Saturday, May 30, 2015

Truly Present

Spring brings new life, hope, refreshment, and new beginnings. For me this year, it's brought sickness and medical issues. Not directly to me, but to several people I love. I visited my mom on the east coast back in March. She's been having serious health issues which prompted the trip. I brought Andrew and Kaitlyn with me in the hopes they would cheer her up and create some nice memories together. Instead, while we were there she suffered from a stroke and had to be hospitalized. She was still in when we had to fly home.

The kids entertain themselves with a mini-casino
 Leaving in that way was SO HARD! The week we were there was one of the worst I can remember. Those who've had a front row seat to watch a dear family member suffer can attest to the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy as you know there is nothing you can do to remedy the situation. Hopefully my two children will not remember this as a snapshot of their otherwise very engaging and child-loving grandmom. One evening, I sat in the family room I grew up in thinking about the lack of interaction between my mom and the kids and the bad memories they were creating. I lamented, " We shouldn't have come." My dad rebuked me saying, " I'm glad your here. I need the company. I need someone to talk to. I need the distraction. I'm very glad you're here!"

That was enough for me to realize our very presence was the lift he needed to have the strength to carry the burden of that difficult week. We were right where we needed to be-- not so much for my mom, but for my dad.

Recently I received a text from a cousin that I had just re-connected with while I was visiting my parents. She had received a terrible diagnosis and was headed into surgery. Through the world of texting (which I happen to love for many situations), I've been able to stay present to her, assure her of our prayers and support, and receive regular updates. This has diminished the miles that separate us and even though I can't lend a shoulder in-person, we've kept a connection and she's thanked me for "being there with her". Present even though physically not.

As I write, I've been at the hospital with my husband for three straight days and nights. He's had major abdominal surgery that will require a long recovery at home. I slept one night on a sofa in a lobby like a hobo, until they brought a sleep chair in for me so I can rest at his side. I haven't breathed in fresh air or let the sun kiss my skin since arriving. Our kids are home fending for themselves and I think it's wonderful that they are stepping up to care for one another and also take charge of the activity schedule and pet care. We've received many offers for rides and food, but they've got this and I am so grateful for older children when extended family isn't nearby. 


I've been able to focus on my husband and be attentive to his needs. Whether it's covering him with an extra blanket, combing his hair, looking up the patron saint of pain, or simply holding his hand, I have no distractions tugging me away; no agenda  or to-do list spinning around in my head. For the past three days I am present to him and even though he sleeps alot of the time and the nurses have been wonderful with their care, my presence brings comfort and companionship and tells him we are in this together-- he just got the raw end of the deal. I am ever thankful for being able to stay here and weather this storm united with my spouse and once again, I'm keenly aware that this is where I am called to be, completely present.


While I nurture my husband and beg prayers for his recovey, I am fed spiritually. This hospital is world-renowned and attracts patients from all over the globe to come here for treatment. I've found solace in the chapel sevearl times a day. This one is different than the plain chapels I've visited in other hospitals. Tucked off in the corner, with a kneeler placed in front, stands a tabernacle holding the Blessed Sacrament. My Jesus is also physically present here! I've watched numerous medical personnel stop in before starting a shift to kneel before this holy throne. What comfort to know He is here and feeding those who care for our sick loved ones. I
      I've also knelt before this sacred spot to pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and just speak my heart. I attended a noon mass yesterday and was able to hand-out some Divine Mercy holy cards both in English and Spanish. It's such an honor to both be given spiritual peace and participate in spreading His message, especially to people who are going through trials right now. 

Outside the chapel in a main hallway hangs this picture:

Next to it is an explanation which reads that this was taken at the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, using film. The miraculous white apparitions showed up once the film was developed. They are believed to be those of Jesus/Mary and angels. I was pretty impressed to see this hanging in such a prominent public place! 

The True Presence is here and inspires me to be present to all those in need. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Daybook

Outside my window:

Another gray, damp, dreary day. I call this New Jersey weather and  I sure don't miss it. Fortunately, in Texas it is short-lived and sprinkled with days of sunshine and spring-like weather. It has been relatively cold since the holidays with our 'winter' extending longer than usual this year. Our fireplace wasn't working until we had it serviced at the end of January. We sure missed it and it's now a spot that the whole family has been gathering to warm ourselves.

Around the house:

It is clean and purge time. Typically after the holidays I start to nest and redecorate, or at least dream of how I'd like to redecorate. The purging has gone quite well. Last week, the 13 yo boy suddenly decided his room was too cluttered and he wanted to get rid of half the 'stuff' in there. I had planned a few other chores for that day, but immediately redirected our focus and handed him a 'donate' bag and a 'trash bag'. Both were filled!! (we actually had several of each bag)
I love little bird decorations. My family has generations of bird lovers and anything having to do with them reminds me of my childhood.  I picked up these cute little figurines to place around the house. I often find myself just looking at them and smiling!

I am creating: 

My friend recently delivered her 10th child! Now that I've been crocheting over a year and have made a few things worthy of giving away, I tried my hand at little baby booties. It took several tries of stitching and ripping, consultation with a friend, and many views of a youtube tutorial, but the end result wasn't half bad! I really enjoyed this project. 

Kaitlyn also did a little creating of her own. She was invited to a 50's theme birthday party. We had a quick study of Poodle Skirts, a little thrift shopping (her skirt is actually a halter-type top for a teen!), and she hand sewed the applique and beading. Such a cutie!!

Our newest endeavor is painting saint peg people for an upcoming exchange within our homeschool group. More on that next time!

I am reading:

"The One Thing is Three" by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, the third book in the All Hearts Afire program. I am once again blown away by his writing. This one focuses on Catholic theology and the Trinity. I am participating in the study of this book at my  parish. I feel so blessed to have participated in and facilitated groups based on his New Evangelization books. I have grown so much on my spiritual journey and just want to spread his message of Marian Consecration and Divine Mercy. I'm feeling called to something that I know will be relevant to spreading the Kingdom of God, just haven't quite figured it out yet. Hoping that upon finishing this book/program I will know what path God is calling me to. 

I am pondering:

Fasting. From The Word Among Us (lent 2015) "Fasting helps us see the difference between what we need and what we want, between what we have to do and what we want to do. It helps us push through the clutter in our lives so that we can find the clear, single-minded path that will get us closer to the Lord. As we fast, we come face-to-face with our reluctance to change--and we find the grace to step into God's transforming grace." I stink at fasting whether it's food, especially if it's food!, or just cutting back on non-essential busyness in my life. But, "When we link it (fasting) to prayer, fasting is also about experiencing spiritual breakthroughs." Did you catch in the above note that I feel God is calling me to something, but I don't know what? Hmmm. Also, "Our heavenly Father always responds when we fast with a disposition of humility and repentance. It makes our prayers of intercession more powerful." That's enough reason right there to put a little more effort into fasting. Pray for me, please?

I am praying for:

My mom is very sick right now and possibly will not recover. I am heading out to spend a week with her and my dad in 6 days. Please pray for safe travels and for my mom's healing? Thank you!

For better health:

I am finally getting caught up on some women health check-ups that are way overdue. I feel glad that I can give myself a little attention in this department. It's so easy to be the care-taker of our kids and spouses that we neglect ourselves. I just switched doctors too, which delayed my appointment a few months, but I'm really happy with my choice and feel like if I don't take care of me, I can't take care of my family. 

The rest of the week:

Is busy!! Hosting our parish's supper club on Saturday and need to cook a good, homemade Italian feast for 20+ guests, piano recital, and packing for our trip. Just agreed to rescue a pregnant mama dog from the shelter to keep safe until we leave. I still have this mama dog from last time:

I've become very attached to her!

Happy Lent!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I made it through Advent and Christmas!

What a horrible title, right? I know! And I so wish I could write, " Thriving in Advent and Christmas" or " Reflections of a holy Advent and Christmas". But truly the most accurate title would be, " I tried really hard to have an awesome Advent and Christmas and it started out on track and somewhere between eating too much sugar in the Christmas baking and ringing in the New Year, I turned into a melancholic whirlwind of emotional mess", but who would want to read that?!!!

My intentions were really on target and everything was organized for a great Advent. I started by adding this prayer: Saint Andrew Novena . If anything was truly good during Advent in my spiritual walk, it was this prayer, said 15 times a day from Nov. 30 to Christmas Day. Yes, 15 times every. single. day. I found it best to do 5 in the morning, 5 at mid-day, and 5 in the evening/ bedtime. What did it do, well it focused my "busy-ness" on the true meaning and also gave me a chance to pray for a special intention each time. I loved it and will definitely keep it in as part of my Advent prep in future years.

  So many years I've wanted to have a Jesse Tree and actually keep up with it through the season. So we brought this lovely branch in our house and using Ann's new book , we dove in.

 All started well, until about half way through Advent. We did finish the book, albeit, not before Christmas (but before New Years) and it was a charming way to bring to life the story of Jesus' family tree and all those Old Testament Bible stories. We only finished making about half the ornaments, but that's okay cause there's always next year, right? We also finished the third in the trilogy, Bartholomew's Passage, which we love to read every year. I'd recommend this series for ages 8-adult. 

The Advent picture book basket came out. I love picture books and think it doesn't matter what your age, they are just lovely to read. I added a few new ones (self-proclaimed book junkie!): "Our Lady of Guadalupe" by Bernier-Grann, "Mary" by Demi, "Mary" byWildsmith, and "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey" by Wojciechowski. We only made our way about half way through the basket this year, a little disappointing, but I did notice Kaitlyn digging through on her own, so I think it's good to leave them all out and available throughout the season.

 We also celebrated our favorite saint feast days of December, which included Saint Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, OLOG, and The Immaculate Conception.

 From Christmas Day to the Epiphany, we read The Twelve Days of Christmas and placed an ornament on our little tree. I think we really "Lived the Liturgy" this year!

So what went wrong? Nothing really except the depression that clouded my head about a week before Christmas. It happens every year when we don't have major plans for guests or travel-- which is most every year! I tried to fight the darkness, but it settled in. Brian stayed with his fiancee in a different city, but they both came the day after Christmas and on for 3 days with us. That was perfect!!! A full house, lots of activity, big celebratory meals. Love it!!

Then they left, and I was exhausted and New Year's loomed with no plans. In the past we usually host a few family friends because we otherwise get invited no where. I know you hear those violins playing a dirge in the background, but it's a sad fact. "Invite someone!", my desperate husband encouraged while he tried to keep me from sinking deeper into the well. I wasn't up for it, so instead we went to mass on New Year's Eve and came home so I could cry. I know, sad display of patheticness. It's not really about having no where to go, it's the loneliness of being away from my roots, my family, my home. We've been back with family twice in 9 years for this holiday and both times it was pretty depressing too, with lots of events that did not live up to my prepared expectations of how things should go (perhaps you're seeing a red flag here!). Mike and I decided in future years, we will make our own plans to go out, buy a ticket somewhere, something to keep me distracted and looking forward to something celebratory.

I don't think I'm alone in these feelings mostly because I've heard those expressions, "getting through the holidays", "the holidays are so hard", etc. There's something about being out of the cadence and rhythm of my day for week after week that can really make me just feel "Yuck!". I try each year to not fall prey into this downward spiral, but so far, there is an empty feeling each year. It is best remedied by planning a full schedule around those times I know will be hard, but that takes energy too! Next year I hope to plan earlier so I can avoid the depression and focus on the blessings.  So.......

Back in Ordinary Time, back to our routine, and I'm feeling good!