Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gratituesday...for my Friend

Did you miss me?

I missed you!

Christmas (and my birthday, which was the 23rd) was wonderful, as always, but I'm still recovering. A holiday "hangover" of sorts, I suppose. All the food, the wine, the relatives, the spending...it can get a bit exhausting. I figured I get back to some kind of normal with a Tuesday Gratituesday post.

Do those of you who have blogs like mine, with your full name and picture plastered all over it for all to see, ever wish you had an anonymous one? I sure do. Especially on days like today, when I'd really like to vent here about certain people who are driving me crazy. But I digress. I'm supposed to be talking about what I'm grateful for, right? So here it is.

I'm grateful for Jesus.

I mean really, really grateful. For so many reasons (the least of which being that dying for me thing) I am so glad I know Him.

When I am feeling really challenged by the people in my life, I know I can turn to Him, and He will be there, my steadfast Friend. He is never too busy or stressed to listen to me. He always keeps His cool and His sense of humor. His patience never ends, and He never tires of my complaints or poor jokes.

When I have been really down, and I mean down, I have been given the good sense and the grace to turn to Him. Like everybody else on the planet, I've had some real lows. When I mentally list them (I can't reveal them all here - remember - that anonymity thing?) I am sometimes overcome by how absolutely horrid some of the things I've gone through have been. Can you think of some times like that in your life? I know you can.

And then I remember what Jesus did for me during those times. He reached down (way down) to my level and hoisted me up. He kept me going. He was my brother and my friend.

Things will go well, and things will go off track. Today I'm thankful that where ever I'm at on that path, Jesus is right there beside me.

I've got much to be thankful for.

So I'm going to visit my Friend. He's waiting for me at my local church every Tuesday, all day (something else to be immensely grateful for.) Is He waiting for a visit from you, too? Go say hi. You won't ever regret it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

yes, Virginia

I believe in Santa Claus.

I'm not saying I simply promote belief in Santa with my children, although that is also true. I'm not saying I think the Santa myth is fun, and that I like to pretend he's real.

I'm saying I believe in Santa Claus.

Like most, I grew up believing in Santa. I wrote lists of gifts I would like, and well-crafted letters mailed off addressed to Santa, North Pole.

I visited him not at a crowded mall, but at the local Hudson's Budget Store. There on a make-shift throne sat not one of "Santa's helpers," but the real Santa. At least that's what my brother and I were convinced. He had a real beard and kindly blue eyes. I remember preparing for our yearly rendezvous for days, overcome with nervous excitement. I was not a terribly shy little girl, but I was certainly not the type to be comfortable sitting on some old man's lap and rattling off a list of toys I wanted.

I did ask for toys, and sometimes I got them, and sometimes I didn't. I remember that one year I decided there was only one gift for me: a miniature toy vacuum cleaner. I had spotted it in the Sears Catalog, and had carefully drawn a circle around it. It was just like my mom's, only in wonderful toy form. On Christmas morning I excitedly tore open the packages marked To: Cathy From: Santa. I'm sure there were lots of wonderful gifts there. I don't remember what they were, but I remember that I didn't get the vacuum cleaner. But I still believed.

I never had a Christmas on which I "discovered" that Santa wasn't real. We had a book on our shelf that told a story about a little boy who got a black eye at school when someone challenged his belief in Santa. (I'm pretty sure there are no books like that in print these days!) The book went on to explain Santa's origins in the form of St. Nicholas. I used to imagine I was a bit like that boy: I would be willing to go to the mat for the Big Guy. In fact, I still am.

There is a trend in some circles to deny the existence of Santa Claus, a trend I find quite disturbing. I know some folks quite well who raise their children with the belief that St. Nicholas was real, of course, but that Santa Claus is merely a modern invention of consumerists who want us to spend more money this time of year. (They also demonize Halloween, which is another story entirely.) They contend that if they indulge a Santa fantasy, which they will someday say is a fib, their children won't believe anything they've told them, and will end up doubting the existence of God, which they will now identify as a myth as well.

I've heard this theory more than once. It's interesting, but the fact is I have never, ever heard of a case in which this has happened. Rather, I've many examples of well-rounded folks who love Santa and love the Lord and live a healthy, well-balanced life filled with ample amounts of fantasy and reality.

Fr. John Dietzen, in his recent column for the Catholic News Service, agrees with me. He eloquently defends belief in Santa, acknowledging that fantasies such as this are "doors to wonder and awe, a way of touching something otherwise incomprehensible."

Fr. Dietzen also share the words of G.K. Chesterton spoken in Santa's defense. Chesterton compares Santa's generosity with that of Our Creator Himself, and contends that our experience of Santa's goodness becomes a reflection of God's great gifts to us. (Read Fr. Dietzen's reflections and Chesterton's words here.)

So I believe in Santa, and like Chesterton, I find that "Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it." I believe in Santa, and I believe in the magic of Christmas. If your belief has dimmed, take a moment to remember what it is like to be a child on Christmas Eve. That night contains all the wonder, joy and magic that can ever be. I admit that every Christmas Eve, while I join Santa in fulfilling the wishes of my children, I start to believe that anything is possible. I recall the Christmas Eves I have lain in bed, a new baby growing beneath my heart, considering the Holiest of Nights when another young mother gave birth. And what does that have to do with Santa? Everything.

I believe in Santa. I believe in goodness, and in selfless giving. I believe in wondrous nights on which anything, even the miraculous, can happen.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently about a little girl who "found out" there was no Santa. I wished I could tell her what my mom told me through her actions when I was a little girl, and what I told my children who began to doubt his existence. Santa is real, as real as wind and warmth and love. If there is a time when you doubt that he lives, it is time for your belief to evolve. It is time for you to be Santa for others.

Every Christmas Eve my belief in Santa is renewed. It may be me who fills the stockings, and my husband who eats the cookies.

Then again, maybe not.

I believe in Santa. I hope you do, too.

gifts for me under the tree!

Not exactly what I had in mind.

Sophie has been leaving presents like this all over the place, so now we've confined her to the family room. I'm reminded of the days potty-training my children, something I was terrible at even though I went through it six times. I admit that sometimes I look at my adult children and am amazed that they made it this far without thousands of hours of therapy -- and in dry pants, no less.

Puppy love can be fickle, but I'm not giving up on my girl, or on myself. I know that she and I will figure this out. Since I've been spending all my free time searching the internet ("puppy poops in crate" and "how do I housetrain?" were recent searches) I've had little time to blog. When I'm not looking for training assistance I'm locked in the bathroom with her (that's where her training papers are) praying that she will let loose. It's a pain, but I'm still glad I got here. Weird? Love, puppy and otherwise, is like that.

I'm learning about myself, of course, as I struggle to train the little sweetie. Every puppy training manual (including my current fave read, Puppies for Idiots) claims that it is indeed the owner who first needs discipline. Oh dear. Discipline is NOT my strong suit. My lack of it leads me to say things like, "I'm a great mom, but a lousy mother." I'm horrible at providing boundaries, for myself and others.

This experience is reminding me that I need to grow in this area. Developing a schedule, following rules, erecting barriers, establishing boundaries -- all these ideas make me exceedingly uncomfortable. They go against my nature. But that is not an excuse to abandon them.

Sophie and I can learn together, and we will. I talked with my brother the other day, who is proud "papa" to a black lab and a life-long dog lover. He reminded me that I need to exude confidence, and that I should essentially "fake it til I make it." Sophie will learn that I'm leader of the pack, and she will be my faithful friend and companion. It will all be worth it.

Just another reminder that living a full life means doing things that are challenging, taking risks, pushing ourselves. It also means there will occasionally be unexpected presents under the tree. That's ok. Just clean it up and keep going!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'twas the week before Christmas...

Yes, I am still alive!

It seems that the more I have to say, the less time I have to say it. I've been wanting to update and have been simply overwhelmed lately.

Sophie is cute as ever, but she DOES NOT WANT TO SLEEP AT NIGHT. She has found barking at all hours to be her favorite pastime. She also enjoys pooping in her crate instead of on her papers. I know, puppies are like babies, blah blah blah. I'm tired and cranky. I know, I'm the one who wanted a puppy, I have to deal with it. Blah, blah blah. She's grow up and learn and life will go on, right?

Luke has been sick all this week with something nasty. I sent him off to school this morning (after three days at home) even though he was moaning and saying his stomach still hurts. I haven't gotten a call yet, so he's fine, right?

I'm off to renew my driver's license now. Even for a gal like me, who likes to have her picture taken, this is not fun. I know this pic will be hanging out in my wallet for the next ten years, and they are not very accomodating photographers at the police station. They ignore me when I point out that photos look best when taken from above, and they don't even want to know which of my sides is best. Can you imagine?

Tomorrow we are due for a snow storm around these parts, so I'm hoping to be snowed in enough that I might find myself trapped in front of my computer. I've got a great post on the Big Guy of the season -- our man Santa -- that I want to share with you. I just haven't written it yet (small detail) but wow, it's great in my mind!

For now I leave you with this detail of our Christmas tree. It is real, as in not artificial, a caveat to my Joey who was threatening to boycott Christmas if we switched to the storebought variety. It looks quite beautiful, I must admit, very traditional and festive.

Bear with me while I sort out another traditional occurrence -- one that happens yearly but without festivity. I'm experiencing that week-before-Christmas stress we moms are all familiar with. Breathe in, breathe out. I'm better now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I'm thankful for Santa Claus and little boys.

More about both later.
Don't forget to visit Laura to see what's she's thankful for this week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

meet Sophie!

Thanks for all the great input on the puppy names. I must admit that I spent most of last night obsessing. (Especially after reading Christine's comments! :))

Should I name her a "real" name? Will I offend someone? Should I even get a dog at all?

I admit I wracked my brain for a "dog" dog name, and I couldn't think of anything. Well, I actually thought of a few things, but then I realized I knew (or knew of) PEOPLE with these names! (I know of a human Sunshine, Candy, Trixie, and Buffy.)

Anyway, when I saw this little girl last night I knew the name I had dreamed of for a puppy was just right for her.

She's Sophie, and she's the newest member of this crazy family.

She is so cute, cuddly and affectionate, with just enough spice to keep things interesting. I'm feeling quite peaceful that she's just the right pet for us.

Isn't it great when things work out like that?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

puppy love, part 2

A while back I mentioned I was thinking about getting a dog.

Yesterday my husband nudged me along, since I've been talking about it for months. So today I took the plunge and actually called about an ad I saw for adorable pek-a-poo pups.

The female is black and white (with an "active" personality) and the male is a laid-back brown and white cutie. As of this morning, no one has left a deposit, but several folks are interested. So tonight we are going to meet them (the Big Man called it pet speed dating.)

I guess it's a sign that I really want to do this because I am so excited and hoping no one else will claim them both. I originally wanted a female, but now I don't care (that calm male is sounding great.)

But I have a very serious problem, and I need YOUR help! What does a smart, sassy, sophisticated grandma-to-be such as myself name her new doggy?

If you're going to suggest Hank, Spot, Buffy, or Rufus, think again.

I need something original. Maybe a literary reference, a cool, little known saint or a moniker with a significant meaning.

I like Sophie for a girl because Sophia means "wisdom." (Just sounds like a very empowered feminine chick, but still a little darling, like her owner, of course.)

Should I get a male pup, I'm at a loss. Suggestions, please!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

pink or blue?

Yesterday my daughter and her husband shared one of the most wonderful moments a couple can -- they saw their new baby on ultrasound.

It seems things have changed quite a bit since I had my first baby over 22 years ago, and even since my last one was born less than four years ago. Pregnant moms no longer need to drink gallons of water before the procedure (wasn't that evil?) and Dad is welcome to stay for the whole thing. They also had a handy TV screen hooked up that Rachel could view the entire time. I remember straining to see the screen throughout, but the techs always insisted on keeping it out of sight until the very end. And even then, you only got to see a brief glimpse of a fuzzy image that looked more like a map of the moon than a human baby.

We've all been anxious around here for this particular ultrasound -- the window into the womb that would reveal the Peanut's gender. I've been pondering it often in recent weeks. Will my first grandchild be a boy or a girl?

It is God's honest truth that we would joyfully welcome either variety. I found myself wistful for another boy, like my four urchins. Little boys are wonderful; they remind us of our husbands in all the best ways, and they adore their mothers. My boys bring me so much joy. I could picture a little grandson, with my daughter's chubby cheeks, my son-in-law's curls, and my husband's disposition. A little boy would be wonderful.

Then I dreamed of a granddaughter. A little girl would be so exciting! It has been so many years since I bought a doll! She would be our little princess, protected by a whole team of uncles, doted on by an aunt who would spend her paycheck on dresses. My heart also longed for a girl since my little Celeste is gone. She cannot be replaced, of course, but I admit the thought of having a little girl was a comfort.

So yesterday when the baby had "its" photo shoot, we waited anxiously to find out. A boy? A girl? What will that grandchild be????

It's a .....really cute wonderful little baby that we will love!

And her parents will name her Grace, and that is what she will bring to our family.

Congratulate me!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

post-holiday musings

Today I share a commentary at 4marks.com. It's a sad story. I hope we can glean something positive from it: we need to evaluate our priorities and focus on the right things this Christmas season.

Around here I'm trying to get "back to normal" after a fun holiday weekend. My daughter hosted her first ever Thanksgiving meal, and it was joyous. (She had a little help with the prep but the clean-up was all on her and her husband. That's pretty cool!) It was the passing of the torch (the turkey?) so to speak and a transition I must say I'm enjoying.

Here's the fam around the table (minus nine-year-old staff photographer John.)
Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

thank God

Thank Him for
coffee with cream, cheese and crackers, and bread with butter
the internet
washing machines
and jeans with spandex.

Thank Him for
men who are kind yet strong
friends who bring soup
and little boys with blue eyes who come in with flushed cheeks and say they will never stop loving you

Thank Him for
blue skies and blue hydrangeas and blue-haired old ladies.
green acres and green lights and green tea.
purple grapes, red wine and dark, dark chocolate.

Thank Him for
good days with little sufferings
and bad days with heavy crosses.
Thank Him for days.

Thank Him.
Thank Him with every breath.

Join Laura at Catholic Teacher Musings to say thanks today and every Tuesday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

faith and fitness fun

If the imminent arrival of Thanksgiving has you pondering your food consumption, weight, waistline, body image and the like, you might want to visit my faith and fitness blog In God's Image for some encouragement. Kate Wicker and I write there about all that and more.

Today I share a very fun picture of myself nine months pregnant with my fifth child. I KNOW you want to see that. Admit it, you are tired of all these "cute" photos of me, and want to see the real Cathy. What are you waiting for?

happy birthday Lolo!

When my Lauren Elizabeth was born, her sister Rachel was only 16 months old. She couldn't properly say Lauren's name, and called her "Lolo" instead. It suited that sweet baby girl perfectly, and the name took.

We still call her Lolo. She's no longer a chubby little girl who loves chocolate and climbing on top of the fridge. Now she's a young wife, an excellent student on her way to becoming an incredible nurse. (She still loves chocolate, but as far as I know she no longer perches on major appliances.)

Lauren turned 21 on Saturday. We celebrated with a lovely dinner at Ciao, a fun limo ride and a bit of "clubbing." I'm so blessed to have daughters like mine, who want their mama to celebrate with them!

Love ya Lowell! I'm so proud of you I can hardly stand it

Friday, November 21, 2008

something to live up to

"Role models show us how to bring God's goodness into our world. Cathy Adamkiewicz my mom is my role model because she is so nice.
Because she would treat somebody the same as Jesus would. I think she is one of the best moms in the world."

John, age 9

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"freedom of choice"

I know that most of my readers are familiar with FOCA -- and that they know that Barack Obama has said that his "first act" as president will be to sign it in to law.

Don't know the facts? Here they are:

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate EVERY restriction on abortion nationwide.

FOCA will do away with state laws on parental involvement, on partial birth abortion, and on all other protections.
FOCA will compel taxpayer funding of abortions.
FOCA will force faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to perform abortions.

Let's just assume for a moment, dear friend, that you consider yourself pro-choice. I respect your right to feel that way. But you need to know this: FOCA would eliminate all, and I mean ALL restrictions. So if your 13-year-old daughter gets pregnant, say by a 21-year-old man, he can take her for an abortion to cover his crime AND YOU WON'T KNOW ABOUT IT.

I know some folks who consider themselves pro-choice, and they would not allow their daughters to get their ears pierced without their permission.

Let's just think about this reasonably, shall we?

I've spent much of the last week pondering what it means to be "pro-life." I've always considered myself as such, but in light of recent events, I've realized I must become a much more active pro-lifer.

I've accepted an invitation to serve as a "mentor mom" at our local crisis pregancy center. I'm posting this info about FOCA and adding it to my sidebar. And I'm going one step further. I'm going to do something rather out of character and post a very disturbing video.

I spotted it last week at Ebeths' place and forced myself to watch it. IT IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. Say a prayer before you watch it. If you're like me, it will be difficult. There will be tears, and you will never be the same. But if you, like me, need a reminder that you must live and breathe for these innocent babies, watch it, and be transformed.

Click here to see it.

Whatever you do, do this: find a way to help others choose life, and do it now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

my quirks

What a week! First I receive an award and now I've been tagged for a meme!

I know some of you are tired of these. If you are, just look away. I think they're fun. This one in particular is interesting, because according to Mary at Not Strictly Spiritual I am required to ponder and write about my QUIRKS! What could be more fun than that!?

(BTW, Mary is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism, which automatically makes her quirky, fun, and someone you should want to get to know.)

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog
3. Tell about your six quirks
4. Tag six bloggers to do the same.
5. Leave them a comment to let them know you've tagged them.
6. No tag backs.

At first, shockingly, I was having trouble coming up with six quirks. Me, quirky? Then, as I wandered around the house in my pajamas, talking to myself, eating chips and dip for breakfast, I thought of just a couple worth sharing.

1. I can't sleep without first applying Lip Smacker (preferably strawberry.) In fact, I'm known for applying some sort of lip product before all life events, both major and minor.
2. I ALWAYS "read" magazines from back to front. My mother tells me my grandmother used to do this also, so I obviously can't help it; it's hereditary. I've also been known to read blog posts this way.
3. I hate going to new restaurants. I'm always afraid the food will be bad, the service will be slow, or worse, something horribly inappropriate, like a drag show or table dancing, will occur while I'm sipping my merlot.
4. Despite the fact that I am always telling people to put away their shoes, I have a habit of leaving mine all over the house.
5. I never, and I mean never, balance my checkbook.
6. I love two things that most women hate: going grocery shopping and having my picture taken.

Since I'm now on a quirky roll I'm going to add a seventh: I claim to be a rule follower who is always obedient, but I'm constantly breaking rules. See, I just did it! I added an extra quirk when I wasn't even asked to! And I do all sorts of unconventional things like homeschool, use NFP, have seven kids, and tap dance and sing in plays even though I have no training or talent.

It's fun to be quirky.

Want to be share YOUR quirks? I'm breaking another rule. Consider yourself tagged if you read this. I'm too lazy to tag you myself. Let me know if you play along and I'll write something nice about you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

it's a major award!

I'm feeling quite spiffy this morning as I just received my first ever award for this blog!

Cassie at Blessed Life showed me the love with this meaningful award. Thanks, Cassie! You are a peach!

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

The rules to follow are :
1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to other 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Wow! 15 is a big number! I don't know if I read 15 blogs regularly. This got me to thinking about the blogs I do read and why I like them.

I like blogs about the Catholic faith, because they challenge my spirit. (I enjoy blogs by Christians from other traditions too -- I'm always inspired by their love of Scripture.) I like "Mommy blogs" -- particularly those from young, enthusiastic moms who are excited to be mothering. (They motivate me to be a better mom myself.) I LOVE humorous blogs, because I need more laughter in my life, and reading them makes me feel funny. (Not funny weird, funny like I'm so amusing.)

I like lady-like blogs, because they inspire me to be more feminine. I like nostalgia, because who doesn't want to feel like a kid again? I like blogs that mentions good books, because words are my life. And I like blogs by men, because, well, I love men and how they think.

I like any blog that dwells on food, wine or chocolate, or that features beautiful art or photography.

I even like blogs with opinions different than my own.

So I'm a rather eclectic blog reader, but truthfully, I tend to flit around so much that I can't say I've committed to 15 blogs. So I'll just mention a couple of my favorites (they certainly exemplify the aforementioned values!) and pass this award on to them.

Kate Wicker because she's a kindred spirit
Laura at Catholic Teacher Musings because she makes me feel funny :)
Kelly at Soul Pockets because she's a beautiful mom and a real-life friend
Kelly's husband Dominic because he's smart
Mom to Five Minnies because she's an awesome photographer
Kim at Dog and Pony Show because she's SO sweet

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

because I know you need a laugh

I laughed out loud TWICE in the last two days due to these two commercials.


from the childhood shelf

Have you ever wanted to run away from home?

No, not now, because your spouse and kids are driving you crazy. I mean, when you were little, did you want to pack up a suitcase with the essentials (teddy bear, crackers, and Things With Which to Survive) and head off to somewhere "better?"

I used to dream of going someplace exotic like the seashore or better yet, a tree house. These fantasies were no doubt fueled by this book, one of my childhood favorites.

My boys have the day off from school today, and Luke just packed up a suitcase and announced he's "walking and swimming to Hawaii." I'm with ya, son.

It made me think of this book, which survived my many readings to land on my kids' shelf. How I love it.

"So we packed our bag with sweaters and socks
and scarlet leaves and gold
and a frog who was a particular friend
and precious stones that caught and held the sun."

Pure poetry.

Makes me want to pack a suitcase and go exploring.

Don't worry. I'll be back in time for dinner.

Monday, November 10, 2008

awe and wonder

I had one of those experiences today, the kind that will be locked forever in my heart.

I got the first glimpse of my grandbaby!

I've included a copy of the ultrasound pic, and though you may think it looks like an alien frog, I think it looks like the most beautiful baby ever.

All looks well, but please keep Rachel, her husband Chris, and our little Peanut in your prayers!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

just another prayer post

Are you sensing a theme?

If you believe in coincidence you could claim one now -- I happened upon this prayer kick-start that will get us all all praying a bit more in the month of November.

The pithy, quirky Ironic Catholic takes things seriously at NaPraGoMo -- a site dedicated to getting us to add 15 minutes a day to our prayer time. (NaPraGoMo? It's a spin on the popular NaNoWriMo, at which writers are encouraged to knock out a novel in a months' time. This time the crazy acronym stands for National Pray to God Month.)

The widget is on my sidebar for your clicking pleasure, but hey, why not visit there, sign up, and add it to your site?

The beautiful photographs and succinct meditations got me thinking about prayer and -- GASP -- actually praying.

Give the site a visit -- and don't forget to pray for me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

prayer, part two

"I have a few very important things to tell you all now. First of all, I do not want any of you to feel your prayers have not been answered. God is always faithful, and He always gives us what is best for us...Do not despair! Please keep praying, about everything in your lives! God loves us so much...And your prayers have worked miracles..."

I suppose I needed to hear these words on prayer today. They kept coming to mind these last few days, and this morning I looked them up to verify that they did indeed contain the message I thought they did. Yep, there they were, plain as day, black and white, staring up at me from the pages of a very important book. Arguably the most important book in my life. Why? I wrote it.

The words on prayer are taken from an email I sent to those who were interceding on behalf of my daughter. When it became clear that she would not live much longer, I didn't want them to lose faith -- faith in the power of prayer.

The conversation about prayer has continued around here, and I find myself reevaluating some of what I said. It is indeed true that our prayers have purpose, and although I still contend that God doesn't always answer our requests as we'd like, He does say something: sometimes the answer is "Yes! Your request will fulfill my Holy Will." Sometimes it's "Yes, my child, but not just yet." And often the answer we hear may disappoint us, but it's the one we truly need: "No, my dear one. I have something better in mind."

I came across this video from Catholic Media House on 4marks, the Catholic networking site, and thought it shared some things about prayer that I've been trying to express. I hope you'll take the time to view it and tell me what you think.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm on the cover of the Rollin' Stone!

OK, not really.

How I love to punk my readers.

I AM on the cover of a really awesome magazine, though -- the November/December issue of Canticle, the wonderful mag for Catholic women produced by Johnette Benkovic of Living His Life Abundantly and Women of Grace.

Well, I'm not exactly on the cover, but my name certainly is, along with the title of my article that's contained within. I'm excited! It's my first piece for them (keep your eyes peeled for more to follow in the months to come!) and I'm so honored to be writing for such a great publication along with other Catholic bloggers like Kate Wicker and Elena Maria Vidal.

Not a subscriber? Why in the world not? Visit this site to sign up now!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

stop whining and start praying (I think)

So it's all over but the whining.

Is anybody else as drained as I am? Not by the outcome of the election, but by the response to it? I am disappointed in the results (particularly that Proposal 2 failed in Michigan -- embryonic stem cell research got a big green light) but I will not give in to the urge to whine, complain, and/or move to a foreign country or neighboring planet.

As I mentioned in my last post, I intend to do my best with what I've got. Elections and politicians will come and go. Laws will change, statutes will evolve, and, while cultures and nations rise and fall, God will stay the same.

I felt sad yesterday, and when I talked to friends and family and popped around on the net I felt even sadder. Some of my loved ones are not just disappointed, they are bitterly angry. I'm praying that they will come to a sense of peace. President-Elect Obama is not in charge here...God is. We have to return to that fact again and again.

Speaking of prayer, I got into a very passionate discussion on the subject with the Big Man and our eldest son last night. I was sharing my thoughts on prayer, that I have felt lately that it is rather ridiculous to submit a request list to God and then feel let-down when my demands are not met. I can ask God to bless our nation with a president who respects life. But God is certainly not going to say, "OK, Cathy. You have said enough rosaries and prayed enough Holy Hours. You have met the prayer quota, so I'm going to place your candidate in the White House."

My experience, and I believe Catholic theology, tell me something quite different about prayer. Prayer is communication with God. We can offer praise, adoration, seek reconciliation, or complain. We can, of course, ask for things or situations, graces and blessings. But prayer does not change God. It changes us. And God will always respect our free will. He will not answer one man's prayer by forcing HIs will on another.

I admit that when I hear that Bob is ill and asking for prayer, I don't ask for a healing. I ask that Bob be blessed with the grace to bear his cross. I ask that God's will be done through Bob's sickness.

Some of this attitude certainly comes from the fact that I have seldom seen my prayers answered in the way I'd like. When I prayed for a bike when I was 12, I didn't get one. When I prayed for career successes, they didn't materialize. (At least not yet! :))

When I asked God to spare my daughter's life, she died.

I am not bitter, don't get me wrong. I consider myself a realist (my husband and son prefer pessimist) who accepts the truth that life, well, sucks. (Pardon the expression.) Since Adam and Eve chomped down on the apple it all went downhill. We are not promised happiness in this world (remember Our Lady's words to St. Bernadette?)

That is not to say that we will not experience genuinely happy moments this side of heaven. Most of us will have our share -- the birth of our children, the love of our spouses, good health, enough to eat, roofs over our heads. We have the beauty of nature and the blessings of creative, good people who try to serve others. But all the happiness in the world is just a shadow of the real happiness we'll experience in heaven if we stick it out here.

The conversation with my men did not end well. My husband muttered something about wanting to end it all after chatting with me, because my view of life is so depressing. My son kept his positive spirit, but was clearly disappointed in his Mom's belief that not much good will come our way here.

He had a few good questions for me. "Why do you write on your blog if you don't think anyone will read it or care? Why did you write your book? Don't you have hope that someone will hear what you have to say?"

I admit I do hold onto a shred of hope that some of my worldly dreams will come true. I just know that God is not Santa Claus and he won't automatically wrap up my requests and put them under the tree.

I figure Jesus died on the cross for me and everything else is gravy.

Am I wrong? Or should I just pray a little harder for that new bike?

Monday, November 3, 2008

breaking news!

Have you heard?!?!?

It's unbelievable! John McCain is making such a strong showing in the states that have early voting that all the major networks are saying he will definitely win tomorrow! The experts say they have never seen anything like this!

This just announced as footage aired showing Barack Obama weeping as he confessed he and Joe Biden have been carrying on an affair for months.

Can you believe this?!?!?

I hope not, because none of it is true.

Please, please do not believe everything you read on the internet. Be a little leery about what you read in newspapers and magazines, too, and be cautious about what you heard from your best friend, neighbor, or Aunt Mildred. (Yes, even Aunt Mildred.)

And for heaven's sake have the good sense to check out what you read on this blog.

I'm so overwhelmed with information lately -- particularly about the election -- that I'm just completely ready for this to be over tomorrow. I'm drained by the stuff that's been filling my inbox. I'm standing here in my choir robe shaking my head. Enough already!

I know there are still plenty of undecided voters out there, but I'm guessing most of them are weighing economic issues and not moral ones. Those of us who are voting based primarily on life issues have come to our conclusions long ago. We don't need to be clobbered over the head with any more emails that feature Senator Obama's middle name all in caps.

I think it's time we realize that in a little over a day, we are going to have a new president, and some of us will be pleased, and some of us won't. With either candidate in the White House our responsiblities will not change much. Each of us will still need to pray for our leaders and work locally to make our communities better. Those of us who are prolife will need to give women who are contemplating abortions real reasons to choose life. We will need to show love and compassion to those with whom we disagree.

I've personally not been called to public office, but as a Christian I've certainly been called to charity and living a life that will attract others. I know that aside from casting my vote, there is little I can do to affect public policy. But I pray there is much I can do to form hearts, to help others heal, to witness to the truth.

I won't make much impact by sending anti-Obama emails to friends who might support him. (Yes, I have friends who don't agree with me! Isn't that outrageous?) I might, however, gain their ear (over time) if I show genuine interest in their views and love them even though I disagree.

Tonight I will see a friend of mine whom I'm sure is voting for Senator Obama. He lived in San Francisco in the '60s. Yes, he is gay. He is passionate about ending the war in Iraq. He is as liberal as they come, I suppose. A part of him died when George W. Bush was re-elected.

He's also a Christian who's very involved in his church. He loves children and treats them unequivocally with respect. He is kind and gentlemanly.

So when I see him tonight, what should I do? Tell him who to vote for? Do you think I can change his views -- change him -- with a single conversation?

Of course not. And nor should I. "Changing him" is up to God, if God sees the need. It's my job to love him. I can completely disagree with many, many of his choices, but I can still love him.

So that's what I'll do. I'll give him a warm hug, as I always do, and receive the same from him. He'll ask about my family, with authentic concern, and we'll talk about the interests we have in common. (Yes, we do have things in common.)

On Wednesday, one of us will be pleased with our new president, and the other will be disappointed. But both will be left with the task of living in this fallen world and doing the best we can with it.

For my part, I'm praying I can move on not with a spirit of victory or defeat, but with one of cooperation and hope. Because whoever is president, God is still God, and I am still His little child.

And that's the truth.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

dust to dust

Today, on the Feast of All Souls, I stood at my own graveside, but I didn't shed a tear.

I thought about my daughter, who awaits me there, and I remembered her life with awe and gratitude. I missed her with an ache that will never leave my bones, but my heart is not heavy. It soars to meet her.

I looked at the descriptions cast in stone: husband and father, baby girl, wife and mother. The roles that will define us for all eternity.

I suppose it is an excellent practice to ponder the fact that we will all be dust some day. As I stood on the very spot where I hope my grandchildren and their grandchildren will kneel someday, begging mercy on my soul, I realized the truth.

It will all be over in a flash.

From the cemetery we stopped at Starbucks for something hot and chocolately. From there I went to a community theater audition. I was cast in the role of Maxine, who has good hair and make-up and is learning to tap dance.

Life is short, but it's grand. Live it up, and do much good with it.

Eternal peace grant unto them O Lord, and may Perpetual Light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, October 31, 2008

happy haunting

For years, our family did not celebrate Halloween.

When I first began homeschooling I was heavily influenced by the other families I met who were teaching their kids at home. One of them, a family I still love dearly, insisted that Halloween was a satanic holiday that should be avoided.

They did not pass out candy and did not allow their children to trick-or-treat. The children were allowed to dress up, but only as canonized saints. They shared videos produced by evangelical churches that "exposed" the roots of Halloween, and told us (and their children) that kids who went door-to-door begging for candy were at risk for abduction by satanists and witches who were looking for victims to sacrifice.

I was easily frightened, and tired of the gore of secular Halloween celebrations, so I told the family we would not be taking part any more.

For years we did not trick-or-treat or pass out candy. We attended and hosted several "All Saints' Day" events and avoided ghosts, witches, skeletons and even jack-o-lanterns (you do realize that they were designed to attract and host demons, right?)

Bobbing for apples was off limits, too, because that had roots in ancient worship of the Roman goddess Pomona (the goddess of fruit trees -- truly dangerous stuff.)

I don't intend to make fun of folks who don't want to celebrate Halloween. Remember, that was me for many years. But a few years ago, I started wondering if I had it right.

I came across an article (wish I could remember where) that pointed out the Catholic roots of the day. I did some research and started feeling I had been acting, well, very protestant. (Today I found this nice site that has some facts on the holiday.)

I started to get annoyed with All Saints' Day parties where the kids HAD to dress as canonized saints when I realized that the feast day is intended to honor all the folks in Heaven who don't have feasts of their own.

My older children remember the days when Halloween was a dirty word. They now love taking the little ones trick-or-treating and enjoy dressing up in scary costumes. (There is a bit of a backlash here: AJ is going to be some sort of a vampire this year, and his props include a giant bottle of fake blood.)

I've realized that Halloween is really about looking death in the eye and winking. It's about whistling in the graveyard. It's about we're all going to end up skeletons someday so party on. It's about death is scary but we can rock it because Jesus went there first.

So today we'll celebrate Halloween, and enjoy the innocent fun of this Catholic tradition. Tomorrow we'll talk about all those cool souls in Heaven and on Sunday we'll pray for those awaiting release from Purgatory. Halloween is the first feast in an awesome Catholic trilogy of feasts, and we'll be living it up.

While we still can...(Insert demonic laugh.)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

my 100th post...a tribute to my patron

When I was a little girl, I wished my patron saint were St. Catherine of Alexandria, not St. Catherine of Siena.

I had good reason. The former was pictured in our family's book of saints as a beautiful young maiden with long, flowing blonde hair. The story was she was so beautiful that some guy wanted to marry her and went all crazy. Anyway, of course I wanted her to be my patron, not that Italian chick who worn the Dominican habit. She had RED hair, and when her mother told her it was her best feature, she cut it off! Oh dear. It was quite obvious that she was not the appropriate patron for me.

But, alas, my mother was quite clear that Catherine of Siena was the saint for which I had been named. I was stuck with her, and she with me.

For years I thought that all that she and I shared was a name.

But that Catherine was one spicy girl.

A few years ago I read the excellent book by Louis DeWohl, Lay Siege to Heaven, and I fell in love with my patron. She was feisty, mysterious, and bold. She corresponded with kings, spoke face to face with Our Lord, and persuaded the Pope to come back to Rome.

She was awesome.

I'm thinking of her this week because I'm wondering what kind of woman I am. I want to be feisty, mysterious and bold, but I don't want to be obnoxious and offensive. I want to share the "vision" I feel I've been given, but I don't want to blow everyone out of the water every time I open my mouth.

I'm not sure how to do this.

I have the feeling that Catherine was an embarrassment to her family at times. Against their will, she chose a life of consecrated virginity. And if she had had a husband, I KNOW he would have been embarrassed. She was outspoken and outrageous. In a time when women were definitely meant to be seen and not heard, she spoke loudly to powerful men.

She said, "My nature is fire."


She also had the privilege and burden of frequent visits from Jesus Himself. She bore an invisible stigmata for years and lived in constant pain. She battled severe temptations (especially sexual ones) and suffered a painful illness before her death at age 33. Then the local townspeople, disappointed that she was to be buried in Rome, lopped off her head and carted it home so they could keep a bit of her in Siena.

Would've been easier to be that blonde Catherine, huh?

But she was what she was, as am I.

I've sat down at this computer 100 times to, I don't know, bare my soul, share my thoughts, ease my pain? I try sometimes not to be, but I'm usually transparent. I may sometimes be maudlin, annoying, obnoxious, or embarrassing. If I'm not doing that here, be assured, I'm doing it plenty in "real" life.

I know that the quality that allowed St. Catherine to speak the truth boldly probably made her look foolish at times. I'm just praying I'll be blessed with just a fraction of Catherine's charm and influence and be spared the foolish part, which just comes so easily to me.

So St. Catherine, this post's for you. I can't wait to meet you someday. Help me to speak when I must and be still when I should. Allow me the grace of boldness and the gift of silence. Guide my actions, my words, my thoughts, my longings. Remind me that all that matters is our Jesus.

Help me to become what I should.

"When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze." St. Catherine of Siena

beautiful artwork by Patricia Brintle

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

school daze

First of all, thank you.

Thank you to the many friends who called, posted comments, and sent emails in the last few days. You have no idea how much your encouraging words have meant to me!

The boys LOVED school. Their first day was awesome. Luke started off the morning by announcing, "I'm one half excited, one quarter nervous and one quarter 'I want to stay home.'" That pretty much summed it up for all of us. So they headed out the door, backpacks in tow, Mom and Dad following along. There were no tears (not even from Mom!) and they came home excited and enthusiastic, anxious to return.

They had the day off yesterday (a retreat for teachers was taking place.) They are back today, and we are all HAPPY! I know we made the right decision, at least for now.

The years I spent homeschooling my children were a great gift. I know that I was doing God's will then, and I'm feeling peaceful that we are continuing in His will today. I know the excitement will wear off, and soon they will be complaining about homework. (Oh wait, that already happened last night!) There is no perfect school situation, but I really believe this is best for us right now.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

letting go

During weeks like the past one, when there is so much going on in my life, I find myself at a loss for words, and this blog is a blank sheet sticking out of a rusty typewriter.

There are a dozen sheets of paper at my feet, crumpled, with two or three sentences -- at most -- scribbled on each.

It's hard to write about because it's hard to think about and harder still to do. I've spent the last few weeks making A Big Decision, and before I nauseate myself any further with all this drama, I'll just spit it out:

I'm sending my boys to school.

Now, I suppose the two or three of you readers of this blog are now scratching your heads. Come on, Cathy, it's not such a big deal. Everybody goes to school. That's just normal. What is wrong with you?

For our family, going to school is not normal. I've been A Homeschooling Mother (say that with attitude) for over 15 years, and we've been A Homeschooling Family. Homeschooling has been part of our family's identity and culture since my now-married daughters were six and seven years old. Homeschooling has been our cornerstone; we were known in our church family and our larger community as an unusual, intriguing bunch, a little strange perhaps, but wow, look at them go! She's had SEVEN CHILDREN, folks would say, and GET THIS: SHE HOMESCHOOLS, TOO!

And now, I suppose, it's the end of an era, and it's not easy.

It wasn't easy to make this decision, either. As I wrote here, I've been praying and struggling, trying to discern the path I should take. Seeking both success and good fruits, both for myself and my family, I finally turned to an unlikely, largely untapped source of wisdom: my husband. (Smile.)

I am a good Catholic girl after all, one who realizes that God speaks to women through their husbands. I have not felt at peace with homeschooling for some time, and it took my dear Big Man to help me sort it out. Homeschooling has been a great blessing and a gift to our family. I have been so privileged to teach my children (and of course I will continue to be their primary educator.) But I have discovered that the woman I am today is quite different from the gal I was 15 years ago. Today I am humble enough to admit that I just can't do this alone anymore.

I am also willing to admit (again, thank you Big Man) that there are many other things that I want to achieve personally, and I just can't do them while continuing to home school. Believe me, this has caused me a great deal of anguish. I don't want to live selfishly, but I believe God is giving me a season in which I can explore some of my gifts that don't involve my children directly.

This kind of thinking, I know, is not popular in some homeschooling circles. Thankfully I am blessed with a community of friends who are supporting and praying for me. They know that my heart is always with my children.

So Monday morning my two littlest boys will load up their backpacks and go to our parish school. The Sister who is principal has been only supportive and kind in our transition; the teachers professional, pleasant and genuine. The boys alternate between excitement and resistance, enjoying shopping for new shoes and supplies, smiling ear to ear as the talk buzzes around the parish about their arrival next week.

And each day I smile and encourage them and tell them that it will be fun and they will learn so much. And every night I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, tears streaming silently down my face, like they are right now. I will miss them. I will miss this season. I only want the very best for them, and right now, I am not the very best.

But if a mother can trust her husband, reach out in humility, and learn to explore her talents, I am the very best I can be.

Thanks for your prayers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

here's my fifth

This one's been going around, and I'm glad to have been tagged by the amazingly funny Laura.

I love this because I can post to the blog mostly by cutting and pasting. Too tired to do any "real" writing today, so here goes.

Laura instructs me to find the nearest book.

Okay. I found it. The nearest was on my living room bookshelf. It's called Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. (One of my husband's sales training books.)

Laura then instructs me to find page 56.
Okay. I found it. It is after page 55.
Laura next instructs me to find the 5th sentence.
Okay. I found it. It is neatly tucked between the 4th and 6th sentence.

(Remember, I'm cutting and pasting here, so all this cleverness comes from Laura. I'm no plagiarist; I'm all about giving credit where credit is due.)

Laura instructs me to type the 5th sentence here.

"At other times, you face what appears to be an either/or choice that is either markedly favorable to you or to the other side."

Well then.

At this point Laura passed these instructions on to me and four other lucky gals, adding a bit of extra credit: "I challenge you to find a way to relate the sentence to your life right now."


Come back tomorrow to find out more about the dilemma I've been facing, and to discover the choice I've made.

If you're reading this and haven't played along yet, consider yourself tagged!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

because I can

Yesterday, I got up at 4:30 a.m, drove for nine hours (OK, "passengered" for nine hours) and ended up in Des Moines, Iowa.Today, I woke at 5:30 and spent the morning walking 13.1 miles -- yep, a half marathon-- with Team Prevention of Prevention Magazine.

Why in the world would I do that? Because I can.

My companions (the Big Man and my friend CT) and I are exhausted, but ecstatic. We accomplished what we set out to do, and we did it quicker than we even believed possible! Our goal was to complete the race in 4 hours and 22 minutes (that's 3 miles per hour.) We made it in right around 3 hours and 30 minutes!!!

My goal was a "personal best." How cool to discover that my best was something so much greater than I imagined it could be.

I'll share more when I'm back home (I've got some photos to share!) But for now I'll leave you with some inspiration from Walt Whitman that we spotted on the back of a fellow walker's t-shirt.

"Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing...
Strong and content I travel the open road."

Friday, October 17, 2008

it's Yuktoberfest!

Not to worry, I haven't entirely lost my sense of humor. Thanks to Laura at Catholic Teacher Musings (one of my new favorite places to visit) the first thing I did this morning was write bad haiku. Now, tell me, how bad can a day be when it starts off like that?

Here's my contribution to this fall festival of fun:

Leaves in my laces
Bees in my apple cider
Milk duds in my teeth.

OK, it's a bit pessimistic, not all that funny, but it is bad, right? (That's what happens when you wait until the last minute and are just a bit cranky.)

What are you waiting for? Get over there and join in the fun!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

informed voting

I am not much for politics.

I've been avoiding writing much about the election, mostly because I am ignorant. I am a single issue voter, which generally makes things quite simple for me.

Not so for some Catholics, including some prominent ones like Franciscan Board of Trustees member Dr. Nicholas Cafardi.

Cafardi is smart, frighteningly so. He's a law professor at Duquesne University. But when it comes to the abortion issue, I'm not sure he's so bright.

I understand that many well-meaning Catholics support Obama, claiming that his social policies will create a world in which abortions will be less desirable. I even want to believe this. But today I read this article which explained the truth much better than I could ever hope to.

Please read it, especially if you are attracted to Obama's policies and think he would be the better president.

One of the things I discovered by reading this article:Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: "that question is above my pay grade."

I may be ignorant about politics, but that scares me.

Check it out.

bearing fruit

"There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another's wounds. Let's remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness."
~Henri Nouwen

I just totally hacked this quote from a lovely lady's blog; "Not Quite Mary Poppins" (isn't that sweet?) at Crazy Acres. Before you read on here you must promise to visit her when you are done, and show her a little bloggy love since I stole from her so blatantly.

I was visiting her just now, and when I read this quote on her sidebar I was struck by its wisdom. Success or fruitfulness. What is it that I truly seek?

If I am honest I will admit that I desire both. I want worldly success. I want to sell books and publish articles. I want to speak at conferences and do radio interviews. I want to be liked and admired for my intelligence, talent and wit. I want to be appreciated, and I want to see visible signs of that appreciation.

I also long for fruits. I want my sufferings to yield a bountiful harvest. I want my children to grow up loving the Lord, they being the best fruits I have to offer. If fruits truly come from weakness and vulnerability, as Nouwen says, I should be experiencing them bountifully, right? Because lately all I glory in are my tender points, my paper-thin skin, my quivering upper lip.

Nouwen doesn't mention if our fruits must be seen or experienced by us to bring us joy. Perhaps their existence brings us grace even if they remain hidden, only to be revealed to us in some distant space. (Heaven?)

I'm struggling. I have seen and felt, truly, some of the specific fruits that old Henri mentions. I know the community of brokenness, the intimacy of tending wounds. I have been so blessed by my children that it takes my breath away.

I've known success, as well, but the problem with success is that it is never, ever enough. It is inherently insufficient. What I achieve today pales tomorrow. My work will become nothingness, even though I've vainly convinced myself God wants to use it for His glory.

My friend Kate (how did I merit such a wonderful cyber-friend?) quotes Amy Welborn today on her blog - about writing.

She says "...I've learned some important lessons about faith from writing. Writing involves courage in sharing from deep within, without any certainty that it will do a bit of good. It involves a lot of waiting without a concrete reason to hope."

My heart and my words are intertwined, and on some occasions, like today, I just have to be courageous. Courageous without certainty....waiting....waiting.

I don't know if my longings for success and fruitfulness can be effectively balanced, nor am I confident of the path I have chosen. My fear is that I will be neither successful nor fruitful, just overcome with busyness, frantically doing and working and striving and always coming up short.

Welborn's words continue with thoughts on our Christian faith: "It strikes me that being a disciple of Jesus is also about stepping forward and waiting - every day. Holding on tight to the promise that its fulfillment - and our joy - will surely come."

There's that word again - joy. So joy comes from fruitfulness, from promises fulfilled. (And all this time I thought it came from seeing comments on my posts!) I am so far from Nouwen's mysticism and Welborn's wisdom that I find only sadness today in pondering the truth. It is quite easy to live a life that is neither successful nor fruitful, and if I am not careful, my selfishness will seal that.

Nouwen believed that what is most personal is also universal. It is in that spirit that I write today, hoping that I might heal and be healed by the sharing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I lit a candle tonight, in honor of my baby girl Celeste.

It's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day according to this site which was forwarded to me.

Of course, for those of us who have lost a little one, every day is a day to remember. Chances are, someone you know has suffered a miscarriage or lost an infant or child.

Give her a hug, and let her know her precious child will never be forgotten.

(Artwork courtesy of Kevin Roeckl.)

roses for Mary

This month's Carnival at Behold Your Mother, in honor of the rosary, is up and running. Sarah did an amazing job! I'm sure our Heavenly Mother is delighted with the efforts of her little children!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

send me a sign

Last night, before I went to bed, I asked God for A Word.

And, miraculously, He gave me one.

Let me explain. I've been praying about so much lately -- my kids, my marriage, my work, my "play." (Not sure where this blog fits in, but anyway...)

I've been troubled, confused, anxious. I'm trying to make decisions about how to improve things around here. Should I send the boys to "real" school? Should I focus on my writing, or put in on the back burner?

So when I went to bed last night, in a bit of a saucy mood, I decided to turn it right over to God. Just give me A Word, I prayed. Tell me what to do. You've got that all-knowing thing down, Lord, so show me a little love.

And he did.

Sort of.

I dreamed of a word, all right. I actually dreamed of a billboard, clad in red, letters tall. All in caps. A Word.

This has never happened before, and I don't imagine it will again, so I suppose I should savor the moment.

The word?



It was a "what you talkin' 'bout Willis" moment, for sure.

Realize....realize what? What are you trying to tell me, Lord, in the guise of my quirky subconscious mind?

I'm not sure what I should realize, but I've been pondering it all day, and I suppose that's a start. I must admit I've felt more at peace than I've been in days, and for that I'm grateful.

Things to realize:

I'm blessed. With children, a husband, talents, choices. I'm blessed with busyness, chores, clutter, and internet access.

I'm anointed. Anointed with a calling to serve my husband and children. They are my priority. Anointed with a yearning to spread a message to a wider audience, as well.

I'm human. It will not be easy to find balance. In my humanness I am all at once tiny and insignificant and glorious and mighty. Who knew it would be so difficult?

In a desperate attempt to decipher "realize," I did the modern equivalent to calling my mom. I googled it, and happened upon the lyrics to Colbie Callat's song with that title.

There I found more of the illusive message.

"Take time to realize
Oh-oh I'm on your si-i-i-de
Didn't I, didn't I tell you.
Take time to realize
That this all can pass by
Didn't I didn't I tell you
But I can't spell it out for you,
No it's never gonna be that simple
But I can't spell it out for you."


Well, tonight when I go to bed I will not ask for "A Word." I'll ask for a sentence, a paragraph, a WORD 2003 compatible document. Heck, I'll ask for a term paper, single-spaced, in 10 pt. type entitled "Cathy, this is what you should do."

While I'm waiting for that, I'm entertaining all input from mystics and charlatans alike. Bring on the advice.

I'm listening.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

for the men in your life

Will it make them irresistible?

Or simply infallible?

I think this may be the perfect Christmas gift for my boys, or perhaps my pastor (who shares my off-beat sense of humor.)

Check out Pius IX's secret formula, and let me know if you order the free sample.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

my wild colt

I've been worried about him.

He dances around like his pants are on fire. Every sentence ends with a somewhat maniacal laugh. He throws things, and climbs things, and runs through our house like a tumbleweed caught by an angry wind.

When he wants to be, he's brilliant. He designs and executes complicated mazes. He memorizes intriguing facts (spanish phrases, secrets of the solar system.) He organizes his sacred collectibles (Thomas the Tank Engine and friends) with passionate zeal. He goes to his room to pray his rosary in peace. He reads at a fourth grade level.

He's six years old. He's making me crazy.

I've searched "does my child have ADHD?" more than once.

I don't know if he does or not, but I suppose it doesn't matter.

He's my little bundle of feisty, joyful mayhem, and that's all that counts.

Today I received encouragement from an unlikely source: my fourth-grader's history supplement "George Washington's World."

It seems that young Abigail, future wife of John Adams, was a "high-spirited" child who couldn't follow her mother's directions and was often sent off to her grandparents because she was such a handful. (Wow, does that ever sound familiar.) Grandmother Quincy, in her wise old Quincy-esque way, gathered the young dear up in her arms, and declared her an absolute treasure. She and the mister took it upon themselves to school the young vixen, seeing potential genius where Mom saw problem child. (I just had to ask Luke how to spell genius, I swear, and he got it right.)

Grandma Q, where are you when I need you?!

Anyway, GW's World had an awesome quote about this feisty little girl that I liked so much I wrote it on my marker board and christened it quote of the day:

"Wild colts make the best horses."

Love it.

(By the way, upon realizing I used the adjective "feisty" twice in this post, I just asked my precious nine-year-old John for a synonym for feisty. His response? "Luke.")

Don't know if Grandma Quincy was hacking someone else's words, just know that I've claimed them as my salvation.

My Luke is a wild colt, to be sure. For a while I thought I had to break him, and now I'm not sure that's best. I think I just might have to patiently lead him around the stable a few thousand times, and then everything will be smooth sailing.

Right now he's reconstructing Bionicles (John helped me spell that one) to his specifications and watching "Myth Busters." He's pretty calm, but any second he might spin out of control like a spastic tornado. Soon I'll send him off to bed, and he'll bury his face in my neck and whisper "I love you, Mom. You're the best mom ever."

Usually, I don't believe him. Today I feel a bit more confident. I may not be the best mom ever, but I'm the best mom for this spicy little boy. My wild colt. He'll be the best horse, ever, guaranteed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grandma's beads

When I was six years old, I loved to visit my grandmother's apartment. She lived on the ninth floor of a local senior's building, and from her balcony we could see the "skyscrapers" of the big city reaching for the clouds. My brother and I ran to the window when we got there, signing the 60's hit "Downtown."

After a chorus or two of "downtown, dadadadadadaaaa..." my next stop was my grandma's nightstand drawer. That's where she kept the most beautiful thing my young brown eyes had ever seen -- a set of rosary beads crafted from white plastic. Each bead was fashioned into a rosebud, and they were linked together by a silver chain. I felt like a princess when I put these around my neck and pranced around the apartment. Grandma let me wear them until it was time to go, when I reluctantly placed them back in her room. I couldn't wait to visit again, when I could gather up this precious "necklace" that made me feel pretty and special.

I know that rosaries are not jewelry, but that childhood experience gave me a love for Mama's Beads. I had the good fortune of belonging to a parish at which the rosary was prayed before each and every mass, and every Sunday, at my father's insistence, we arrived early enough to join in. Like most children, I was bored sometimes as I knelt there watching the beads slip through my fingers. But the habit was developed, and the comforting repetition of the familiar prayers soothed me and brought me focus and calm.

I don't remember praying the rosary much during my teen years, but I do have one vivid memory of Mr. Ted, a fiesty, outspoken lover of our Lady who taught catechism (as we called it then) to us after school. My brother and I arrived with our family at Sunday mass, and we were sitting in the car preparing to go in. Mr. Ted banged on the car window, frantically waving his beads. "Don't forget your rosaries!" he admonished my brother and me. We were mortified, embarrassed at his ridiculous behavior, so we went into church, laughing at his crazy zeal -- rosaries in hand, of course.

I can clearly recall the day I returned to the rosary as a young mother. Rachel, my firstborn, was napping, and I decided to pray the rosary. I couldn't remember the mysteries, so I got out the huge family bible my parents had given us as a wedding gift. I opened it to the pages that featured the mysteries, highlighted with large color pictures, and placed it in the baby's playpen. Then I knelt there with my beads and the sun lit up my tiny apartment. It was so incredibly quiet and peaceful and I felt, for the first time in years, like I was home.

The rosary became my companion then. I must have prayed it a thousand times during those early years of my marriage, particularly when my girls attended a school some miles away. Getting in the car meant praying the rosary. I often think that those many rosaries I prayed during those years protected and prepared us for the many challenges we would face in years to come.

We prayed the family rosary, too, alternately nudging the children to either stop pestering one another or stay awake. We discovered the rosary was the very best way to calm ourselves (even the experts acknowledged that praying and meditating this way lowered blood pressure!) Sometimes the kids balked, but we did it anyway. They, too, began to develop the habit that I know will bring them peace throughout their lives.

In difficult times I have wished I could return to Grandma's apartment and dance around like a princess without a care. Instead I turn to the beads that I learned to love there. When my baby Celeste was living and dying in the hospital, Aaron and I prayed the rosary on each drive there and back. It was all we could do. It was everything we could do. I was sometimes numb as the cool beads slipped through my fingers, tears streaming down my cheeks. But I could see Jesus and Mary clearly in my mind as I tried to focus on their lives, their sufferings and joys, instead of my own anguish. I could not find adequate words with which to pray. I didn't need to search for them. I could pray the sweet, familiar prayers of the rosary, and I would be comforted, healed and protected.

Today I most often pray the rosary at Adoration, where I sit with my elderly father as well-worn black beads slip through his fingers. I have many rosaries (of course I do! Such pretty princess beads!) but my current favorite is the set that my husband bought me soon after Celeste's death. These beads are little pink hearts, and they speak of my little girl. They make me feel like a little girl, as well, and I realize that's just what I am when I pray -- Mama's little girl.

The rosary makes me feel like a child, safe in my mother's arms. Maybe it's my early experience with my grandmother's rosary that makes me feel like a little girl every time I pray the rosary. Or maybe it's just that that's truly what I become when I pray this way.

Perhaps someday a little girl will go to her grandmother's nightstand and gather up a rosary strung with tender pink hearts. Maybe she'll dance around, wearing it like a necklace, feeling like a princess. I hope so.

I still have the white plastic roses. I received them when my grandma died, when I was only seven. They are the only remembrance I was given. They are enough.

Monday, October 6, 2008

a gift from me to you

It's October, which means it's time to drink cider, display gourds, stock up on candy and press leaves between sheets of waxed paper.

It's also time around these parts to pray the rosary, and to celebrate Respect Life month.

In honor of the first, I invite you to participate in this month's Mary Moments Carnival. Visit Sarah to get all the particulars. Let everyone know how the rosary has blessed your life by contributing something by Oct. 10.

In honor of the latter, I'm offering a gift to readers of this blog: free shipping on autographed copies of my book, Broken and Blessed: A Life Story.

Many of you know Celeste's story. My youngest daughter (my seventh child) was born in March of 2005 with a serious heart defect, one so severe that she needed a heart transplant. Unfortunately, my little girl never came home from the hospital, dying in our arms at the age of four months.

Broken and Blessed is her story, and mine, and more than anything, it's a prolife story. Celeste reminded me that all lives are precious. Her life was brief, but it was powerful! She "got the job done" in such a short time, touching so many lives with her ministry of presense.

She reminded us that each tiny baby (preborn or born, "perfect" or not), is an unrepeatable miracle. She reminded us that each life must be protected until natural death. Through her we learned firsthand the beauty of our Church's teachings on the value, sanctity and profundity of the great gift of life.

One of the best lessons I learned from Celeste was that my life, too, is valuable. I have been given gifts that I must share. Life is truly a wonderful adventure, and meeting Celeste reminded me of that!

Here's what some readers had to say:

"By sharing her journey of faith through the heartbreaking loss of her daughter, Cathy reveals the heart of God: he brings joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the center of trial, and love in the depth of loss. She shares the richness of the purpose of each life, which is part of the legacy her daughter leaves us all. Highly recommended." Kimberly Hahn, author of Chosen and Cherished: Biblical Wisdom for Your Marriage

"Because your story is at once intimately personal, yet universal, I believe that your audience is a broad one - Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, even non-religious. It has much to teach about not just suffering and death, but the meaning of life." Dr. Mark Latkovic, Professor of Moral Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit

"Honestly, I'm speechless. This book doesn't have a specific market, because everybody is in the market. Everybody needs to read this book. I want my prayer group to read it. I want my husband to read it. I want my friends to read it. I want my daughter to read it. This is the first time I've actually seen a way to get through to her so that she will view her 'ordeal' as a blessing." Patti Monroe-Mohrenweiser, artist and parent of a heart surgery survivor

"Words fail me and I find I am not able to adequately express the impact your experience and your beautiful words had and continue to have on me. Suffice it to say - this is a powerful and beautiful message and I am to think of the many, many people who will be able to share in this experience and this astounding journey by reading your book." Joanne Dupuis, RN, coordinator of the Cardiac Transplant program of Children's Hospital of Michigan

Many, many lives have been blessed by Celeste. Will yours be next?

To order Broken and Blessed (at 12.99 with FREE SHIPPING) simply send me an email at brokenandblessed@gmail.com and mention my blog.