Sunday, February 24, 2013

View from Mt. Tabor

Yes, I meant that literally.  These are views from Mt. Tabor.  I was overwhelmingly honored, blessed, and unspeakably delighted to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the year 2000 (i.e. before it became overwhelmingly and unspeakably dangerous to go there.) And I have this professor to thank for the opportunity, the man who founded my college and changed so many lives: Dr. Warren H. Carroll. 

That's him on Mt. Tabor too... he came with the college group of us.  Unless you are familiar with the traditional Catholic schools in this country, you may not have heard of him... but have you heard of "As the World Turns"?  His mom wrote the book that series was loosely based on.  :)  As for Dr. Carroll, who passed away two years ago, he was a historian whose classes I got to take, and he liked my writing and wanted to encourage me to keep at it.  So Dr. Carroll, here I am trying! :)  A blog is only two letters away from a book, right?

But I'm losing my focus on the view...  Since today's Gospel was about the Transfiguration, I figured it made sense to share my non-digital, roll of film camera pictures of this transforming place with you. 

The view was amazing.  And deathly frightening to get to.  Maniac drivers speed-raced panicked tourists in Mercedes E-class taxis to the summit, spinning around dirt roads and hairpin turns.  So the feeling of "I'm still alive" and "I never want to go back down" definitely added to the mountain top experience of Tabor.  I was certainly ready to pitch a tent and never leave... at least not until a trustworthy helicopter could be acquired. 

But once I stopped shaking and feelings of nausea passed, I remember praying to the Lord who once stood there in glory to transform me to the person He created me to be.  I'm still praying that prayer today. 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."  Psalm 51:10-12  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Missing out on meteors

"Moscow was leveled this morning!  Taken out by an meteor!  And an asteroid may hit us at 2:48 this afternoon!  Just didn't want you to worry if your neighborhood starts exploding, we're not at war: it's just a space rock.  Get the kids in the basement."

I sighed.  My week is busy.  My life is full.  Packed with appointments and errands to run.  I had failed to schedule in an apolcolypse.  Based on the extended family member who was relaying this information to me on my cell phone as I headed out the door, I had reasonable hope the veracity of the claim left much room for survival of our species.  Still, even as I rolled my eyes and hung up, I found myself edgy.  And consequently annoyed at said alarmist, well-meaning family member. 

I have a few of these people in my family.  Usually the one who sends the forwards of impending doom is an elderly female in-law.  Her most recent disappointment--that I'm aware of--included the lack of a celestial body crashing into D.C. last December.  (She had planned to move based on this obscure prophecy.)  And I believe she stills smarts over how we all managed to pull through Y2K as well as we did.  To her great credit, she had filled her swimming pool with fresh water for the use of the neighbors during the expected mayhem of 2000, and convinced several family members to darken the doors of confessionals for the first time in years.  So I guess, all is truly well that ends well.  Though she has most recently informed us, in the direst of terms, "I know who the future pope is... but I'm not sure God wants me to tell you."  ???

We seemed to have survived the whirling of the planets so far, and Moscow--while distressed by the visitations of flying space objects--still stands. As does California, which saw a nearby meteor zoom by.  I am struck by the fact that, while we all naturally want to know why God allows tragic natural disasters, that we aren't as impressed when He spares us from them.  For instance, while there were hundreds of injuries from exploding glass from the atmospheric disturbance, no deaths were reported from the Moscow meteor incident.  I think that's pretty incredible.  God has a plan for us, and I'm grateful my day has not involved flying space objects. 

What has my day involved...  I mean my head's not always in space here... Well, it's school vacation week, so I have all four of my beautiful ladies at home with me.  I tried to be "Awesome Crafty Involved Mom" this morning, and did origami and some cooking with the girls, producing a quiche that was really a frittata since an extra two cups of cheese was grated in through sheer girlish enthusiasm.  (No of course they won't eat it.)

While preparing to wash the bowls, I realized the sink was seriously plugged.  Like, hopeless.  Like it had scoffed at the Pinterest recipe of vinegar and baking soda you are thinking of mentioning to me right this very moment, and also Draino, and "snaking," and was not even slow seeping any more.  Just nothing.  This became somewhat apparent to me when the sink became a fountain during the dishwasher rinse cycle. 

I resigned myself to wait for the plumber, and ran a bath for my two little ones, grateful we had at least that drain working.  That is, until baby relieved herself in the tub, significantly.  Removing the protesting baby from her unique potty attempts and calming the toddler yelling, "Yuck!  Oh BABY!  Eww!"  I cleaned the disaster, and meanwhile had the older girls bring their leftover cereal bowls so I could rinse them in the still working bathroom sink.

In the midst of my cleaning attempts of the tub, a spoon fell from the bowl I held and slipped into the actively flushing toilet bowl.  It's gone.  I've tried to retrieve it... telling you how is really TMI, but take my word for it, I tried, screaming naked, half-washed babies nearby. The half full part is that the toilet works so far...  Fishing for hope from the plumber while he fixed my kitchen sink "Any chance the spoon will just go through?  Please?"  He grinned and said no, but it was an easy fix: we just had to remove the toilet and tip it and we'd find it.  No problem.

Again, thank you Lord for protecting us from asteroids.  Please give me the patience to carry the little crosses I have.  :) TLC

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"
                                                                                                                                       Psalm 8:3-4

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My attempt at Valentines...

To all the parents who sent their kids to school today with homemade, hand-dipped cake pops individually wrapped in red and white cellophane, paired with "mom and me" crafted cards painstakingly stamped and decorated with heart-shaped punch outs on hand-knit doilies: I respect you, I admire you, and aspire to be more like you. 

To my fellow moms who sent their kids to school with one of the following $2.98 boxed atrocities from Walmart:

Can I get a "woot woot!"? :)

I mean, who doesn't need a fairy puppy tattoo to know they are loved?

Ah well. Happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day anyway. May we all more deeply know God's love for us this year! :) TLC

"And above all these things put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect."
                                                                                                                          Colossians 3:14

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Lent of parenthood

My cereal-strewn kitchen was the scene of the following philosophical discussion this morning, a very typical discourse with my advanced 16 month old and gifted 3 year old:

"Why you cwyin? What chew want? Juice?"

Toddler stops caterwauling to nod.  "Jews!"

"Okay, Jews for you!" I put her down to get a sippy cup, and then to diligently search for the correct lid and matching spill-proof insert.  I am not successful.

"Careful careful. No touch garbage pail. Icky sticky!"

Three-year old arrives, so my language slightly improves.  "Okay, time to go potty! Yes, potty! Like a big girl! And get sticker on your chart! Yes, you have to try! No, you are not empty! And no sweetheart, you aren't dry this time either..."

Motherhood is difficult for me. It is easy to be the mom of my individually wonderful kids, but the role itself daily requires more than I have to give. Being on call literally through every night with the utter exhaustion that can entail; acting as the chief arbitrator of every minor and major crisis; trying to find solutions to broken toys and lost friendships; the tedious nature of the daily menial tasks of procuring, preparing, administering food and cleaning up again.  Oh, and diapers.  And did I say potty training?  Potty training!!  Not to mention the battle scars the body boasts from the whole experience.  Of course, there's the stretch marks, spider veins, and stretched-out... ness as mementos of the actual pregnancies, but also the permanent shadows under eyes, the backaches, the migraines, the fallout from a hurried diet and scanty real exercise, the germs the kids share with their primary nurse.  The difficulty remembering what you used to do for recreation, when you were just yourself, and even remembering why the heck you came into this room... The lack of paychecks, promotions, and lunch breaks.  The world wondering why you are wasting your time and your talents at your perpetually busy and messy home.

Katie, you are saying: that's awfully dark.  But it's Lent, and it's time to have a look at our darkness.

Dads, I know you've been there too in the trenches of parenthood in your own vital ways, and also serve as anchors in your wives emotional storms (well, I've heard rumors anyway::), usually while maintaining a full-time job.  But my sister moms, where parenthood is the full-time job: yours are the Aerosoles I walk in, and I'm reflecting on our daily Lent.  A Lent punctuated by little Easters that make it endurable and at times, a delight you actually never want to forget. The moment of birth. The first time they sound out a written word. The times when the weather is crisp and clear and sunny, birds sing, and you are pushing them on swings, and they are singing together and laughing in adorable voices, and parenthood is just a slice of perfection.  Little Easters that hint at the life we are created for: the Happiness that is our birthright as children of God.  

 I find Easter a joy too big and intangible to digest in its august fullness.  Christmas is so much more approachable: God becoming a baby.  We parents know babies!  But death giving way to Life... that's even bigger.  Haven't experienced that one yet.  I think that's why we have these "little Easters," the pieces of perfection in the imperfection that is our harried lives. When I walk by the floral section in the grocery store and catch the heady scent of hyacinths, I'm suddenly at the Pascal Vigil, hearing the story of Creation. And there at Stop and Shop, I faintly sense the eternal that awaits me, the greater whole of the part I'm playing.  Just for a second.  Until my kid spies the cookie display (which is right beside the flowers); then my Lent continued towards another Resurrection.

Fellow moms: perhaps, like me, you often wonder what on earth you are doing with your degree, or at least why you need a brain that is capable of rational thoughts more elevated than mac and cheese when your life revolves around barbaric beings such as preschoolers.  I've come to the conclusion that I still need my degree because--even as I speak gibberish and my shirt is inside out--I remember having the ability to think, and that framed piece of paper in a box in the basement proves it.  And someday, my kids and I will have more and more advanced discussions on what life means besides juice and the mysteries of the potty: its necessity, its function, that it is not a personal water-play area, that it is not meant for toys or my makeup (!), that it cannot flush you, dear. 

For Lent, besides truffles and ketchup and gluten, let us give up fear: the nagging fear that we'll mess this parenting thing up, the empty fear that our quiet lives of constant little sacrifices don't matter.  Let us give up judging each other's methods and motives, and the self-doubt that drives such a useless action.  Let us uphold one another in prayer as we all try to become closer to the parents and people God created us to be.  And let's give up comparing ourselves to others who seem more successful, or more organized, or more patient, or more creative, or more holy than ourselves because--when it comes to your kids--no one compares to you.  Let us remember that we are doing, very literally, a good job. -TLC

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.... In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days."  Psalm 90:12,14

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Pope, a Grotto, and lots of ice

So I woke up this morning, as I often do, and sleepily grabbed my good friend the I-Phone while I stumbled from bed.  (I wish I could say I made a morning offering first... I used to, daily.  After I became a mom, I made a morning offering and said, "Dear Lord, I make this morning offering for all the rest of my days.  Please apply it forward, because I'm going to forget otherwise.  Amen."  I hope this was efficacious...)

Anyway, I start scrolling down the Facebook feed wall (where were we before such technology?  I mean really... the 80's were the Dark Ages.) And immediately I see The News of the Day: Pope Benedict XVI retires at the end of the month. 

Yes, I found this information surprising.  But I read his statement, and it makes sense: he's getting on in years, he doesn't feel physically equal to the ginormous task anymore, and--while it hasn't been done since the Middle Ages--he is legitimately allowed to abdicate.  God bless him.  A great man, a brilliant philosopher, a worthy pontiff. 

What I found more surprising was the shock, horror, and disbelief of my fellow Catholic friends.  Tales of how the news ruined their day, and how they are having trouble functioning puzzles me.

Maybe I'm just being cold and detached, and am numb with the duties of motherhood--and okay, maybe I had a "thing" for the charismatic figure of John Paul--but it seems there is a plan to elect a new pope.  He will be given the same graces as all the popes since Peter, and--as Mark Shea mentioned in his blog today--he likely won't take the name "Judas I." 

Fellow Catholics, I understand we've been burnt out with elections of unfortunate outcomes, especially here in the US.  I understand there is always a lingering fear that somehow, with every conclave, the cardinals just might manage to find the closest eminence to an antichrist.  That we will be treated to a reincarnation of Pope Alexander VI, and we'll have a power-hungry, immoral Shepherd of Rome who will merrily father illegitimate children.

As exciting as all this is to contemplate, I'm sorry:  I don't think it's going to happen.  And even if we assume the worst case scenario: this is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, the first and foremost Shepherd of Souls.  What have we to fear?

Well I'll tell you one thing we really do need to fear around here: ice.  :)  Two and a half feet of snow is greedily drinking in the rain as we speak, in time for a nice freeze tonight.  Brrr....

Here's some pics right after the first day of being dumped upon by the Blizzard of 2013.  Very impressive stuff.  My kids loved it, of course.  Here's 10 year old Annemarie:

3 year old Cecilia, looking at "Yots and YOTS of snow Mom!!"

9 year old Claire trying to shovel out the driveway.  You can see she's standing on three feet of snow as she attempts this:

16 month old Felicity.  Yep, she'd be buried in the snow:

And as a follow-up to my last post, I'm throwing in some recently scanned photos of yours truly, at age three, when I really loved snow.  Here's me with my indoor snowman: I apparently wasn't feeling great and was so upset I couldn't go out that my mom brought snow in.  The snowman's in a pan I still roast chicken in!  :)  (Check out enormous photo of my infant face looming in the background on the massive TV in front of braided rug; I was still an only child at this point, ha ha):

My Mom and me and sleds:

In conclusion to this hodgepodge post: today's the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  I've been blessed to visit Fatima, Knock, Medjugorje (okay, I'm not canonically counting that, never fear) and Lourdes, and the latter definitely holds a special place in my heart and memory.  To have the actual site of the apparition still there, intact: the grotto of stone, with the miraculous spring flowing from under it, the ability to bottle, drink, and bathe in said water... it was literally a full-immersion experience in the love of the Blessed Mother, and her Son who sent her to look out for us.  I will never forget looking at the burbling spring under the plexiglass, thinking how graces are always flowing towards us.  Surely enough for another Conclave.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Amid eternal snows

I remember.  My dad carefully getting out the radio, fiddling with the antenna, and studiously tuning it to WPRO.  The rapid breathing palpitations of excitement.  "Did you hear it yet Dad?  Did they cancel?!?"  We wanted not one, but two school closings: our own, and Dad's.  He was a teacher.  And it was way cool to have him home.  Also, it doubled our chances of going sledding.

I remember running to the window in the morning, screaming with my siblings, jumping with glee on the couch because it was SNOWING!!! REALLY SNOWING!!  We couldn't wait to go out in it.  We made hot chocolate while we waited, boiled milk in pans and trying not to scald it so you didn't get that gross filmy stuff on top.  We found snowpants, and coats, and complained that we didn't need scarves ("yes you do!!" said mom).  And Mom, Mary stole my favorite gloves!  But we sorted it out quickly, because we needed to go out and "shovel".  We put plastic shopping bags over double socks, slipped on the boots that always seemed to leak, and got out there into wonderland. 

I remember fighting over who got to make the first footprints in the new snow.  I liked to keep some untrodden snow on the lawn, but usually I didn't get my way, even though I was the oldest.  I remember testing the quality of the snow: was it the good snowball packing type, or the sledding type, light and dry and fun to fling in the air.  I remember what it was to be having too much fun to feel cold.  With endless energy and enthusiasm, my brothers, sister, and I shoveled the walk all into an intentional mound, where we would hollow out a fake igloo and tunnels.  We would also shovel the neighbors' walks (yes, they loved us) just so we could bring the snow back to our house, one shovelful at a time, to add to our snow mountain (no, my parents didn't love this as much).  We would hollow it out, make tunnels under the snow, and be out there for hours. 

Funny, but I don't remember the mess.  The stressful search for winter attire before, and matching gloves, and boots that fit.  The melting dirty snow from boots, the wet mittens, the wet scarves, the wet hats, the wet EVERYTHING after coming in.  I don't remember being worried one bit if our snow structure collapsed on us.  I'm sure I would have been convinced that would have been more fun. 

But I bet my mom remembers, because now, when I hear "snowstorm," I sigh.  Not just while anticipating how much work it takes to get four kids to play happily in snow without frostbite.  But the icy steps, and the sloppy roads, and the feeling of being "trapped." 

We're now under a blizzard warning, and I am not as excited as my soul truly wants to be.  I find myself fretting, "What would we do if I had to get a kid to the ER during a blizzard? What if the power goes out and there's no heat?  What if I find out the hard way the mystery as to why I should have stocked up on milk and bread? What if... what if... "  Meanwhile, my kids and even husband walk around with broad smiles, and talk about "Blizzard Nemo."  (Really weather-namer-people?  Nemo??)

I was born in the blizzard of '78.  My family has been in New England for generations.  I was made to love snow!  So I'm trying to change my negative mindset by remembering that snow is fun, and can make cool structures.  To focus simply on "what is": Snow can make you go fast.  Snow is pretty, frosting the trees, sparkling in the sun and the moonlight.  No two of the trillions of snowflakes that will be falling will be the same, each one reflecting a tiny bit of the beauty of an infinitely artistic Creator. 


I'm remembering too a poem I learned in college, written by an Irish martyr, Joseph Mary Plunkett.  I was always struck by the poet's ability to see aspects of God in all of Creation.  I still have it framed from where it hung in my dorm room:

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

Enjoy the white-out!  :) TLC

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tears in Thy bottle

My daughters play on a co-ed basketball team.  Well, it's supposed to be, 'cept they ended up being the only two girls to sign up.  While not ideal, I figured it would give them a good experience at being challenged in the sport, and settled myself in to being the "girls' mom."  I knew they would have to try to run faster, jump harder, and play tougher than before.

Then the slap of my daughter's skin on the bare gym floor made everyone gasp.  In an attempted steal, she had been knocked over, sailing to belly flop in front of the crowd of boys.  Tensed for action of my own, I could see her eyes grow wide, her lower lip jut out, and just begin to tremble.

"Okay Claire, okay.  Get up; can you get up?" 

Coach Jackie, who is mercifully also female, looked at her in the eye.  Ever a people pleaser, my nine year old bounced up to her feet, and dusted off her legs.  "Shake it off Claire, shake it off." 

Claire gave herself a shake, and boldly re-entered the game.  A nearby dad leaned over to me and said, "You have one tough kid."

It got me thinking.  I knew she'd wanted to cry.  I also knew her male peers would not.  Should I have given her a hug right afterwards, and let her have a quiet sob till she was better?  Or done what I did, and supported her toughness?  I'm still not completely sure. 

I find it interesting that so many things can spark tears.  There are about as many causes of tears as there are causes of love, and with similar variations.  I can love pizza and love my children.  I can cry over a sentimental movie, or the loss of a loved one.  Or heck, yes, over nothing at all. 
I find it hard not to try to comfort anyone I find crying.  Most recently, I sidled up to a kid weeping alone at a party, to hear the tragic tale that her dad had taken away her I-Pad for an hour.  Some days before that, as I was entering my doctor's office, a woman was leaving in sobs.  I turned to follow her into the parking lot and ask if she was okay, if she needed anything. 

She startled me with a brilliant smile.  "Oh no!  I'm just great!  I tried to get pregnant for years, and I just heard I succeeded, and everything looks good!" 
There was a time I couldn't imagine such outward displays.  I was rather a stoic kid.  With oodles of self-control, I was quiet and shy, and definitely disliked "making a scene" of any kind, so naturally weeping fell into that category.  Also, I was proud to be part Native American, and had read somewhere once that they were a particularly tough people, and I loved the idea of being "tough" too.  I did find this toughness awkward when all of my girlfriends were bawling over a movie like "Ghost" and I just could not cry if I wanted to.  So the actor is pretending to die.  Big whoop!  I liked the control of being detached from messy, noisy, tissue-requiring feelings.
But as an adult I find many uses for a cry, in private of course if it can at all be helped... but hey, if my kids see me crying sometimes (no not the wailing type, just a sniffle here and there) it proves I'm human too, right?  It helps me deal with the wonders of mood swings, to process the occasional lack of chocolate, and to cope with feeling sick or overwhelmed.   It helps me while I join in mourning forty years of abortion.  I find tears wash away the extra emotion so that my more rational side can take over, and planning can begin. 
I used to be embarrassed by the female affinity for tears, but now I can appreciate the depths of feeling we women have, and respect men who can be tender enough for tears.  Now I see tears as part of experiencing the breadth and depth of life, a purgation of excess feeling, a time of reflection, a release of pain.  I see that while self-control is a virtue, "toughness" is not.  And while I find it frustrating at times in a household of little women, I have plenty of opportunity to practice patience and understanding with kids who cry over the loss of one of a million doll clothes, weep that their favorite pillowcase is currently being washed and is unusable, mourn the bedtime hour as babies, and grieve over every cut, scratch, bruise, or bump they imagine they experience.  Lots of hugs and listening ears--I'm hoping--will teach empathy and lead to greater perspective and self-control.
Case in point: Felicity's reaction when her pretzel was not getting out of the bag fast enough:
And come to find out, while I am pondering my quasi-deep thoughts, there is actually a whole book written on my current fascination called "Crying: The Mystery of Tears."  Truly friends, there is nothing new under the sun... Yet we all want to get our two cents in, we bloggers, lol....
Anyway!  Hope you are well, and do not have any overwhelming need to cry.  Thanks to those of you who continue to encourage me to write.  I am determined to get on a twice a week schedule... One of these days, I will learn how to simply post a picture and a thought, and not these lonnnng epistles.... :)  Thanks for putting up with me, oh world wide web! - TLC
P.S.  I'm on my computer at the moment, as opposed to trying to text blog on my phone, so I can look up Scriptures more easily: I think this one is so touching and beautiful, the image of a Fatherly God who cares about all our cares...
"Thou countest my wanderings; put my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?" Psalms 56:8