Sunday, March 30, 2008

have mercy on us, and on the whole world

Justice or mercy?
Forgiveness or retribution?

My young adult children and I have been discussing these issues the past few days. The circumstances of our lives have brought us once again to that place where these questions are no longer theoretical.

You don't need to know the details to know that you, too, have been there. If we are forgiven, does that mean there are no consequences for us to bear? If we show mercy to someone, does it mean that he has not hurt us? Are there times when we must use our authority to bring justice to a situation? If we do this, does it mean we are not accepting the attempts of a repentant heart?

I don't know. The older I get, it seems, the duller I get. Life was easy when answers were black and white. Now that I can see clearly the vast grey universe, I know that sometimes it is difficult to choose "the right thing to do."

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, of course, a good time to ponder these things. I know I should err on the side of mercy, right? I should make exceptions for others, ignore their faults, and mercifully forgive their transgressions. But what if their sins are hurting me? What if they're hurting themselves? If I show mercy to them, am I not holding them sufficiently accountable? And if I am strict in my observance of rules, am I nothing but a Pharisee?

No clear answers here, just the earnest longings of a mother who loves her children. I hope they will forgive me as I mess up in their parenting, as that's a given. In balancing mercy and justice, I'll try to measure with the same scale that I hope will be used on my judgment day. One heavily weighted with mercy, with just the right amount of justice, meted out with purest love.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

something hilarious I came upon today to entertain you because my blog has been too serious lately and I'm too lazy to write something funny of my own

You have got to check out Cris' blog.

The name drew me in and the FUNNY writing hooked me. I laughed out loud will too!


JP II, Oprah, Kate Wicker and me!

Inspired by this great post on Kate's blog, I checked out the personality test she refers to (from Danielle Bean to Kate Wicker to good 'ole Cathy Adamkiewicz. I know, I should come up with some original material.)

Anyway, I discovered that, like my new cyber-friend Kate, I'm an ENFJ. (I told you we had lots in common, Kate! I swear I'm not making this up.)

No surprises here, I've uber-analyzed myself for years. I'm even starting to like aspects of my personality, and when I meet someone cool like Kate and find out we share lots of traits, I think I'm pretty awesome!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm IT!

I am so excited! I have been tagged for my very first meme! (You can tell I'm a newbie blogger because I am truly happy.) I feel like I got invited to sit at the cool kids' table. Thanks, Cassie!

Here we go!
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What I was doing 10 years ago: Being mom to a then 11-year-old Rachel, 10-year-old Lauren, 6-year-old AJ and 3-year-old Joey. I was not sitting at a computer all day, like I love to do now. On the upside, I was being a much better hands-on homeschooling mom. On the downside, that hair color was really not quite right for me.

Five things on my To Do List today: (not in any particular order)
1. Counsel my 21-year-old daughter about how to get her fiance to be the man.
2. Dig out from the heap of urchin droppings that got dumped around here while I was out of town yesterday.
3. Organize cheese. I'm not kidding. I came upon about $500 worth of cheese yesterday, including 15lbs of blue cheese crumbles, a 5lb wheel of gorgonzola and a 10-lb brick of provolone. Please forward recipes.
4. Go to the post office to mail a copy of my book to a nice lady from New York. Hurray!
5. Add something really cool to my blog, like some sort of spyware that tells me if good-looking men are reading this.

Snacks I enjoy: Are you kidding? Are there any snacks I don't enjoy? I especially love good things that can be dipped in other good things, like potato chips and onion dip or hot, fresh tortilla chips with guacamole. But because I am carbohydrate-challenged, I usually stick with almonds or dark chocolate in small quantities, washed down with red wine, in larger quantities.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Wow...after paying off the (not insignificant) debts of myself and those I love, I would buy several homes large enough to breathe in. (At least one would be somewhere tropical.) Because I'm selfish, I think first of the fun ways I'd pamper myself, but don't you worry, I would LOVE to be able to do this: wouldn't it be awesome, every single day, to spend a chunk of money making someone else's life better -- and to do it anonymously? I would love that.

Three of my bad habits:
1. Beating dead horses
2. Gossipping
3. Leaving my shoes laying around

Five places I have lived:
1. Dearborn Heights, MI
2. Dearborn, MI
3. Hamtramck, MI
The apple didn't fall far from the tree. (Or maybe it just didn't get enough momemtum to roll very far!) After I make that billion I will add that tropical location and at least one more!

Five jobs I’ve had:
1. food service attendant at Greenfield Village
2. editorial assistant at a PR firm
3. clothing store saleslady
4. futon salesperson
5. book editor

Five people I want to know more about (a nice way of saying TAG!):
1. Kate
2. Alexa
3. Jen
4. Sarah
5. momto5minnies

I hope some of you will play along. Tell me you aren't already jaded and tired of all this! It is fun for those of us just getting started!

OK, now that I feel really cool, like a real live blogger who has folks reading my blog, leaving comments and even tagging me for nemes...I'll leave you with something I really like that tells you how I feel today. I'm POPULAR!

And it's pizza day!

Monday, March 24, 2008

thanks for remembering

A special thank you to the many who sent emails and comments regarding my daughter's birthday on the 14th. I continue to be comforted whenever I am reassured that Celeste's life was meaningful, and that her memory is being treasured.

I am frequently contacted by people who love someone who has lost a child. Often they will ask me to send a copy of my book, and sometimes they will request prayers. Every time they want to know what they can do to comfort someone who is grieving the loss of a little one. I always tell them this: Assure them that their child will never be forgotten!

When you lose a child, you lose more than a person. You lose a future, a dream. You lose all those things that will not be. When the child is very young, as my daughter was, or perhaps is not even born yet, the loss is devastating. We have lost someone we have only begun to love, and we don't have all the memories we feel we deserved to have.

If you know someone who has lost a child, even many years ago, will you reach out and let them know their child was important? Some do not wish to discuss their loss, and I respect that, but I'm certain I'm not alone here. We don't ever want our babies to be forgotten.

One of the most beautiful gifts I ever received was an anonymous card that arrived in the mail one day. It came many months after my daughter's death. Featuring an image of a heart and a butterfly (symbols that spoke very specifically of Celeste!) it contained this message: "Until we can be together again, heart is waiting right here for you." It felt like a lifeline to heaven, and I treasure it.

I received an order on my website this morning from an administrator of a grief support group for those who have lost young children. There are great resourses available at their site! If you know someone who is hurting, you may want to share this info.

And share a moment with someone who has suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of a baby or child of any age. Thank you for your love and prayers!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Your Shadow

Easter morning, 2008

I had walked within your shadow
On the road in Galilee
I watched in awe your hands work miracles
Lame men walk now; blind men see.

I felt your shadow fall upon me
When the widow touched the hem
Of your cloak as you passed by her
With your crowd of holy men.

I was jealous of her boldness
As she put out an eager hand
Afraid to walk too near you
I just followed in the sand.

I was in the crowd that greeted you
As you entered like a King
Your shadow cast a regal sphere
As our bold hosannas rang.

You walked that path again so soon
Your blood fell upon the stone
I hid in a darkened doorway.
I let you walk alone.

Was there a shadow cast on Calvary?
Or was the darkness vast and deep?
I do not know.
I did not go.
Alone, I cried myself to sleep.

Yesterday there was no shadow
No place left for me to hide
No one there to heal this cripple
Maimed by selfishness and pride.

This morning Mary ran to greet me
Though I can scarcely take it in
She says the tomb is empty
She says you live again.

Is it true? Am I still dreaming?
Have I been given one more chance?
Might I be able to follow you again?
In your shadow, now to dance?

Mary smiles and says, "Just trust Him.
'Do not be afraid,' He said."
I go with her to see the shadow
Of the stone that guards no dead.

You are alive and I am weeping
Standing in a bold new place
Soon I'll glory in the shadow
Of your brilliant, Holy Face.

I used to fear the darkness
Like a child in bed at night
But I no longer fear the shadow
For in it I am close to Light.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

another runaway?

Would I walk away?

Would I be able to bear the sight of someone, anyone, being crucified? Would I stand by, knowing that I was putting my life in danger by the very act? And further, would I continue to witness this horrible torture being inflicted on The One I believed had come to save me? The One I loved?

Am I like Mary Magdalene? Or am I Judas?

I pondered these thoughts and more last night as I walked through an exhibit on the Shroud of Turin hosted by a local church. I had seen the display years ago, but it continued to inspire and fascinate me. And provoke me.

The first time I saw the display it included a graphic figure of the Crucified Christ as He was likely to have appeared: covered with horrific wounds, dripping with blood. I quickly looked away.

I continue to look away. I cannot bear the cross. I can't bear Jesus', and I can't bear my own, even (maybe especially) the tiny ones. I used to entertain a fantasy in which I was like Veronica, offering Jesus compassion. I was like The Magdalene, steadfast at her Lord's feet. I was akin to His Blessed Mother, washing his wounds with my tears.

I know myself better today. I'm much more like Joseph of Arimathea, who showed up at the last minute in secret. I'm like the Centurion, only converted after seeing Jesus suffer patiently for hours. I'm like Thomas, who was hiding somewhere and insisted on proof even when the Risen Jesus was standing right in front of him. I'm Peter, who betrayed his best friend repeatedly and then ran off crying.

I know in my heart I've got lots in common with Judas. Lots.

Seeing that exhibit again last night brought me to Calvary in the smallest way. Daily life is really more effective for that, isn't it? Just praying I won't run away. Just praying...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

a Christian martyr

In Tennessee Williams' well-known play The Glass Menagerie, one of my favorite lines has been adopted by my best friend and me: "You are a Christian martyr."

Amanda, selfish mother to the fragile Laura, telephones her lady friends, attempting to sell them magazine subscriptions. She listens patiently as they describe whatever malady, real or imagined, they are enduring that day, to which she replies with feigned encouragement: "You are a Christian martyr!"

Kath and I have added it to our extensive lexicon because we love to call each other every day (OK, more than once a day) to complain, uh, er, share our challenges. Whether they be physical ailments, emotional disorders, arguments with family members, or spiritual disabilities, we love to offer up our sufferings to one another and hear that blessed affirmation. Yes, indeed, (say here with an affectation) "You are a Christian martyr!

So, needless to say, I was delighted this morning when I found in my email a response from a saint/sinner matchmaking site indicating the resident of heaven who had chosen me was a real live (in Christ) Christian martyr!

I found Marianne's site last week as I snooped around the web, and was fascinated. Here, for the price of an email, I could be hooked up with a patron for 2008. How cool is that.

I have to admit I was initially hoping for a more "glamorous", well-known saint. I just knew that I would be chosen by St. Therese, St. Bernadette, or St. Mary Magdalene. If it had to be a male saint, it would be someone famous and smart like St. Thomas Aquinas. If it was a martyr it'd be an attractive girl like Agnes or a cool, modern patron like St. Max.

When I was a little girl, I loved the well-worn saint book we had on our shelf, because it had PICTURES! Even though my mother told me I was named for St. Catherine of Siena, I knew she had really meant to name me after Cathy of Alexandria, because in those pictures she was so pretty and had long, blond hair. That gal from Siena was not pictured, but I read something about her chopping off her hair, on purpose, because it was her only decent feature. Oh dear.

Anyway, as I waited for my saint to choose me this week, I knew he or she would be good-looking, smart, well-known and creative, just like me! Imagine my surprise when I met up with St. Adrian.

St. Adrian and I just met this morning. I know nothing about him! Could this be right? I know lots of saints, and if I haven't heard of him, he must not be that great, right?

Wrong. All saints are great, of course, I'm just kidding about that. The whole making it to heaven thing is pretty awesome. But St. Adrian, I'm happy to report, turns out to be pretty interesting, and I'm sure the perfect patron for me.

I spent some time googling my new friend this morning, and I'll post more about him as our relationship develops. For now I'll share that several sites claim he is the patron of "communications phenomena" whatever that means. (Blogging, perhaps?)
He is also the patron of butchers, and I am a hardcore lo-carb girl. And Adrian is the first name of one of my favorite TV characters, Mr. Monk, that lovable OCD detective! I can't wait to find out more!

In the meantime I'll just delight in the knowledge that I have my very own Christian martyr watching my back this year. The communion of saints rocks.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Celeste's Video

Thanks to the tech-savvy young people in my life (I love you Lauren, Rachel, AJ and Giovanni!) I was able to add the video to youtube. Here it is.
(See the previous post for more info.)

happy birthday, baby girl

She would have been three today.

I prepared a video including photos of Celeste with some of the people who loved her most. (I'm a little disappointed that the video's not "perfect", but even though I considered reworking it this morning, I decided to leave it as it is. Things (and people) don't have to be perfect to be meaningful and loved.)

Sadly, when I tried to add it here I discovered it is too large! I'd be happy to email it to anyone who is interested in viewing it. In the mean time, here are some photos.

I would love to hear from some of my "prayer warriors" or those who have read her story. It's ok to ask for a little extra encouragement today, right?

Again, you can visit my website to learn more about my daughter's beautiful mission.

Happy Birthday, Celeste Marie! I can't wait until we can celebrate together!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

a book review

Today I received a lovely gift...this beautiful review of my book on Heidi Hess Saxton's new blog Behold Your Mother.

I feel so humbled by Heidi's kind words. All I can say is, we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

You may visit to learn more about the wonderful baby girl who inspired this story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

lead us not...

They called him "Mr. Clean."

First-term governor Eliot Spitzer sold New Yorkers on the idea that he was going to bring ethics back to the state. Yesterday he stood in front of a group of reporters earnestly apologizing for his recent behavior, saying he "acted in a way that violates my obligaions to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong."

Why the apology? He got caught.

A ring of high-end prositution was busted by the feds last week (wow, I never thought I'd write that..."busted by the feds") and guess who was a client? Mr. Clean.

I'm not shocked, not at all. I'm sad. A photo of Spitzer and his wife was in the paper this morning, and I can't forget Mrs. Spitzer's face. She is standing next to him, her arms behind her back, looking totally exposed. Her face is drawn; she looks exhausted. She's wearing pearls and a lovely pale blue jacket. Her hair is perfect. Her eyes are focused on some spot in the distance, perhaps remembering a time when she was untouched by the watchful eye of the media, a time when she trusted her husband. Seeing her made me want to cry.

There were no compelling photos, but in the newspaper article in a neighboring column, the latest dirt on Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was left for all to track through. Kwame's been in it deep lately, since text messages surfaced linking him and his top aide in a romance. Today's article said that the Mayor's wife was witnessd clobbering an exotic dancer at a wild party at the Mayor's mansion some time ago. That dancer was found dead in April of 2003.

We all know that "character doesn't matter", right? We all know that prostition (especially the "high-end" kind, where the girls make lots of cash and live glamorous lives) is a personal choice, and that open marriages demonstrate modernity, and that our sexualtiy is a private matter that doesn't affect anyone but us, thank you.

Everyone agrees that the Catholic Church is old-fashioned and blind when it comes to the way things are today. How dare they tell us what to do? How idiotic. They should just stay out of our bedrooms, right? Our sins can't possibly affect others, particularly our sexual sins.

Sins. Yes, sins. I was pondering sins, those of the public officials I'd read about, those of people I love, and even my own, when I came across one more article this morning. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the "new sins."

"If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension," he replied, "today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual."

Our sins affect the world in ways we can't begin to imagine. Like pebbles in a pond, they send out ripples that change things, damage them, take the whole world one step farther from Eden.

Next week is Holy Week, an especially good time to think about sin. Their "weight"? Their "resonance"? Just look at the cross. Just look what sin has done.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

from darkness to light

I thought I'd be spending the day writing. Instead, I've been distracted, annoyed and anxious. The house is empty, and I should be working away. But things don't always go as we plan, do they?

One thing after another needed my attention. I thought I'd be alone all day, but I forgot I had to pick up Lolo at the airport. The Big Man came home from school and had some homework to finish before he headed off to be with my brother and the urchins. He was home just long enough for us to engage in some lively "conversation" that included me repeatedly blowing my nose and saying I would never, ever again dare to ask for a weekend off.

We managed to patch things up and he headed off. I swear it was only 15 minutes later when he called me to announce that he was ready to kill the urchins, and that he had to stop by the house to pick up gloves for them. (The ones I sent were deemed absolutely unappropriate...what was I thinking?)

'Round about this time, Lolo asked me to go to confession with her. What kind of mother says no when her 20-year-old daughter asks her to go to confession with her? This kind. I was feeling so unprepared, so dark, so not ready for confession.

I agreed to go to Mass, however, even though I knew The Big Man would be there, urchins in tow, and they would all need me desperately.
Miraculously, it wasn't too bad. Throughout Mass I kept picturing a candle, a beautiful peaceful image of light and warmth. I started to feel some peace.

Lukie asked me to go out to dinner with them, and I really wanted to go. But Lolo and I had decided to go out together instead. That fell through too, but that's ok. I came home and ate some freezer burned chicken and played around on the computer, not accomplishing much of anything.

Now here I am, trying to decide if this weekend has been a bust. I've been so troubled these past few weeks, trying to figure out just what I should be doing around here. I thought a few days (heck, a few minutes) alone would put some light on the situation.

I want to capture the light and warmth of that candle I imagined at Mass. I need to feel the healing power of Christ's burning Love, be illuminated by the flame of His Sacred Heart. If I look elsewhere, I know I'll be in the dark for good. So in the tradition of good Catholics everywhere, I'm lighting a candle.

Christ, be my light.

Friday, March 7, 2008

urchin free!

I love my children madly, but I am giddy with delight that my brother agreed to take them for the weekend.

The Big Man and I are blissfully typing away at our computers in an urchin-free family room. We can hear ourselves think and even occasionally look up and speak whole sentences to one another.

I know I will miss them by Sunday night, but for now I'm euphoric. February is truly the longest month of the year for homeschooling moms, especially those of us with four boys in a tiny snowcovered house that lacks a basement. (Can anyone say, special place in heaven, reservation for one?)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

why are we here?

Oh dear, more existential pondering?

I'm just wondering why we (bloggers, not just ordinary people) are here.

Since I started blogging at the beginning of February, I've learned there's a whole world to discover. I've visited countless blogs ranging from the sincere to the silly. I've added to my vocabulary words that I didn't even know existed a month ago. Widgets and chicklets and memes, oh my!

At first I thought it was all about the writing, then I found out how cool it is to add fun things and choose a layout. (I'm on my second version so far, but don't be surprised if it changes again.) I visited the blogs of other Catholic writers, at first to flatter them with my imitation, then to discover the wisdom they had to offer. I found I was soon drawn in, eager to read what my new best friends had to say. Before I knew it I was neglecting the housework, burning chicken, telling children to go find someone else to wipe their bottoms. I had a blogging jones, and there was no denying it.

Thank God for God, and thank God He gave me a nudge this week. Hello...what are you doing, girl? What's this blogging business all about? As you joined St. Blog's Parish and submitted your blog to the Catholic Mothers Online, did you even think of Me?

I don't know what I was thinking. I was just dying to write.

When I was four, I taught myself to read. When I was six, I started writing. At seven, I produced my first play, and at eight a short story developed. (I still remember it: Mickey and Ghost, the story of a little orphan girl and her dog.)

As soon as I put pencil to paper, I knew who I was: a writer.

I used to say self-important things like this: "When a writer stops writing, she stops living." So have I been dead for the last thirty-odd years?

Of course not. I've met and married a wonderful man. I've given life to seven children. I've schooled them at home for over 15 years. But have I written? A bit, but not nearly enough.

Writing my book and having it published was a dream come true, and seeing it come to fruition opened a door in my heart that refuses to be shut. Sometimes it seems the obligations of my life are pushing hard on that door, daring me to wedge my foot between wood and jamb. So here I stand, steadfast, foolish and indignant, bold and sassy, weeping between words. Why are we here? Because we have to be.

If the first rule of good writing is write what you know, the second is write for your audience. So, since I've decided to weather the storm and write, who indeed is my audience? A woman I know, experienced in writing both online and off, agreed when I lamented that if no one reads it, my blog does not exist. It's starting to blow my mind. Maybe I'm not even here right now...

But supposing somewhere an audience awaits. Who am I writing for? Myself? My Lord? My mom?

Even with my limited experience, I know enough about blogging to say YES, I'm writing for all of those listed and more. Like all who feel compelled to write, I believe I have something to say, and I earnestly hope someone will listen.

So when God nudged me this week, I did some audience analysis, some honest evaluation. I am indeed writing for me, my Lord, and even my mom. And I'm writing for you, whoever you are.

But mostly I'm writing because I can, because it's what I do. God gives each of us tools, and if we leave them in a rusty toolbox we're simply lazy and irresponsible. For many years I asked, "Why did God give me talents if He didn't want me to use them?" Of course He wants me to use them, but as we all know God is the ultimate O.T.T. Master. (He has His own timetable, so don't get impatient.)

He knows what He's doing, and He's plenty patient with us while we figure out our end of the deal.

So why are we here? I can only speak for myself. I'm here to write, to share, to teach, to proclaim. I'm here to glorify my Savior, to rejoice in His Goodness, to pick up my hammer and nails and create something awesome. I'm here to write.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Close only counts for horseshoes and hand grenades

My husband says I'll miss these days, but is it so wrong to long for a time when "Watch where you're aiming!" isn't part of my daily vocabulary?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

a conversion story

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Profession of Faith and First Holy Communion of a young woman entering the Catholic Church. My heart is eager to share the story, but words are hard to find.

The woman in question was baptized as a child, and has spent many of her 38 years around Catholics. But only recently her spiritual journey intensified, and she became convicted -- the Catholic church was to be her home.

Even though she had known Catholics for years, and had even worked in Catholic churches, she did not decide to join the church until now. As one of her sponsors, I felt justified in asking her a personal question. Why?

The answer is simple, compelling, and more than a bit frightening. When she answered me, in much simpler terms than I'm relating here, I thought of a story I'd heard about Ghandi. When asked why he didn't become a Christian, even though he felt unified with many Christian teachings, he shared that he would become a Christian if not for one thing -- Christians.

My friend joined the Church now for, happily, the very reason that Ghandi declined. Somehow, miraculously, she met some good people, developed some friendships, and learned that the Christian life, the call to the Catholic Church, is primarily about relationships.

I'm humbled that I was invited to accompany her on her journey into the church, and I'm in awe of the task before me. I want to be an excellent example, an honest teacher, and a wise friend. I want to mirror Christ for her. I want to be the Christian that would have made even Ghandi change his mind.

The truth is, I'm hardly up to it. I'm lazy and sinful and imperfect in my charity. I'm often a bad example of Christlike love, forgiveness and patience. But for my friend, I'm a sign, a gatepost, a guiding hand. Our relationship is imperative as she grows in her faith.

I told her the other day that our faith is really all about relationships -- our relationships with Jesus and with each other. I hope ours can be a relationship that does only good for her, one that points her directly to Christ.

Your heartfelt prayers are appreciated.