Monday, September 29, 2008

who needs clean house?!?

A good deal of my funkiness may be attributed to the fact that my house is a hot mess.

Fellow fans of my favorite show, the Style Network's Clean House, will recognize that as one of host Niecy Nash's oft-used adjectives. That describes the vibe around this place quite well -- that and another of her terms -- a whole lotta foolishness.

Most of the mess is fresh -- a result of the redecorating that has been going on here the last several months. We have painted our living room, hall, and all three bedrooms, had the hardwood floors refinished and just have newly-installed (this morning!) carpeting in our bedroom. Sounds great, huh? It will be great, when it is finished, but unlike those lucky families on Clean House, I do not have a team of professionals working for me.

I do have several handsome go-to guys, most notably The Big Man and our eldest son, AJ. But they do have lives to lead outside of providing for all my decorating needs (can you imagine?) so this is taking some time.

One of the biggest messes is a result of my clothes. They are literally all over the house, in piles. Getting dressed is a nightmare. I know that the end is in sight, as my beautiful new wardrobe will be up soon. But in the meantime I have to burrow like a hamster to find my pajamas. It's pretty ugly.

The truth, of course, is that my house has always been less than tidy. I used to say I was neat; now I tell it like it is. I am not neat. I am so busy trying to do so many things that I am a pig. I have piles of papers on my desk, socks without mates on my dryer, tupperware and lids and tippy cups up the wazoo, and, horrors, even my email inbox is full (62 unread messages,994 messages total.)

My purse is a jumble of receipts, paint samples, and candy wrappers. (They're the kids', I swear.) Every single aspect of my life is messy.

No wonder I feel funky.

I want, so badly, to have a peaceful, uncluttered home. I crave simplicity and order. But I also love things, and clothes, and books, and people. And there are a lot of all those around here.

I have a small home, too. 1300 or so square feet to contain all this foolishness. No basement, a tiny laundry room, three small bedrooms, four large boys. My family room is the ultimate all-purpose room: there we watch TV, surf the internet, do school work and host parties. (We also wrestle, fold laundry, and sometimes eat at the dining table that's housed there.) Madness.

I keep trying to "Get Organized", which is not easy to get. I have no problem with other "gets" -- get ready for the party, get to work, get pregnant. But the organization thing? Not so much.

Just another one of those fun quirks keepin' me real. I do realize that I accomplish an awful lot in this crazy state, but I'm wistful for the cool life I could have if I were less messy, more "with it."

I'd be dangerous.

But for now I'm creative, busy, surrounded with things and people I like. It's a hot mess, it's true. But it's mine, and it's real, and it's pretty darn fun around here.

I'm shakin' off that funk, toot de suite.

Now if I can just find my pajamas...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

stay tuned

I've having one of my episodes.

Doesn't that sounds like a malady that may have afflicted Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies? "I'm havin' an episode, Jed. And my rheumatism is actin' up."

My episodes have never been featured on a sit-com, but they could be. 'Cept they're not all that funny and they last longer than 30 minutes, less commercials.

I guess you could say I'm in a funk. I feel crappy. I have a vague headache and a vaguer still sense of I don't know, ennui. I don't know what that word means, but it seems to fit here.


Actually, not a bad word choice. I'm smarter than I think! At least, perhaps, my vocabulary is better than I think. Because today, all I think is funky.

I want to write but I don't know what to say. I want to say something important, but everything seems mundane and boring.

I'm boring, I guess.

My blog is boring, my thoughts are boring. I spent some time visiting some other blogs, and ended up feeling even more boring. Wow. I want to have a cool template like this, and be witty like this, and smart like this. I want to wear this kind of shoes, and shop where she shops. I want a neat name like hers. I want to be holy like him, and funny like her, and a great writer like my friend Kate. And when I looked at this blogger's homeschool classroom, I wept openly.

I'm jealous. And pouty. And life isn't fair.

At Mass today a lovely priest gave a very long sermon, and he said lots of wonderful things that I certainly needed to hear. When I'm having an episode, I don't pay attention so well, so I can't remember what I was going to say here...Oh yeah! He said all sorts of good stuff, but all I can remember is this: you say that God isn't fair, but maybe you're not fair. Or something like that.

What I got out of it, in my funky-episodic state, is that life is rough, so deal, girl. Quit complaining and show up when you say you're going to. Do your best and leave the results up to God.

Those disciples of Jesus' were really dumb. When Jesus asked them who did their father's will, those who said yes and then blew off the work, or those who said no way and then sucked it up and go the job done, did they say the first group? Were they really that thick? Did they think that's all they needed to do, say sure and then do nothing?

I know I'm just as stupid. I say I'm a committed Christian, and that I will do what it takes. Then the going gets a little rough, or a little boring, and I start whining that things aren't fair.

OK, so life's not fair. Shut up and do it anyway.

And until this episode runs its course, I've just got to bear it patiently. What would Granny do? Probably go for a spin in that groovy jalopy, take a dip in the cement pond, chide Ellie May, scold Jethro, and take a nip of moonshine.

There will be a commercial break soon, and I'm sure this whole thing will wrap up in less than a half hour.

Prayers appreciated in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

mama's lament

I feel sorry for moms who only have one or two children.

Because then, if her daughter calls, in tears, because her husband's car was stolen and she's sick with the pregancy and all, and being married is hard, then what would she do? She'd give too much attention to that poor girl if she didn't have another one to worry about. Say, a six-year-old, maybe, who ate so much candy that the dentist had to basically give him a root canal and a bright, shiny crown which promptly fell off when he chewed that free sample of sugar-free gum the dentist so kindly provided.

If that mom with few kids obsessed about that little boy, she wouldn't have the time or energy to be concerned about her teenage son who headed the ball at soccer and can't really move his neck. You remember him, he's the same one who is coming down with a cold and has a severe back ache as well. Never mind that he didn't study for that Spanish test tomorrow. He's staying home from school. No time to worry...

No time, because there's always the son who ended up at urgent care tonight for a "blunt force contusion to the knee" that occurred while he was helping his dad. If I was a mom with only one or two children, I might hover over him and make him endlessly dependent on me and unsuitable as a husband in the future. No worries, though!

No worries because as he was off to the ER I was chatting with another newlywed daughter, one who feels she is a failure for one poor grade on one test. She feels mediocre. She is addled with the same challenges her mother has faced her whole life. Poor thing. Good her mom can't obsess over her troubles, either.

Yes, I feel sorry for those moms with one or two kids. Although I realize that one child is enough to make a mother....a mother for life who never stops worrying, loving or praying.

Monday, September 22, 2008

my wild weekend

Like many moms, I usually spend the weekend playing "catch up." I try to catch up with the laundry, the housework, the various redecorating projects we've got going, the lesson plans, the kids' and hubby's lives and maybe even some sleep.

Not this weekend.

It was a little different. Actually, a lot different. I was pondering this morning the many "firsts" I experienced this weekend, and I kinda liked it.

Just a partial list of my weekend fun:

I sang karaoke in public for the very first time. (KC and the Sunshine Band, FYI.)

I met some very interesting folks at this very interesting establishment, including a highly tatooed man who had ink commemorating both his time in prison and the death of his beloved father and a couple who met singing karaoke and had been married for 14 years.

I ate the best reuben sandwich of my life.

I attended an open house for a local crisis pregnancy center, and learned that there is so much each of us NEEDS to do to support these awesome facilities.

I watched my son Joey win his very first high school soccer game.

Sitting on the sunny sidelines of another soccer field, I witnessed the first time my son John held the score to 0-0 as goal keep.

Faced with myriad choices, something that normally overwhelms me, I chose both carpeting for my bedroom ("Mantra") and paint for my kitchen ("Leaf Bud").

I watched a football game on television from start to finish, another first for me. (It was the Lions and of course they lost but it still counts.)

I took a stack of clothes to a consignment shop, leaving my closet and my soul feeling much lighter.

I ate pizza with everything, except guilt.

I didn't do any laundry.

At Sunday Mass, I looked down the pew and was thrilled to see almost my entire family there. (Only one son-in-law was missing; he had to attend another Mass.) I felt almost giddy with pride. We take up a whole row.

I listened to the whole soundtrack of "Wicked."

The Big Man and I walked a local trail to the tune of 5.6 miles. That's the most I've ever walked in one time!
We saw snails and slugs, and they were cool. And we actually moved faster than they did.

It was a great weekend, both eclectic and simple. Life's like that, ya know?
Life's awesome.
Go out and live it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

love Catholic radio?

I'm crazy about it myself. Thanks to Catholic media, thousands of souls are touched in profound ways daily.

We're fortunate here in the Metro Detroit area to have several great Catholic stations. One of them, WCAR, 1090 AM, is having their pledge drive this week. Stations like theirs cannot succeed without our financial support.

I'll be visiting with my friend Shari Guilfoile of Everyday Faith tomorrow morning between about 8:10 and 8:30 live on the air as we encourage listeners to donate and chat it up about the role we all play in sharing the good news. You can listen live here.

Please support Catholic radio with your prayers and donations!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

coming soon to a bookstore near you!

Many of you probably have at least one of the Amazing Grace books on your shelf. They're a bit like the wildly popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series, but with a Catholic twist.

I'm so happy to announce that the latest in this awesome series from Ascension Press, Amazing Grace for Survivors, includes our experience with loving and letting go our little girl Celeste.

Visit Ascension Press today to preorder your copy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

happy grandparent's day, and thank you to the folks at Hallmark

Some people don't like "Hallmark holidays," but I like all occasions to party, in any form.

Does this "holiday" give us an excuse to bake a cake/go out to eat/scarf down chocolate/wear a new outfit/give or receive gifts or take photos? If so, I'm all over it. I don't care if these events were invented by the greeting card companies. I might even go wild and spend money on cards to boot. I think all these occasions are great fun.

Some people I know don't even celebrate Valentine's Day, saying they tell their loved ones their feelings every day, and they don't need a holiday to remind them. Are you kidding me? I love my family, and they love me, and bring on the candy.

In mid October we midwesterners have Sweetest Day, a sort of Valentine's Day knock-off. My son-in-law, who is from the east coast, had to be indoctrinated, I mean trained that this was one more chance to make my daughter happy. Are we materialists? Maybe a bit. But I say if it takes a special day on the calendar to get the men in our lives to show us the love, that's ok.

Today is one of those days (at least in my part of the country.) It's Grandparents' Day. Never mind that grandparents are also mothers and fathers who have already been honored on those special days in May and June. Time to give a special September shout-out to our elders today.

Grandparents are awesome. I never knew my grandparents, save my paternal grandmother, who died when I was seven. I have only a few memories of her. I remember visiting her apartment, on the lofty ninth floor, and feeling beautiful when I wore the rosary she kept in her nightstand drawer as a necklace. My children are fortunate. They have two grandmothers and a grandfather, and up until a couple years ago, a great grandmother, a "Busia."

They are such important people in my children's lives, loving them and supporting them, spoiling them and nurturing them. Everyone tells me grandparents really have it great -- they can spoil 'em and send 'em home.

Well friends, wish the grandparents in your lives a happy day today.

And while you're at it -- wish me the same!

That's right! My oldest daughter, who was just married in May, is expecting. Expecting my grandbaby!

So that makes me a grandparent, and I say bring on the chocolate! My daughter and her husband are thrilled, as are we. I know you'll join me in praying for "the peanut."

Cards, letters, gifts, flowers and commemorative jewelry appreciated. OK, maybe just congratulatory comments!

"Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents, and parents are the glory of their children." Proverbs 17:6

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the obligatory Palin post

"I’d rather go moose hunting than be involved with politics."

Sarah Palin's dad said that, but I certainly could have.

I feel his pain. I don't like politics, don't understand the process, and don't particularly want to. In the past 25 years that I've been voting, I've based my decisions on a simple formula. How does this candidate line up with Catholic teaching? Is he/she prolife?

It's a simple strategy that has served me well.

The first election that I really got emotional about was the Bush/Clinton contest in 1992. I remember feeling so despondent when Mr. Clinton won. What disturbed me the most was that so many of my Catholic friends didn't seem to care that Clinton supported abortion rights. For me, it was all about the babies. It was not the economy, stupid, and who cares about character? Let's focus on the babies.

I still focus on the babies, and while that does keep things simple in many regards, I am not naive. I know that these things, like most, are complicated. Are these candidates qualified? Are they people of good character? Are they fit to lead our country?

I was, honestly, not very excited about John McCain. He was more prolife than Mr. Obama, so he had my vote. That was it. But when Mrs. Palin joined the contest, I must admit that I got a tiny bit excited.

My husband says that a vote for Sarah Palin is a vote for me. That's amusing, but we do have a thing or two in common. I'm just amazed that a woman like her -- a prolife woman, the mother of five -- is a candidate for vice president of our country. The recent chatter about her pregnant daughter is compelling. Is it Mrs. Palin's "fault" that her daughter is pregnant? Is this about sin and scandal? Would readily available contraceptives -- not the abstinence education that Palin promotes -- have prevented this seventeen year-old's blast into adulthood?

Is it my fault when my kids don't listen to me? You can imagine where I stand on this. I'm just not passionate enough about the political process to spend lots of time here writing a commentary.

I want a world where God is honored. I want a country where we forgive the sins of others, and let God do the judging. I want to live in a place where each life is honored and nurtured and welcomed.

Instead, I live here, in this real world, in the United States of the 21st Century.
Eden is a long way off, a distant memory.

Let's do our best to vote for candidates who are aiming to know, love and serve God. And let's do our best to live individual lives of virtue that lead other souls to Christ.

Most of us lack the political savvy to make much of a difference in that arena. We cast our votes and go home. Let's work to make that home a place that reflects our goals as Catholics.

Let's live without judgment and hostility. Let's save the babies and each other. Let's be such atractive examples of the Christian life that everyone will want to find out more about Our Lord.

None of the candidates are perfect. None ever will be. Let's work to do the best we can to attract, promote, build up, edify, strengthen, and nurture.

I'd go moose hunting now, if I could. Instead I'll get back to the work of being a humble Catholic wife and mom trying to love others as she loves herself.

That's the best I can offer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

pancake house conversation, overheard

John: I think I'll have the silver dollar pancakes.
Joey: They don't have silver dollar pancakes. I guess you'll have to ask for gold dollar pancakes.
John: No thanks. Those would be too rich for me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

back to (home) school days

You know those ads for back to school sales that feature celebrating parents? You know the ones. The parents, fed up with the kiddos who've been annoying them all summer, are overcome with glee. The kids will be back at school, no longer in their parents' hair. The grown-ups lives with now be so simple. No more cares!

How ridiculous. Even when your kids go to "real" school, they're still your kids, and they're still there to annoy you. They are still there to be your responsibility. And, GASP, they are still yours to ENJOY.

Today our family is "back to school," which has a very different meaning when you are homeschooling. Like "regular" school families, we buy school supplies, and sometimes even get haircuts or new shoes. But on the first day of school, mom is not enjoying a latte after sending the urchins out the door. She's wondering, once again, what she's gotten herself into. She's excited about spending the year teaching her children and learning right along with them. She's a bit overwhelmed with the responsibility, but ever so thankful for this opportunity to form her children.

This year my homeschool has only three students: a first grader, a fourth grader, and a high school senior, all boys. I have an idea about what I want to teach them this year, but I know from experience we may end up learning something else entirely.

Here's a sampling of what's on our bookshelf:
Math 54 by Saxon. A true classic. Starting this book is considered a true milestone in our family: it's the first in a series of "real" math books. Love the content, style and repetition. No surprises here, just good solid math. Love it.

George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster. What a great book! When my Joey read this book history came alive for him. I know John's going to love it too. The others in the series, like Augustus Caesar's World, are just as awesome.

The classic religion series "Our Holy Faith." Published in 1961, they are rock-solid, easy to read, and filled with information. I learned more about my faith through homeschooling with these books that I learned in 12 years of CCD. (But that's another story entirely!)

"Wordly Wise 3000." This vocabulary building series is the best I've come across. It's very challenging, so I have the kids go a grade level lower than what it says on the cover.

Understanding God's World, from Abeka Books. An amazing science book if ever I saw one! Joey and I learned so much through this book when he was in fourth grade- I'm looking forward to using it again this year with his younger brother.

Speaking of science, the Jaye Wile books are out-of-this-world! They are actually written for home schoolers, and the experiments contained in them are easy to do.

I'd like to add more, but as I'm writing away here my young charges are asking to start school! This, like the lovely summer days, will not last. I know that soon (probably by tomorrow) they will complain that they would rather be watching Spongebob.

But I'll be here, ready to teach them what I can, when I can. And I'll try to keep in mind that all those great books are just tools, and that the most important lesson is one I will teach with my life: we are here to learn to know, love and serve God. If we are aiming to do that, everything else will follow.