there is a tough start, {an adoption in this case} then there are cracks that need to be healed/repaired.  There is old hurt and it can and will surface.  Trust issues and issues of self worth can surface.  And it’s oh so easy to sweep them aside in the crazy chaos of our busy lives.  It’s all TOO easy to do it.  But just covering them with the routine, ordered or hectic, won’t actually heal those tears.  It will only cover them.  I want to mend them.  And, now, I have the gift of time and space and place to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, we are learning.  He is learning.  School is happening.  He is so smart that his mind makes connections that make me grin with pleasure.  He grasps concepts and ideas so quickly.  He reads well,  though he much prefers to be read to than to read by himself.  And so, I read to him quite a bit.  Because that is part of the bigger picture, here, now.  Yes, I want to work on his behaviors and quirks and help him learn better and more and well.  But I also, oh so much more, need to work on the repair of that bubbling need to connect, to heal those cracks in that first foundation.

Some of you might say, “But he came home as a baby! I saw  you with him, you two TOTALLY bonded.”  Um. Yes.  Yup.  Did.  And also, “But you have other kids who were adopted, hard starts, what about them?”  Yes.  I do.  I’ve home-schooled a number of them.  This work, school and attachment, foundation work, it all is done on an individual basis – even as it’s done within the larger critical family framework.  And the needs of each shift and change, different needs, ages, stages.  This boy, this year, he’s the one who needs this, in this mode, now.  As he matures, and especially as he grows into a strong boy with BIG feelings and impulses….those tracks are best revisited and reinforced.  Eight years old is a critical era/stage.  Those feelings of value tend to really hammer home right about now, I think.  They are absolutely and critically influenced by their school experiences.  Those feelings of worth and tangled hurt and value, they’d best be sorted through and that value (not a pandering or coddling, a deep core assessment) had best be cemented.  I think, I know, that THIS is the work we are meant to be doing.  Right now.  This is why my radar was pinging and he needed to come home, now.

It’s the most important school. The first school. The deepest most true education of a person.  That they have value and matter, no matter what.  No matter the start.  No matter if they can keep papers organized or get bored quickly.  This boy, he matters.  He is good.

It’s hard work. I didn’t realize so much of it was going to be on the job list, frankly.   It’s exhausting; more so than just learning math concepts or parts of speech. Because when  you patch a heart foundation…it takes work.  The eyes to see and the ears to hear and the timing…well, you don’t get to pick.  But it’s worth the work.  Because, even so, that foundation repair: you might still see the lines of the original splits or dings and tears…but you can make it strong again.  Strong enough to support whatever needs to be built upon it.  Even better, strong enough to support a big adventure, healthy growing life, filled with learning and the ability to love.

Archangels, really?

Today is the Feast of the Archangels!

Now, some of you might dismiss this..slotting the idea into sentimental drivel.  But, I don’t.  Sure, the angel fad of the last few years/decade was filled with a glut of angel images and notions; sentimental drivel and bad paintings and pop culture bleeding into new age pap.  But, when you’re talking about the real deal, the theologically defined “Angel’, or, “Archangel” no less…then you are considering an entirely different being.  Literally.

Angels, Archangels are beings that we can’t really wrap our  minds around.  This excerpt is succinct:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, “[T]he existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.”

Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible.

Angels are messengers.  The Archangels, they are the most exalted of them….they are like the navy seals of the angels.  You don’t send any wimpy or unskilled or incapable person to deliver the most important messages.  You send the most skilled, brightest, strongest of your company/team/family.  You send the one who can get the job done. RIght? Right. Even as a mom, when I need something dealt with and need a representative…I send my most able child at the time (most mature, bright, strong, kind: able).  God is no dummy, he knew that an angelic host was gonna be a big help with us recalcitrant foolish human children.  

So today I’m considering the Archangels.  I’m grateful for them, I love this concept and the actuality of them.  I believe in them, seriously.  Not in a Thomas Kinkade sentimental-light-fairy kind of way.  But in an olympic warrior kind of way.  They are not to be messed with, but rather, considered with wonder and awe and gratitude.

So, today I’m celebrating this feast of the Archangels.  It is – painfully – evident, our stone cold hard world needs them.

Happy Birthday to my Favorite Friar!

Happy Happy Birthday to my sweet son, Brother Peter Joseph!

He is having  his first birthday as an official Dominican.  He is a festive friar today!

And it’s hard to not have him here to hug in person, though over the college years and novitiate, I have gotten to practice that.  But, this year, I’m sending emissaries on my behalf; Tom and three of the girls are on their way to deliver my hugs and wishes, loaded right on top of theirs.

Birthdays for your kid when they are a religious are a little weird, for us at least.  Because what with that vow of poverty and all, we are not really supposed to give presents.  Hmmm.  Which seems to be harder on us than him.  He’s doing that detaching from worldly goods thing pretty well it seems.  Us? Not so much.  That urge to GIVE to your kid to mark the day is really bigger and more ingrained than I ever realized.  Poor Tom struggles with it even more as one of his love languages is gifts.  He is a giver.  He just wants to GIVE something.  So, he’s giving presence this time, in lieu of presents.  Which is, of course, the best gift of all.  {Unless, of course, the visit slips into crazy-making zone…which is likely, every time.  Family, gotta love us, but we are a burden in our own way…ha!}

So, today I will instead of wrapping up a new soft sweater or the perfect quirky something I will be wrapping up a spiritual bouquet of prayers for my son.

And, there might or might not just be a cake, special courier delivery (dad), on the way…..

Happy Happy Birthday Peter Joseph.

We love  you so.

Marking the good: Play-dirt

Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Child fame, has a few common phrases she uses a lot.  These are fun and, even better, they stick in your/my head after you’ve listened to her for a few days at a conference.  One of those key terms is “pay-dirt.”   You all know this term, and use it too, I bet.  I say, “score,” some of you might say “all-right!” some of you might say “booyah!”  I don’t know, but you get the idea.

So, I have to mark the good, again…this time with Little Man.  As you know, we have brought him home to school here, with me.  We need to work on laying deeper tracks of connection; these should help his learning fly.  That’s the theory and I’m pretty sure it’s a good one.  That said, it’s a little bit of a steep learning curve on how to work well together.  We are working on finding the right rhythm to our days as well as the right stuff to work on.  We are making good progress I think, too.  But I’d be lying if I said it was without fits and starts (literally) and without some meltdown and temper.  Recovering from those breaks in connection can be challenging.  For both of us.

One of the great things about the timing of this conference I attended a few weeks ago {and there are many}, is that the importance of that connection was reinforced, many times over.  Tools to find that connection were laid out, and tailored to some of the challenges that can push it back.  Attachment can be hard work, and happily for so many of you, you don’t need to fully “get” the concept or do that work.  But we do, in our house.  We do for so many, I dare say all, of our kids.  Because our family is non-traditional and most of my kids have come to me from a tough start.  And that, without fail, means attachment work is paramount, ever.  WIthout attachment, the train stops (another Purvis’-ism‘).  And my goal, for all my kids, but especially this Little Man…is for that train to be cruising at it’s full speed.  And I think that speed is, someday, going to be supersonic.

So, what I have found is that the best of homeschool for him is the DOING with ME.  Not that I’m all that; but for some reason….he seems to crave that connection with me, go figure.  And I’m feeling just the same way toward him. But, of course! However, as it does on any and/or every day…our train stops.  It breaks down.  His mood can change on a dime.  A flash.  And then, he’s gone.  Disconnected.  Angry.  Unreachable.  Pushing back and away.

While he was IN school, regular school, my mode had to be “the enforcer”…much of the time.  “This is the deal, get it done, gotta do this, due tomorrow, c’mon buddy, enough, ok?” Basically sitting on his head to make the list get done. His list, my list, the family list. He didn’t like me much, much of the time.  Heck, I didn’t like me much, much of the time!  Now, in homeschool, we still have stuff to get done.  But we are a team with it. That’s how we’ve structured it, so far.  He is doing some stuff independently, because he can.  A lot, we do together.  We read every day on the sofa together: history and good fiction.  And he snuggles in and we talk about the connections that leap from his freaky smart fast brain.  If I need to reel him back in even closer, we will pop some popcorn and munch as we read, chilling…together.  Pay-dirt.

But, there is still a need for me to set myself aside.  For this boy.  To find that pay-dirt.  And now, a few times, it has been a need that I have to step myself through, with hard focus and intention.  Stupidly.  But still.  Like this: last week he had a big ol meltdown one day.  Big.  Angry.  Loud.  I found myself getting loud back and very frustrated.  All that Purvis stuff was GONE.  Not in MY brain, or mouth, or head.  Finally, I thought to just sit near him.  Let him be angry but if I was quiet and stopped pushing, his mind could reset from lockdown and open up again. I hoped.  But I was tired, so I wasn’t sure.  After a bit, he pulled out his lego’s with questioning eyes, “Can I?”  I nodded, still going for quiet.  So he started piecing them together, constructing his fantastic imagination in front of us.  I watched.  Tired.  Discouraged.  A fair bit blue about how to offset these meltdowns.

After a few minutes he looked up at me and said, “Mom, will you play with me?” And I looked into his sweet face, now wide open and seeing me again.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Both of us, tired but open to each other, again.  Now, did I WANT to play? Um, sadly, no.  I wanted to go to my own space, read, potter around, decompress, mix a martini maybe (kidding!….mostly)  But, I also WANTED and NEEDED to reconnect more than even those more grown up options.  So, I said, “You bet.

So I snapped legos together and helped him look for one he needed.  No big deal, right? Ha! I say.  A big deal.  More: Pay dirt.  No, Play dirt.  His level.  Connected.

Play dirt.  The best kind.  And so we begin again.  And it’s good.

Restart, with the Fundamentals

We are in the midst of a sea change here in the coffeehouse.  We have made the difficult decision to have Little Man come on  home to do school here, with  me.  Now, we have been homeschoolers from years ago.  School decisions are a per kid, per year, per circumstance decision.  Things shift and change all the time, especially with kids…especially with educating kids.  What might work well one year, doesn’t the next.  What might work badly one year, might be brilliant the next.  Thus, we leave the option of change wide open.  But, we don’t change without tremendous consideration, prayer, study and evaluation….mostly because I stew about things.  But hey, at least it’s not impulsive.

Anyhow, all that is to say that we are back to homeschool, for one: my Anthony and third grade.  The other kids are all doing great, so they are still at school.  He was not.  He is a kid with some issues and layers and this year at regular school (and we love our little school)….the new year has not been good. It’s been eroding connections around here and that, well, it’s unacceptable.  So last week we made the final decision to bring  him home, bring him close.  He’s super smart this kid.  The academics are not the issue.  The attachment is the issue.  We think that if he is supported in working through and building attachment and connection (and this conference last weekend totally hammered this home) then he will both  mature and be able to fly higher with his school.  I’m not willing to accept his frustration escalating and thus his skills and attachment eroding…I”m shooting for gain, for take off. So, for now, he is home.

Monday was the start.  And, what better first task, than to start with the most basic of…everything:  Bread.  Yup.  Anthony made his first loaf of bread, ever.  We read my recipe together, he measured, he stirred, kneaded, waited, watched, shaped, and baked.  It was science and math and cooking…but it was bonding.  He did it. He was thrilled.  So was I.  It was yummy goodness.  And in that first day, we had more CONNECTION than in the past month, altogether. But, it was serious, true eye to eye, intentional focused connection.  (We did other stuff too, not only cook…don’t get all judgmental….)

Anthony, first bread ever and it was delicious!

Now, can you say “Honeymoon?” I can!  Because yesterday, day two, was really tough.  So, we had a one day honeymoon.  But, while it’s tempting to be discouraged, I’m gonna chalk this whole week up to the choppy waters of changing seas.  We, I pray, will find our sea legs.  And we will figure out what works and what doesn’t, the timings, the flow.  If  you have a thought, toss a prayer for us our way.  This is important stuff.  Sure, the school stuff, the academics, it’s super important, vital.  But the connection and heart of this boy? Critical.  It’s everything.

Day two, messier in every sense of the word….but…it’s a work in progress, right?

She is Us

For Every Mom; Lady of Sorrows

drawing by Kate Kollwitz, 1903
Today is the day we remember Our Lady of Sorrows.
Oh, there is so much to this one…
As a mom, this resonates with me.
Ok, maybe as an older mom it resonates.
As a mom of sons who’ve gone to college, who has sobbed goodbye to them…
as a mom who has given her son back to God, as he has vowed himself to God and to thereligious life…
as a mom of kids who come from hard places and  have endured hardship and trauma…
as a mom who has held other mom’s babies and children across the world in dark hot smelly orphanages, waving flies off their face as I feel their damp bottoms but also their arms clinging to my neck, or see them lying limp in my arms just gazing out – disconnected…
as a mom of kids who have struggled with different needs, some of them very hard and/or intense…
as a mom of kids who’ve gone through life-threatening events and as a mom who has sat vigil bedside in the PICU….
gosh, as a mom who has lain awake countless nights worrying over  her kids…
over things big or small….
As a friend to moms who have lost children…
as a friend to moms who’s kids have been in the PICU, or hospital too….
as a friend to moms who have had kids go through the hardest scariest time in their lives and/or those of their parents…
goodness, as a mom who WATCHES THE NEWS, for pity’s sake…
….this memorial is for the mom
It’s for me.
 It’s for YOU.
 It’s for US.
A mom.
Any Mom.
EVERY mom.
This memorial is for us.
Because our Blessed Mother, she is us. 
Our Sorrowful, Blessed Mother, she is us.
She is every mom.
She is the mom giving  her portion of food for her hungry child.
She is the mom sitting bedside by her sick child.
She is the mom who weeps sending her child off, to work, to college, to a new life in a new country.
She is the mom who wishes she could hurt so her child doesn’t have to.
She is the mom who carries them, bodily, but also in mind and heart….all day, every day, all night, every night.
She is the mama.
She is us.
She gets it.
And she helps us carry it all….all those things that no one but a mom can fathom, truly…well, she does, she ‘fathoms’ it to her core.
As I have had some major transitions with my older sons this past year or so…as I wept and grieved and even grinned at the goodness of it despite the pangs……my eldest reminded me,  “Our Lady of Sorrows mom….the litany, it will help.“  I nodded, and do again.  It was all I can do, then, and it’s one of the best things I can do, now: to remember.  To pray and crack open my heart in solidarity with our Blessed Mother.  With you, all the other mothers.
So…with that, I give you this, it helped me then, and it is a reminder that she is not just the remote Mother of God.
She is everywoman.
Every mom.  Us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, .
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, 
pray for us
Mother of the Crucified, pray for us
Sorrowful Mother, pray for us
Mournful Mother, pray for us
Sighing Mother, pray for us
Afflicted Mother, pray for us
Foresaken Mother, pray for us
Desolate Mother, pray for us
Mother most sad, pray for us
Mother set around with anguish, pray for us
Mother overwhelmed by grief, pray for us
Mother transfixed by a sword, pray for us
Mother crucified in thy heart, pray for us
Mother bereaved of thy Son, pray for us
Sighing Dove, pray for us
Mother of Dolors, pray for us
Fount of tears, pray for us
Sea of bitterness, pray for us
Field of tribulation, pray for us
Mass of suffering, pray for us
Mirror of patience, pray for us
Rock of constancy, pray for us
Remedy in perplexity, pray for us
Joy of the afflicted, pray for us
Ark of the desolate, pray for us
Refuge of the abandoned,pray for us
Shiled of the oppressed, pray for us
Conqueror of the incredulous, pray for us
Solace of the wretched, pray for us
Medicine of the sick, pray for us
Help of the faint, pray for us
Strength of the weak, pray for us
Protectress of those who fight, pray for us
Haven of the shipwrecked, pray for us
Calmer of tempests, pray for us
Companion of the sorrowful, pray for us
Retreat of those who groan, pray for us
Terror of the treacherous, pray for us
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs, pray for us
Treasure of the Faithful, pray for us
Light of Confessors, pray for us
Pearl of Virgins, pray for us
Comfort of Widows, pray for us
Joy of all Saints, pray for us
Queen of thy Servants,pray for us
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled, pray for us

Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin, That we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ.

**Full disclosure:  I wrote part of this last year, and part of this, this morning.  But I feel just the same…so, I’m reposting. Plus I’m attending the Empowered to Connect conference and really, it’s all about THIS.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post….to come!”

Feast of the Cross: the Triumph


Triumph? A cross, really…..?

 Dali, of course.

Today is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
Which always seems all counter-intuitive.  Like we Catholics and Christians have lost our collective minds.  Really? A cross? That horrible gory ghastly unspeakable death?  Or, that so common it’s lost it’s punch story of the crucifixion….yeah yeah yeah, I know I know.  Easy to kind of give a mental nod to it and move on, right?
Well, yeah……..except when it’s YOUR cross.
Because that’s what this is about: You.  Your cross too.
By which I mean, mine.
And then it all takes on QUITE a different tone doesn’t it?
Because these “crosses”…..doggone if they don’t HURT!
Like HELL!

Yeah, see, you get the idea.
Takes me a while and I still forget, but yeah.
That’s the idea.  Because you don’t get to Christ without the Cross.
But you don’t.
And really, you don’t even want to. No, really, think about it, you don’t…because it is in our suffering that we strip away the dross, the unimportant, and find the realest of real, the true.  It is in that process that we find what is most important about our lives, ourselves….and it is always the same truth: Love.  And that of course, is God.  God is love.  Done.

Why it takes the Cross to get that through our stubborn mulish heads I don’t know.  I guess because I am so stubborn.  Such a mule.  Such a slow slow learner.
So proud. So controlling.
All of that has to be kicked out of me, again and again before I can set it all down and give over….
so that I can let real love wash over me, the way it’s supposed to instead of the way I’d like to direct it…. to learn to actually LOVE, in action and deeds instead of only good intentions….to just do it {and yes, I”m still working on it, thanks for asking…sigh}.

And it’s that. In the doing, where we find the love, even as we might be carrying the cross.  Then too is when we see the triumph, yeah, even the exaltation and joy of that very cross, so despised before.  We see it’s beauty.  Because it transformed…..everything.  It transformed suffering. It transformed ugly, and pain, and horror, and fear, and weeping, and exhaustion.  It took it all and flipped it inside out….into our very reason for shouting and clapping for joy, for hugging with grateful tears, for that catch in our chest when we know that it’s ok, not even ok, but oh so unspeakably good.
Because it is love.  It is our suffering, which is our giving to the last drop of ourselves that we go the cross, Christ’s cross, and only then do we get to really learn what it means to really love, in the way that is real.
Love that word.
Today’s the day to remember it.


“We adore you Oh Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.”


{full disclosure: I’m reposting this from years past because today I am going to this conference, with this dear friend and it’s a busy day}

Conscious Parenting….

So, I’ve been stewing about a constellation of things lately…possible sea changes around here, fine tuning, redirecting, and so on.  And, happily, this Friday and Saturday I will be here at the terrific Empowered To Connect Conference.  I went last year and it was amazing.  So good. I’m due for a refresher on it all…and I’m excited to go this weekend!

Today, I saw this video.  Not the same source at all, but another fantastic source for thoughts on connection and attachment and adhd and intentional parenting, of smalls and teens and everyone in between.  Gabor Mate has written a few of my favorite parenting resource books: Scattered (about ADHD) and Hold Onto Your Kids.  He is a thoughtful, credentialed, excellent researcher, therapist and source for information.

If you’re interested in intentional parenting, check this out, below.  It’s a great advance prep to get my brain in gear for the conference this weekend too.  It’s worth your time and attention.  It’s all about Conscious Parenting.  Look….


h/t to Hattie Heaton 

Eyes Open, Marking the good: Teen Americana

Once again, I must do a post on Marking the Good.  I have posted in this series before, here, and here, and here.  The upshot of this series of posts is that all too often we (meaning, me) get too wrapped up in the hectic mill of the chaotic days and even more, trapped in the cycle of cynical.  Well, it’s a trap for me at any rate.  When you’re parenting a child with special needs and or a tough background, it’s a high risk trap: that cynical thing.  So, in order to attempt to stem that tide, now and then I look up and post some good news.

We have just had a very big event in the house, a very big event for our Marta.  Even though it’s early in the school year, our high school just had Homecoming (schedules can be wacky things, set the year prior).  About two weeks ago I got a phone call from Marta’s teacher and she wanted to let me know that our Marta had been voted as the sophomore class pick for Homecoming Court.  (Each class picks and votes in a girl to be part of the hoopla, to represent their class/grade).  Well, this year, they picked Marta.  Really!  And, because I am cynical, I had them check it out to make sure that in no way was the vote tinged with joking or malicious intent.  Now, don’t judge me.  It’s that protective thing – and you’d do the same thing in my shoes I betcha.   Anyhow, it was legit!  And so, a few weeks ago, Marta came home, lit up about “select me” to be on Homecoming.

So, we buckled up for the bumpy roller coaster ride!

Why bumpy? Why a roller coaster?  Because while this was out of the blue and exciting and kind of amazing…it also meant that we faced two big things: anxiety and ‘feeding the monster.”  Anxiety, because Marta is FILLED with anxiety over new things and needs to feel she can control every tiny detail and so on.  “Feeding the monster” because she already feels she is something of the school “Princess” and that everyone “selects” her.  So…..I wasn’t sure how to offset all that, nor was her teacher.  So, we all agreed to just RIDE THE WAVE.  (To mix all my metaphors through this whole post. It’s early, I’m not fully caffeinated..leave me be.)

So, we did.  There was a lot of crazy.  There was a LOT of excitement.  There was a lot of anxiety.  For two weeks.  And last night was the big event.  It was Homecoming on the football field at halftime! All the girls primped: the specially made dress (seamstress, fittings, oh my), the friend doing her hair after school, the sparkly shoes, the makeup by her sister, the nerves, the pictures, the buddy to escort her (Sweet boy, super nice friend).   Turns out it was POURING about an hour before the game.  Nerves worry worry (for everyone!).  Then it cleared and just left the hottest steamiest summer night of the  year.  Which is great, except for the hairdo’s….oh well.  Slice of life!  Anyhow, Marta carried it off very well. She was a nervous wreck.  She was SO excited and so happy but also so shy about being on the field that we could barely get her to look up!  Good thing we got some cute pics before!

The great thing about this whole roller coaster surfing tsunami (there, now I’ve really done it..) is that Marta felt like a million bucks.  Her sweet wonderful friends at that school made T-shirts that spelled out “We love Marta!”  How great is that?

Love these girls! So great!

Really, how great is that?  Yes, it made me both grin and blink a few tears at the same time.  And as I hustled over to the stands as the whole Homecoming court walked out onto the field, I got a spot smack in the center and handed the camera to Tom so I could shout and clap and yell with the best view.  I had her Tshirt brigade to my left and my littles by my side and her big sister and Hannah’s friends to my right.  All of them, us, standing on the bleachers, shouting and hooting and yelling for Marta.  She laughed, lit up, and looked down, again and again.

And I watched her big sis, my eldest daughter, scream for her sister and I blinked.  Because they have a complicated, jealous both ways, relationship.  And I was so proud of her too.  And I watched and grinned with my little boys and my other girls as we all yelled and clapped.  And I watched the students genuinely shout and clap for our Marta.  And it kind of made me shake my head in wonder.

This complicated tiny girl…she has a way of drawing people to her.  And it makes me laugh and ponder.  And this one night, she got the amazing chance to be a princess.  I usually hate all this kind of high school drama and hoopla.  But last night, and this time, I was grateful.  Because only here, in this special school, in our little town, would this girl  – who came  here a few years ago from around the world – be able to soak in and experience this uber-American teen experience.  And it made her feel like a million bucks.

Was it a rollercoaster? Oh. Yeah.  But, overall, a great ride!  And every time we jokingly call her a new (temporary?) nickname…..she grins a megawatt smile.  Just like a Princess….

A Saint for the Rest of Us…

…meaning, this is the saint of the wild, the procrastinator, the know it all in each of us…
Its the feast day of St. Augustine!

Ok, most of us know Augustine.  But just in case: this saint, from north Africa, {born in Tagaste, in Africa, in 354} is one of the biggies: a Doctor of the Church and one of the great writers throughout Church history. I like him for so many reasons, not the least of which is his connection with his mom and her devoted prayers for her son. You know, I will always have a soft spot for a mom and son….

His teachings are noted throughout Christendom for their lasting influence and, simply put, their beauty. Sure, yes, of course, their brilliance and wisdom too.  But….it’s important to remember how he started, I think.  He started on this road with a left turn – years of living a life that was wild, utterly hedonistic, and dipped into all sorts of heresy and convoluted ideas of god…..but when he returned to the Faith, he did so in a big way, using his brilliant mind to convey the beauty of Truth to generations to come.

Indeed, this is the antiphon from evening prayer tonight:
“Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, 
late have I loved you.  
You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.”

Late have I loved you…“ Indeed. And perhaps, that is part of his appeal to so many, so many of us (ok, me), have really felt that, lived that. Late.  I loved you late. I missed so much, for so long. The “band width” of my life was so slim, so small, and I didn’t even know it. I was fooled by the hedonistic life (now I”m not saying wild, let me be clear…not too much so or compared to today’s standards, anyhow.  Ahem) I lived into thinking it was so wide. I was arrogant enough to think I knew it all. Only, later, later when I finally let go of my grip on that did I finally come to realize how very very limited and small it all really was.

And it was then that this saint, St. Augustine, once more, came through for me with one of his most famous prayers:

“You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.“ 

Ah. I know, I’m paraphrasing that quote, but that’s how it sticks in my head and heart. And that about sums it all up: St. Augustine, life in general, me in particular.  Late.  Too busy to stop and see, to stop and hear, to stop and love.  For the real depth of it, the real deal.  Late.  But, not never.  So, for all of you busy hectic procrastinators and or know it all’s out there (like me)….St Augustine, he’s your man.

icon written by Nancy Oliphant

Really, it’s never too late to wake up to love.  
Thank goodness!
Happy feast day!
St. Augustine, pray for us!

Feast for the weary moms: St. Monica


I am traveling all day today, so im reposting this.  I love this saint!  I hope i can just post this…having connection issues….but i want to remember Monica, she is a faithful friend and example:

Its the feast ofSt. monica!  Monica is special in so many ways….and especially special to me.  She hails from North Africa, so many forget that about her and Augustine..But I love her because she prayed without ceasing for her son (and her husband). I mean, it’s fairly widely agreed that her fervent prayers, and persevering ones, were effective in the conversion of her wild boy, Augustine.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  To fully understand why she is such a role model for me (and moms in general)…read on….

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie
Monica was from North Africa, and from a culture where women didn’t always have the amount of power that we enjoy today (ok that was worldwide, but still…to set hte stage here…).  She was married to a tough husband and had a mother in law who hated her.  Not easy.  Even so, she weathered her Mother in laws barbs and she prayed for the conversion of husband….which he did, on  his deathbed.  Then there was her son.  You mom’s of teens, listen up:  Augustine was a son that would give any mom fits!  In our era raising him would mean many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy, and possibly many a tsking talk with her girlfriends as they worked.  Maybe she had to be quiet and weather the gossip about him…not easy…but OH so much fodder for it!  Her son was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry; ok, trouble…the kind of trouble we moms go gray over (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and that he was Good (capital G good) and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself. So, not only were her prayers answered, they were abundantly answered!  How cool is that??

I am just pretty darn sure that ol Augie’s conversion (as he might have been called in his party days) was in large part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. See that painting, just above?  It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine…see that intensity, this mom means business!  And no matter what trouble he got into, Monica didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)…..….but she never stopped loving him.

And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever. We mom’s can’t give up…it’s one of the things that keeps the world spinning correctly on it’s axis.  I know it.


Happy feast day, moms! 

St. Monica, pray for us! 

78 Hugs for my Mom

It’s my Mom’s Birthday today!

She is 78!

And this post is short and sweet because I am visiting her, on her birthday! How often does that happen? Not so  much.  But, we had tickets about to expire so, I grabbed them and here I am!

I get to hug her in person, my goal is one for each year…she’s feeling sqooshed right about now I think.  But, she is just one of the most special people in my life and I think she’s wonderful.

She’s my mom.

I love her.

Last May, most recent pic of my sweet mom (and dad)

So glad I get to be with you today! Happy Happy Birthday!



Because it’s always about the hair…

So, I’m switching things up for a moment, because this blog is as close as I’ll ever get to a scrapbook and so I’ve gotta document this for the record (and for me ever feeble mind).

So, redirect your attention away from our more recent lofty topics of religious life and the pondering of vows and prayer and an intentional life…and let’s have some girl talk.  Let’s talk about  hair! Because, if you’re a girl, and if you’re a girl of curls…well it’s ALWAYS about the hair.  Right? Right!

Now, having five kids with curls of all types, we’ve been talking about, learning about, practicing, doing, and stewing about hair for, oh….almost fourteen years.  That’s right.  So, some might say that I’m an old hand at this…meaning a ‘seasoned pro.’  Um, literally, I AM an old hand at this.  But, I am no hair gal/pro. I’m just a mom.  A white mom even, which can well be considered a handicap.  And I’ll take all the “cut me some slack” points I can get, ok?  One of my daughters, in particular, has had an intensive hair journey, complicated by her, um, complications…. but even so, we’ve done just about every hair style that I can think of, short of color or wigs (and that I will leave to her purview when she’s geriatric)….

She’s gone from baby puffs, to baby twists and braids and clips and bling…to bigger girl ponytails and plaits and bangs and press and freestyle and on and on….

Some of  you may remember when we loc’ed our Sarah’s hair.  That was a big decision; made for many private reasons, but mostly because her hair was breaking like mad and it was the strongest safest way to get her hair to grow, and not have to fuss with her about it.  It let her be her without fooling too much (read: beyond her ability to deal) with her head all the time  And it worked!  The locs grew and looked terrific.

But, eventually, she became a preteen and wanted to conform a bit more, fit in, not be different.  So, since she already had that “feeling different” thing pegged/built in (being an African American girl w/ a half white family), I felt it was only fair to let her enter her teens on her own terms.  Now, most of the time when you step away from locs, you CUT them off.  You go back to the TWA (teeny weeny afro).  The big chop.  Because, all that hair, it’s, um, LOCKED together.  But the big chop….that was not on her wish list. A tough gig for a middle school girl.  So, I took them down. It was a job.  You can read about it here.

Then she wanted to do the press and curl thing.  So we did.  Every few weeks at the ever wonderful Mary’s hair salon.  Then she turned 13.  And you know, that’s a Teen.  Capital “T.” Yeah, makes me shiver too.  But, that meant that she wanted to flip her hair, do it herself, pull it back easy for sports, and so on.  So. I caved. I let her get the perm.  And, of course, she looked beautiful (tho I missed the locs at this point).  But, she always looks beautiful, because she is.  But, sooner rather than later, her poor fragile hair started breaking.  My heart started to seize because all those years of growing with locs and then taking them down and not cutting, the babying the hair….gone in an instant.  You don’t spend over 40 hours taking down locs to be happy when that hair breaks off.  Sigh.  Her hair is just too fragile to perm.  And IF, IF, she could manage it and baby it and take extra tender loving care of it…then maybe, maybe, she could perm it.  But she can’t.  And, before you swing your fingers to point at me, asking why I don’t do the hair care for her….she WON”T LET ME.  It’s that teen fussy thing, ok?

So over this past spring I just delayed, on purpose, the touchup of her perm.  Then I started talking to her about growing it out.  Her sister had already long decided against any more perms (though she can manage her own hair, easily, with only occasional braids from me).  Finally she agreed that she wasn’t happy about the breakage and didn’t want any more perms and maybe it was best to ‘go natural.”  And so, that is now the next step along this lifetime hair journey for my sarah.

She chose to go natural.

She is transitioning.  NO.  She WAS transitioning.  All summer.  But transitioning hair is incredibly fragile too and at the line between permed and growth it just wants to break. It’s super hard to manage.  The different textures fight with each other, in styling, in care….and the hair loses.  We limped along through the summer with lots of protective braiding and conditioning and just being easy in the summer.

But, finally, sweet Sarah, who resisted the big chop for many weeks, said, “Mom, you can cut, it, if you think I have enough new growth.”  So.  We measured.  We checked with mirrors.  And, then, we both took a deep breath and I…snipped.  Slowly.  Bit by bit in front of the mirror.  Every cut, she okayed.  “Here?” I asked.  “Yeah.”  She said.  And that is how our Sarah got her second, but better and longer, big chop.  But her big chop this time had just about 3+ inches of growth.  And it wasn’t a teeny weeny afro at all! It was a small to middle size beautiful afro.

I swear her hair sprang soft and smiling in thanks.  She did too.  She found her earrings, she found her headbands, she put her hands through her hair…and she smiled.  A few days later, she even said to me, “I think my hair looks good.”  It does sweet Sarahbird.  It really does.

My daughter.  She is strong and brave and all about the fashion….I think she rocks her afro and looks simply gorgeous.  She has amazing beautiful hair, naturally.  And that is the way it will stay…..(fingers crossed against teen crazyness)……

Fledging Friars, or, The Vows

The Novices have stepped out of the nest.

Now, they fly.  They are a flock of fledging friars!  Sorry, guys, no disrespect. Just a little mom fun.

Seriously though, as you all know by now, last Wednesday, on the Feast of the Assumption, my son and his nine novice brothers took their First Vows.

These are also known as Simple Profession.  They are the vows to the Dominican Order and religious life as a Student Brother for the next 3.5 years.  They are the last step of serious discernment before Final Vows, aka Solemn Profession – where they will (God willing) take a vow to God himself to live the religious life with the Dominican Order, until death.  Yeah.  Read that one again! Wow.

Even these First Vows, seemingly much smaller (3 years versus the rest of their lives), are so big.  Because if they weren’t awfully sure that they were called to this life, and loved it, until death, they wouldn’t have taken First Vows. They are that big.  In fact, Peter Joseph (my Chris) told me after the Vows that the Final Vows are rather considered a confirmation of their first vows; that First Vows are the ones that are marked with the anniversary.  !! Yeah, good thing, I suppose, that he told me that after the Vows, because I was leaky enough….if I had known, I would’a been UNDONE.

So, I have much to say and describe (of COURSE I do).  But, I think the best way to start this off is to link to the most excellent homily given by Father Brian Martin Mulcahy OP, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph. Permit me this excerpt, because I cried through this part, so I’d like it more focused (literally) in print, here (go read the whole thing for the full context):

You and I should see the Religious Profession of our ten brothers this day not as some isolated incident in their lives, which we may or may not understand, but rather as a further unfolding of the Paschal Mystery in the life of each of these ten men in all his individuality. What do I mean by that? Their act of vowing themselves to the Lord in poverty, chastity and obedience, which they will do in a few short minutes, one after another, is a further manifestation of the Mystery of Christ’s Life, Death and Resurrection being revealed in the life of each of these ten men, this Mystery into which they were incorporated through their Baptism, through their Confirmation, and through their faithful receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.


To the parents and godparents and families of our ten brothers, present with us today: as you watch your son kneel down and make his vows as a Dominican friar, see in this act, freely chosen by your son, a flowering, a blossoming of the gift of New Life in Christ, which you asked to be bestowed upon him when you brought him to the waters of baptism. It is the Lord Jesus, in His fidelity to the promises He made to your sons on the day of their baptisms, who today draws them more closely to His own Heart through their profession of the evangelical counsels and who exhorts them to “run in the ways of perfection.”


It is easy for us to be overwhelmed by the enormousness of what these ten men do here today in vowing themselves to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, especially because we cannot know exactly what road lies ahead for each of them. However, we must not lose sight, either, of the immensity of Christ’s love that has brought them to this moment in their lives, Christ whose voice it is they are responding to, and whose unwavering fidelity toward them is the only thing that makes their desire to be faithful to Him even possible.


But we can have every confidence that Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, will, in His Goodness, continue to manifest His life, death and resurrection through the lives of our ten brothers, will continue to call forth from them abundant fruit, fruit that will last for the building up of the Kingdom here on earth, until He returns, when they too, each in his proper order, will share fully in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Peter Joseph making his First Profession with Father Brian Mulcahy, Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

I’ll post more about the hoopla of the vows.  But this, for today, is the essence of why it’s so big.

The Novices have moved into the next step.  My favorite friars are on their way!

Happy Happy Joy Joy Birthday Boy – 51!

Happy Joy Birthday Boy…to my Tom! 51 Today!

It’s been a bit of a weekend long celebration.  The family party was Saturday night as we had the rare and wonderful occurrence of ALL the kids home at the SAME time!  I never really imagined we’d get there, but that is no longer the norm and it’s extra special.  I’m a bit overcome, every time.  It’s just that big a deal.  So, it was fitting that we decided to celebrate Coffedoc’s bday a day or so early…in order to relish the goodness of it all, with all!

At First Profession/Vows. Best gift: all boys home!

Thus without further ado, I’m marking this birthday of this happy boy, my sweet Tom, with just a few pics of his best gift: A full family weekend.

Tonight I’ll take him out on a solo birthday dinner date, where we can catch up and marvel at the goodness in our lives and in gratitude for his birthday.

Happy Happy Happy Birthday Tom!

I hope all your birthday wishes come true, I love you so!

51! His expression is goofy. He’s not sad, I’m just choking him by accident…..

Leaving All Things Behind….

This is a video of First Vows.  This video is from two years ago, it’s the Vestition ceremony (private with the Novice Community only, in their private chapel) where they receive their habit and religious names. Different than First Profession (aka Simple Profession, First Vows), but the concept and reality of “leaving all things behind” is the same and this gives a feel for the Mass that we will be at today.

Today we will watch our first born son take make Simple Profession, aka First Vows.  Today he will become a Dominican Brother, no longer a Novice.  He will now have an O.P. after his name, for Order of Preachers.

Watch, it’s worth the time. The first time I saw it, I knew I’d be watching my son do the same.  And yeah, it made me cry.  Today I’ll see it in real life….filled with happy awe at the wonder of it, heart overflowing, truly, with joy.

Keep these young men in your prayers, they are gentle radicals in our world.

St Max, he rocks!


Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!
He is my son Jon’s patron and one very awesome saint. He is a ‘modern’ saint, of the twentieth century, completely devoted to Mary and a Franciscan. He was media savvy and current before anyone even knew what that meant (which also is fitting for him to be one of Jon’s patrons).  But what St. Maximilan is known for is his sacrifice, his martrydom of charity. St. Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz Concentration camp, for being a Catholic and a priest. After ministering to his fellow prisoners during his time there, sick and hungry as the rest, Maximilian made the ultimate sacrifice: he stepped forward and volunteered to go to his death in order to spare a father of a family from this fate. St. Maximilian went to his death in a father’s place; dying after two weeks of forced starvation and ultimately, an injection of carbolic acid (and forgiving the one who gave him that shot as he was injected). As such, not only is he a hero, among many other things, he is the patron of families.

We are big on family here around the coffeeblog. And we have been praying a novena to St. Maximilian on behalf of one special young college guy I know….  And the prayers of a righteous man, a saint and patron of families, who knows from sacrificial living, are worth much. So, thank you St. Maximilian, for your patronage of my son.

Happy feast day Booboo!

St. Maximilian Kolbe, thank you for your prayers!

Novena for First Vows: Assumption of Mary Day 9: Final

This is a novena for my son, Brother Peter Joseph, and all his brothers as they approach their First Vows; to be professed on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, 2012.  If any of you have a mind to, please join me in praying for these young men as they step forward in faith to a radical remarkable life.  NOW, as we finish this feast day, thank you for your prayers!  Tomorrow they make their First Profession….it’s a big big day.  Please continue to keep these young  men in your prayers.   ***

Mary’s House at Ephesus, image by T. Gautsch


Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. In honor of your Assumption into heaven I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).

When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.


*** I post this, and will for each day, with full knowledge that this is one of those uber Catholic things, all of this:  the novena and the affection for Mary and the concept of the Assumption.  I know, this can be divisive.  I don’t mean to cause that…. But, my son is giving his life to his faith, answering that call in the boldest way I can see.  So, I don’t mean to put any of you off, but, this is my faith and I believe it too.  I love it, and try hard to life it as best as I can, even as I fail daily.  But  yeah, this is Catholic, this is me, praying for my son and all my Dominican sons.  **** 

Novena for First Vows: Assumption of Mary Day 8

This is a novena for my son, Brother Peter Joseph, and all his brothers as they approach their First Vows; to be professed on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, 2012.  If any of you have a mind to, please join me in praying for these young men as they step forward in faith to a radical remarkable life.  ***

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. In honor of your Assumption into heaven I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).

When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.


*** I post this, and will for each day, with full knowledge that this is one of those uber Catholic things, all of this:  the novena and the affection for Mary and the concept of the Assumption.  I know, this can be divisive.  I don’t mean to cause that…. But, my son is giving his life to his faith, answering that call in the boldest way I can see.  So, I don’t mean to put any of you off, but, this is my faith and I believe it too.  I love it, and try hard to life it as best as I can, even as I fail daily.  But  yeah, this is Catholic, this is me, praying for my son and all my Dominican sons.  **** 

Novena for First Vows: Assumption of Mary Day 7

This is a novena for my son, Brother Peter Joseph, and all his brothers as they approach their First Vows; to be professed on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, 2012.  If any of you have a mind to, please join me in praying for these young men as they step forward in faith to a radical remarkable life.  ***

Assumption of Mary, Marian Shrine, Zambia

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. In honor of your Assumption into heaven I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).

When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.


*** I post this, and will for each day, with full knowledge that this is one of those uber Catholic things, all of this:  the novena and the affection for Mary and the concept of the Assumption.  I know, this can be divisive.  I don’t mean to cause that…. But, my son is giving his life to his faith, answering that call in the boldest way I can see.  So, I don’t mean to put any of you off, but, this is my faith and I believe it too.  I love it, and try hard to life it as best as I can, even as I fail daily.  But  yeah, this is Catholic, this is me, praying for my son and all my Dominican sons.  ****