Monday, November 24, 2014

Autumn Daybook

Outside my window:

It's fall and for the first time that I can remember since we moved here, it looks and feels like it too! We had a 2-week cold snap in early November and the leaves that change have started to do so. The timing couldn't be more perfect as it is Thanksgiving week. Usually the leaves change the week before Christmas and my brain gets all confused!!!

These pics are from around my neighborhood:

I am wearing:

It's sweater and jeans weather.  New riding boots and also scarves as accessories. I really love the scarves-- they dress up an outfit so well and keep me toasty. It's one of the few items my daughter and I can share. The only problem I'm having is how best to organize and store them?

From the kitchen:

Well, I did mention that it's Thanksgiving week, so there will be turkey with all the trimmings, pies (not homemade, but lots of them), ham, raviolis, and turkey soup.

I'm getting a kick out of my recent "Suzie Homemaker" instinct kicking in. This almost always happens soon after the holidays when I suddenly have more time on my hands. Surprisingly, this year it has happened a few months early. What am I talking about? It's the time of year when I suddenly want to try new recipes! I think it's come early this time because I purchased this book last year, tabbed interesting recipes, but never had time to try them out. In the hopes of getting dinner planning organized, I recently purchased this book as well, marked it all up and eagerly shopped in order to stock my freezer. So far, I'm enjoying them both and trying to cook up something brand new at least once a week.  The Ree Drummond book has some delicious recipes, but is not easy on the calories! Her pictures and recipe descriptions are both amazing and hysterical. It's worth buying the book just for that!

Around the house:

We have a sweet new Mama dog and her beautiful seven pups. They are cuties and will all need forever homes by Christmas. It broke my heart weaning the pups as their Mama still wants to keep a watchful eye on them and as soon as she got near the pen, they all piled up as close to her as they could get. Precious!!

For better health:

We've been dealing with upper respiratory viruses, coughs, and anxiety producing stress in our family. Rather than use only traditional medical methods of treatment, I've been exploring the use of essential oils. Armed with my  Modern Essentials book and a variety of DoTerra oils, we've been massaging, diffusing, and adding droplets to our drinking water for better health. Have I thrown modern medicine out the window? Absolutely not! But, I have found benefits from supplementing with this other modality of treatment. We love this oil so much when we have congestion, I've already needed to order a new bottle. 

A few favorite things:

So much has been going on, but two recent happenings have made me smile. The first was our mid-October trip to Disney World. It was a whirl-wind, but fun and sadly, feels like a dream. I think I need to put together a couple photo books to help bring back the memories. Savoring Disney is hard for me because we always seem to be on a treadmill from the time we get there till we are heading home. It's hard to process what's happening and stay in the moment when we need to hurry on to the next attraction. Guess we'll just need to go back again soon!!

Another fun event was attending my son, Kyle's, Texas A&M ring ceremony. I think everyone in our family can honestly say we love this school. It's so much more than a college, it's a philosophy, a virutous character trait, and a way of life. To say you're an Aggie carries an esteemed label and it is something to be proud of. I never thought I would feel this way about a Texas university, but there ya go, I really wish I'd gone to TAMU, then I could say "Gig- 'em" and "Whoop" and be legit!!


I am praying for:

Safe travels for all those who will be on the road this week, especially my children returning home and my extended family on the east coast who will be fighting a nor-easter while attempting to make their turkey feasts. 

An end to the persecutions of all Christians,

Two dear internet friends who have serious turmoil in their families. Satan really wants to destroy sacramental marriages and holy families. I'm praying these two can endure the battle.

I am pondering:

"The heart is rich when it is content, and it is always content when its desires are fixed on God."                                        ~Blessed Miguel Pro

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows Reflection

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows; a day to think about all the Mother of Jesus suffered while on earth. This, coupled with the 10 week retreat, "Consoling the Heart of Jesus", I am presently  participating in, has got me thinking....

A few years ago ,while with a group of friends, my (then) 18 year old son was in a bad skateboarding accident The friends immediately sought medical care and took him to a hospital. His accident included a severe concussion/mild head injury also requiring head sutures and an operation to fix a shattered collar bone needing 6 screws to put it back together. All in all we were very thankful that his injuries weren't worse, especially since what they were doing was extremely risky, reckless, and illegal. In the days immediately following the accident, my son rested at home. None of his "friends" called or came by to see him. I noticed my son feeling neglected by them, forgotten, and uncared about. I felt so sad for him as I could see the loneliness in his eyes and that he felt in his heart that he could so easily be pushed aside. By about the third day I was able to get in touch with one guy and asked  him why they were not checking up on my son. "We were all so scared  you'd be mad at us that we were afraid to come by", was the response I received. I assured him we weren't mad, and truly we weren't. Within an hour a small group had gathered at our house, lifting my son's spirits and offering him consolation. I breathed a sigh of relief mixed with joy, my son was not forgotten.....

It never occurred to me before, but perhaps that was a very small share in the type of sorrow Mary experienced at the foot of the cross. All but one of Jesus' apostles abandoned him in his time of greatest suffering. Did Mary, as she stayed with him the whole time, look around and wonder where all his "friends" were? Why were they not giving him comfort and support? Did her heart ache as she saw her son look down upon the crowd and realize only one of his closest friends had stayed with him? Oh, how a mother's heart weeps when her children are hurting! Instead of standing by Jesus, the apostles hid. Were they afraid to be near his mother? Were they afraid she might rebuke them and say, "How could you let them take him? Why didn't you defend his teachings and works?"

Mary was indeed grieved to stand at the foot of the cross and watch her son suffer, but I"m sure she felt worse only having the arms of one beloved apostle there to hold her up. However, she understands what fear does to people; how we are weak in our humanness and lack fortitude. She didn't leave that dark Friday to go find the men and chew- them- out for abandoning her son. No, she stayed with them, prayed with them, and no doubt soothed their heavy hearts with words of comfort that were balm for their deep sorrowful souls; souls full of cowardice to the point of denying the man they knew was the Savior. She gently and purposely stayed near to her son's friends until he breathed the Holy Spirit, her spouse, into their souls.

It is the same for us in our sinfulness. We are shameful and turn away from Jesus. Instead of running to the Blessed Mother and asking her to help us have the courage to go to Confession, we hide and pretend we aren't stepping away from the cross and casting our gaze upon other "things" of this world. But the Blessed Mother is always there, waiting for us, to hold our hand and gently lead us back to our Lord. She will stand by us and present us to God as one of His own. She speaks on our behalf and never leaves us, as long as we welcome her.

So today, as we honor the Blessed Mother under the title: Our Lady of Sorrows, let's stand at the foot of the cross and tell Jesus we will "Be the One" to give him consolation. We will stand with the one chosen to be his Mother by our side and  we should never fear so much to run because we know she's got us wrapped in her mantle and she will only take us in one direction, toward her Son!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reflections from Edel '14

 I just spent a most incredible weekend attending the Edel Gathering. For the past two days, I’ve spent way more time than I should on facebook reading the recaps. As the days before Edel shortened, I noticed the feed on our private fb page started filling up with anticipatory notes of excitement. The news feed has now exploded in post-Edel  comments of gratitude and reliving moments that will keep us laughing for months (years) to come as we try to keep the feeling alive. There are links to blog posts recapping the event from our own personal experience. I’m devouring them all and finding a common thread… Edel far exceeded everyone’s expectations!

I actually posted a selfie of myself. Edel made me feel like a teenager!
My story is a little different. I am in the scant majority of Catholic moms in attendance who would be considered an “experienced mom”.  My 30 year old high- top pink converse sneakers that I wore to crazy shoe night were older than some of the ladies attending!  A few months after my dear friend, Julie made sure I bought a ticket for this, I started feeling apprehension. I was reading about all the moms who were bringing their infants. It’s been 10 yrs. since I had a baby, perhaps I didn’t belong here. I have a bad habit of over-thinking social situations, especially big ones, and placing myself all alone in a corner living that, “have you ever been in a crowd and felt all alone?” situation.  A day before the big event, I went into complete panic mode of not wanting to go, I didn’t belong, it was a mistake. I texted Julie, who is, by the way, used to my spazzy freak-outs before anything major happens in my life. She was supportive, but I needed more. So I took a deep breath and posted my insecurities on the fb page. I was relieved to find comments on that thread that were so encouraging and also, that others felt as I did.  My spirit calmed and I knew it was ok. I was going to Edel the next day after all!

How do I describe Edel to others? A conglomeration of Catholic moms of all ages and stages of life who get together in a supportive social setting to reaffirm our vocation and see that while living that vocation is often against what society speaks, that together, whether we are physical neighbors or cyber –sisters, we are united as beloved daughters of Christ, under the mantle of the Blessed Mother, bonded to the one True Catholic Church. We are building in our own homes, in our husbands, in our children, a Cathedral of Love.  “We discover God in each other in relationship. Christianity is communal”. This is accomplished not by losing ourselves in motherhood, but by letting God find us there amidst the dirty diapers, piles of laundry, cranky toddlers, sinks full of dirty dishes, adolescent hormone surges, teen rebellion, and financial strain.  “We each have our own personal vocation and if we are always watching others we will miss God’s plan for us. We are only called to love in all situations, that will lead to self-lessness”.  We are a community of like-minded women who are spreading a glimmer of hope to all who see us faithfully wading through the muck in life and knowing at the end we won’t be beat up, weary skeletons of who we used to be, we will have a soul which emanates the light of Love of our creator and spreads to those we’ve touched.  “Our witness to others must be rooted in Truth and a witness of Hope”. We know that we are sanctified in this work and we are cathedral builders in the place where God dwells in us all. “Christianity isn’t a set of rules; it’s a relationship in love.”

Edel co-founder, Jennifer Fulwiler
So, this group of moms who listened to inspiring speakers and chatted freely with new friends can also party!!!  It was clear to me that while we take our vocation very seriously, we aren’t what upper society might deem ‘proper ladies who carry themselves with utmost decorum” Ummm….. there was some such rapping, karaoke, closing down the bar, drinking margaritas on 6th street, and dancing for hours.  It is obvious that Catholic women know how to have fun and need to let loose on occasion before getting back to the business of building…….

I am so blessed to have had this experience and hope to follow the blogs of all who attended and keep in touch with new friends so we can all live in that little community where we build each other up and crack the mold of how society says women will climb over each other to make themselves look better. I only wish this type of support was around 15-20 years ago when my domestic church was in the neophyte stage and I would have benefitted from receiving affirmatin from the most awesome and inspiring women I’ve ever known!

“Every fail to love is a sin.”*

I was one of the nerds taking ‘notes’ during the talks because I can’t remember anything. There are many inspiring take-aways from those gifted speakers. I’ve tried to weave some of their thoughts into this post and also know they are being written about on other blogs.    

*All bold quotes are from the talk given by Marion Fernandez-Cueto

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mid-Summer Daybook

Outside my window...

Our backyard is shaping up. We are in the process of building an extended covered patio roof. I should say, Mike is in the process and I just told him my desires for it. He's good at following through with my requests but is frustrated that he can only work on the project in small increments of time before life calls him back to other obligations.

I am wearing....

My exercise shorts, dry-weave top, & running shoes. I will have an hour of time this morning to wait between picking up kids and driving them on to the next activity. I want to be ready to use that time wisely!

I am grateful for....

This life I've been gifted....a secure marriage to a holy man, beautiful children, friends I can grow in faith with, a comfortable house, and the financial means to make homemaking a priority in building up the domestic church.

I am pondering....

Marian Consecration. I re-consecrated with a group from St. Edwards last Wednesday. I was privileged to once again facilitate the group. It is such a spiritual gift in my life because every time  a new group forms, I am in such need of renewal and I am never disappointed by the end of the 6- weeks.  It is a joy to be able to spiritually refresh and even better to watch the incredible transformations that happen to those in the group, many of whom begin with alot of trepidation and timidity. I feel like a mother hen watching them spread their wings and take off. This has been a treasure in my life and I am so blessed to be a part of this devotion on the parish level. Here is the program we use: 33 Days to Morning Glory .

I am praying for....

My sister's family is going through a big transition and even though it will be good for them, it is bringing alot of stress. I am saying a novena to  Our Lady of Good Remedy for them.

I am praying for my children, especially those that are young adults, I place them under the Blessed Mother's mantle. She knows what they need and can "mother" them with more influence than I.

A few friends have asked for prayers for broken-ness in their immediate and extended families. The devil loves to destroy families and so much healing is needed in this area.

I am reading...

I am always reading a few books at the same time. I've been working on "The Little Oratory" by Clayton and Lawler summer series here at Summer in the Little Oratory along with Elizabeth's blog . More on how that is changing our home later. I just finished the "33 Days to Morning Glory" retreat book as I talked about above. Also, just finished "The Shadow of His Wings" by Fr. Gereon Goldmann, which was an inspiring account of a priest's life while being part of the German army during WWII. If you don't believe in divine intervention, you will after reading his story! I am about to start " The Everyday Catholics Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours" by Daria Sockey. You can probaby figure where I hope to go with this read.....

I am learning.....

How to play the piano!! Taking lessons once a week with Andrew has been a treat. I am progressing, slower than he is, but I am still improving bits at a time and I love that I can sit at our baby grand and actually play a tune. I also learned to crochet last summer. It's been nice having something creative to do at the times when there is idle "sitting time" which seems to happen most at swim meets, long car rides, and doctor appointments. I am more than half way done a shawl, which is the first project I've worked on that isn't lopsided! I am also learning to keep my  mouth shut. This handy skill has helped keep peace when certain people who live with me are feeling grumpy or rebellious and whether consciously or unconsciously try to get me to play that game....

For better health....

"Don't be obsessed with the number on the scale", perhaps you've heard this before. Well, I've always been maybe not obsessed, but aware of that number. I decided after the holidays to stop weighing myself weekly and just eat healthy, exercise, and judge my eating habits by how my clothes fit. Epic Fail!! So, I didn't exercise regularly, ate whatever I felt like, and felt my clothes get tighter. At my annual doctor's appointment last week I had gained 8 lbs since the year before. So, I am back to eating healthy-- which means green smoothies for breakfast, juicing veggies, limiting breads, smaller dinner portions, adding in regular exercise, and weighing myself. So while I can fool myself into thinking the second bowl of ice cream won't hurt, or 2 days of exercise is just as good as 4, the scale doesn't lie, especially not in middle-age.

The week ahead...

 Lots of appointments to take care of: vet, 4 dentist visits, piano, parent volunteer obligation, Daddy-daughter dance, squeezing in a morning visit to a friend's house and then the end of the week is......

I am looking forward to.....

The Edel Gathering !!!! This Fri-Sun I will be in Austin enjoying a Catholic Mom's getaway weekend. I will be traveling with some friends, making (hopefully) lots of new friends, and just having a blast! This has been months in planning and it hasn't hit me yet that it is just days away!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Puppies and Swim Team-- Yup, that's my summer!

The fourth of July was last weekend. When I lived in NJ, this holiday signified the official beginning of summer. Usually kids had been out of school about 2 weeks (or less) and summer rhythms were being formulated. Here in TX, by the time the fourth rolls around we are in the middle of extreme heat, looong summer days have been felt for quite some time and some of us are already dreaming of cool fall evenings. The little ones have been finished their school year since before Memorial Day, so it's about time to start thinking about a summer tune up--- can you say math fact reviews and reading logs?

Our summer has been busy. Since the kids started swim team some 17-18 years ago, there is never a total relaxation when school lets out. It's more of coordination of practice times and Saturday swim meets. Texas has kicked it up a notch-- swim meets here start earlier and last until mid-afternoon. Since the heat/humidity is a little taste of what hell must be like, it's much more draining (on those of us who aren't cooling off in the water--parents!). With Andrew in his second year of competitive year-round swimming, the summer season doesn't just run April-June, but extends another whole month until the end of July-- Yippee!! On the upside--Kyle once again coached the summer league and Andrew and Kaitlyn were participants. Andrew broke 3 individual team records and 2 relay ones. Fun for parents! If you do have to suffer  enjoy watching your kids on swim team, at least it's more exciting having them beat records! Kyle drew rave reviews from parents and really is in his element when coaching and Kaitlyn is there for the fun.
Kaitlyn at the start!

Andrew has sculpted some swimming muscles this year!

Those important turns!

Coach Kyle
Celebrating an undefeated season! 

 Now for the puppies. Since I don't have any toddlers or pre-schoolers running around my home and it's hard to turn off 25 years of running a household filled with the chaos that ensues while raising a litter large family, I have subjected us for the past 3 years to rescuing puppies,or taking in pregnant mama dogs left at the shelter. Providing the  "The Home for Wayward Pregnant Dogs" and "the Mama to Mama Dogs" as
I have been called. Our latest mama-to-be arrived late March, gave birth to 8 healthy puppies (including one I had to revive at birth--whole other story), and started being adopted out at 7 weeks of age. Unfortunately, mama dog became very ill shortly after weaning the pups and didn't survive.( Difficult-- I don't want to focus on this except to say, "please  don't neglect your pets!") At first the pups were going like hot cakes. Even though I couldn't attend any of the rescue group's weekend adoption events ( see above paragraph for explanation!), the internet and word-of-mouth publicity seemed to be doing the job! Until the last puppy, we call her Dahlia, was left. Poor little Dally has been with us over 3 weeks, alone, and now thinks we're her forever family! She's had some internet interest and even went home for 3 days with a family, but for one reason or another, the adoptions haven't been a good fit. Today, hopefully, is her lucky day! A family is coming in a few hours. I believe they will like her and take her home, but she's not an 8 week old fur ball anymore. She's 3 1/2 months of chewing, running, barking, and all-over mischievous puppyhood rolled into one! She chases our cat-- these people have 2! She plays hard with our 2-year old 50 lb. lab mix; they have a 6 yr. old dachshund. I am praying this works for their family and they'll fall in love with her sweet cuddles and licky-licks! I love when I can have a small part of bringing joy to a family as they adopt one of the puppies I 'saved' by fostering, but mostly..... I love these little guys, but I need a break!!

So, with the last puppy hopefully going home today and only two more weekends of swim meets, my relaxation will soon start!!! Happy Summer!!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sounds Like a Plan!

Having order is a lovely way to live. Creating schedules, itineraries, and  to-do lists give me great satisfaction, especially when I can check-off, cross out, or say ‘that went really well, thanks to the planning!” During  most years of our family life, I've had a laundry schedule, monthly dinner menus, and  a color-coded calendar mounted on the fridge. Obviously, I enjoy  predictability and structure.  I've noticed that in seasons of extra stress, whether from an over-booked schedule or lots of unplanned doctor visits or personal issues, having at least some part of the day ordered has given me great comfort and probably saved me from going over the edge. Likewise, when I've gotten away from the strict planning, I've found myself falling apart under the everyday busy-ness which is our lives.  The ever present “what should I cook for dinner tonight?” at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is one such stress that can break me when it’s a particularly hectic day.

I just completed a 6-week online workshop which included podcasts and essays called “Restore”. It is for moms who've experienced burn-out and how to recover.  While I've had a pretty good last few months, I've equally had a few rough years. Last year around this time, I was coming out of a burn-out situation and had let my daily plan, including the dinner schedule, go. I haven’t restored any of it yet and although I've been managing each day satisfactorily, I haven’t been thriving. Living day to day with no set plan other than the kids’ weekly activities recorded on an electronic calendar have left me a bit unnerved.   
I chuckled at the irony of the first podcast which was a lesson on letting your plans go, God has you right where you are needed regardless of what your written down schedule says you are supposed to be doing.  A few days later, our lesson was on how to plan your day! As odd as it sounds, there is much wisdom here! Planning is good, as long as we are open to God’s will when it doesn't go our way.  He already has a plan for us, we just have to figure it out and say Yes to letting go of what we've written on paper (or in our mind!).
One important facet of the schedule that I have repeatedly failed to include was me! Like most moms, my day is mostly dictated by the kids’ activities. Add in homeschooling, and, yeah, not much time left for anything else, but that's all about to change!

 About two years ago I had the privilege of visiting the local residence of some Dominican Sisters in our area. They live in a suburban neighborhood and have come here from their convent in Tennessee to build and run a high school. I was one of the lucky women invited for breakfast in their lovely home. Like I said, it’s in a subdivision much like my own and yet, walking into their house a feeling of peace was immediately felt. Perhaps it’s because I wasn't tripping over someone’s shoes left by the door or there wasn't’ any ‘stuff’ laying around and cluttering the space.  We had an intimate and enjoyable visit, just ten women and the three nuns. One of the questions they answered for us was about a ‘typical day’ for them. I know that most religious follow a Rule, which isn't a bad idea for we lay folks either. One thing that struck me, however, was that as part of their Rule, there was a scheduled hour daily from 7 pm to 8 pm for leisure which usually meant playing a board game or cards, working together on a jigsaw puzzle or doing some other kind of handi-craft.  I was fascinated!  In another life, about 20 years ago, I used to sit in the evenings and work on needlecrafts. It was so relaxing after a busy day taking care of little ones or working. ( I worked part-time back then). There wasn't any guilt about the house not being clean enough yet to sit, or another load of laundry to be folded. What happened?? Somewhere in-between running carpools and planning curriculum for our family I forgot about nurturing this side of me! It seems that my evenings, once the kids are picked up from their activities, are spent doing last minute counter wipes, laundry rotations, or straightening up. I never just sit and “play”.

Well, that’s all about to change! Thanks to the Restore Workshop,  I have a new planner notebook just waiting to be filled in with dinner menus, household schedules for upkeep, and (what I’m most excited about) my daily routine, or Rule.  These daily sheets will have scheduled time for prayer throughout the day, quiet time, exercise, and allotment for leisure! They also include long term goals for myself and each month a list of 3 strategies for achieving each goal I am working toward.  I’m so excited to have a set time to sit and read or crochet, or play a game with the kids. You must understand that if it’s written on the schedule I will be able to leave the clothes in the dryer (they’ll still be there tomorrow, right?) or the random dirty bowl in the sink and just have down time, creative time, fun time! I know there will be days when God’s plan doesn't match at all with what I've written and I might not follow any of what’s on the paper, but I’m open to that!

So, armed with my planner and a new attitude, I’m psyched to order my life a little better and even have some time for fun!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Here in the Tunnel

My last post said I was on vacation. That was 2 1/2 years ago!! I'd love to say that I've been soaking up the sun on a beautiful white-sand beach since then while sipping bright colored daiquiris with little umbrellas in them, but that's, of course, not reality. I've been in the same house on the same street trying to keep life from over taking my sense of self and my purpose here.

At the time of my last post, my world was becoming a dark and frantic place. When you watch a loved one slipping through the tight grip you've had on him since he was a babe, feelings of despair, frenzy, and discord are born. Control is a desperate feeling to lose. You know you are entering a dark tunnel, but you don't know how long it is or if there will be any light along the way. The world in your periphery becomes secondary and when that affects others in the family,who need you, that is a very bad situation to have.

So, life is this journey, you see, and it's never what we think it will be. But, when you take your feelings of hopelessness and you surrender them to our Lord, amazing things begin to happen. You realize the truth in "God is good, all the time" and "God can take evil and make something good of it." You start to have thoughts that help you understand that even if someone is making bad choices and you desperately want to help, the best and most important decision you can make is to give that person away. Yes, give him to Jesus, give him to the Blessed Mother, give him to the saints, and plead, beg, bargain, whatever it takes!

Along the way you notice a few things: 1) you cannot do this, you cannot make it through this time of life without the graces of God 2) so you Trust, you give it over and you find a way to believe that with your fervent prayers & sacrifices you don't just think, you 3) Know, that God has this. He has your loved ones, he knows their plan, their journey. It was never yours to control. It is theirs to walk, listen, & choose. 4) Your job is to grow with them. Your prayer life will bloom tenfold!, your chance to practice virtue when you are dying to go to vice are frequent, you draw closer to the cross, you look at Jesus & thank Him for giving you this small share of suffering so that you can unite it to His passion. 5) and last, you stay Faithful, because as I said in the beginning, you don't know how long this tunnel is, but you have found that there is alot of light along this path if you're willing to open the curtain and let it shine through!!

There have been many moments I've wanted to share on my blog, but I couldn't find the words or the motivation. I'm sure that much of what I've learned the past few years will now slowly unfold in these future posts. When I finally felt in my heart that it was time to return here, I didn't know what I would write. How do you bridge over 2 years of emptiness? As I began to type,  I let the words just flow and am quite surprised at how they spilled onto the page effortlessly. I am happy to be here. Actually, I am thrilled to be here!!

My table center-piece this lent. A reminder of our daily path.