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 and mention my blog.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe

The lion: "My beloved, I will do anything for you. Your wish is truly my command. I will slave for hours to make your dreams come true, to overcome every evil, to save you from all fear, hostility, and disorganization that may threaten you. I am your lion, your big man."

The witch: "Why is this taking so long? Get to work! Build it! Create the monolith that will be a testament to my largesse! Bring order to the castle! Spare no expense in meeting my demands."

The wardrobe: It now stands completed: a monument to lingerie, leather and poly-cotton blends. Transported with care from the distant, exotic land of Ikea to our tiny lavender bedroom, it has been assembled with love, sweat and NO COMPLAINING. It's a miraculous tribute to textiles, and an enduring symbol of one one woman's love for shoes and one lion of a man's love for his witch of a wife.

Here's a glimpse of my ticket to Narnia:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

acknowledge, pray, heal

This will be a hard post for me to write, and perhaps, harder still for you to read.

Yesterday my husband and I received news from a friend, the kind of news that leaves you reeling, the kind that you ponder with tears in your eyes and an ache in your gut.

I am so sorrowful, so concerned, so worried for my friend. And sadly, this is not the first time I have heard news that just rocks me, and leaves me wondering how in the world we can live on in this wretched world.

I considered keeping this to myself, but as I pray for this family in need, I feel strongly that I need to reach out to my internet family and ask for your prayers as well.

I learned that our friend's husband of over 20 years has been molesting their children. The police are involved, a family has been ripped apart, and a mother, father, and three beautiful children will never be the same.

I am shocked, of course, but sadly, not as shocked as I once might have been. I have lived enough years to lose much of my innocence. These things do not happen to people in the movies, to folks we see on the TV news or read about in tabloids. They happen to US, to our friends, neighbors, and families.

Several years ago I received a phone call from a friend asking if I would be attending the memorial service for a couple I knew. I was confused. What had happened? When she told me that Helen and Steve had died, I was certain there must have been a car accident. They lived in Florida, and often returned to visit family back here in Michigan. They must have been in a crash on I-75.

I had met this fun couple when I was living in Hamtramck, a little Polish town surrounded by the city of Detroit. I was lonely then, and the only homeschooler I knew in town was the one I saw in the mirror each morning. When I met Helen at the local library, and she introduced herself as a Catholic homeschooler, I was thrilled. I was soon taken in by her generous, warm spirit. She and her husband Steve had a cool flat near our home, and they and their two daughters were friendly, faith-filled and exuberant. We visited their home many times, had dinner out with them as couples (Aaron and Steve really hit it off) and hosted sleep-overs for our girls.

When they moved to Florida we even visited with them there, enjoying a dinner out at Margaritaville and visiting the Catholic bookstore where Helen worked with her daughters. We loved talking with them, laughing with them, and praying with them and for them.

So when I heard that something had happened to Helen and Steve, it was upsetting, of course.

Then I found out what had happened. Not a car accident, but something much, much worse. Steve had killed Helen, shot her in the head, and then killed himself on a Florida beach.

Looking back, I believe that the day I heard this news was the beginning of the end of my innocence. I could no longer entertain the notion that things like this happened to people "out there." Evil happens everywhere.

Yesterday when I heard the shocking news about my friend's husband, I thought of Helen and Steve. I prayed for their souls, and I prayed for their daughters, the little girls who used to spend the night with my girls and whose lives will never be the same.

I prayed for them, and I prayed for myself.

We convince ourselves sometimes that our personal sins are just not all that bad. We wonder why the Catholic church is so set on messing with our personal choices. Does it really matter what I do? Why can't the church stay out of our bedrooms? If I do something "wrong", how much impact can that possibly have? My choices are my own, right?

Our sins leave indelible marks on the world.

The sins I've mentioned today are horrible, mortal wounds. We rationalize that our tiny sins, our impatience, our insensitvity, our unkind words, our thoughtlessness, our laziness, will not matter much to others.

How wrong we are.

I know the truth, that each of us sins and that all those sins create darkness in the world. I also know that we are all touched by larger, darker evils. The results of pornography, adultery, incest, greed, and the like don't just affect "them", they affect us all.

I know that OUR families all have serious issues to address. Sometimes we faithful folks -- the kind who attend church every week (or even every day) the kind who homeschool their kids and write lovely Catholic blogs and tithe ten percent and pray the rosary -- are battling all sorts of evil in their homes and extended families. It's time we acknowledge that none of us is immune from sin -- big sins and small. The man sitting next to you at church might be dealing with sexual addiction. The catechism teacher might be battling alcoholism. The lady who leads the rosary might be unfaithful to her husband. Several of your very good friends might be considering divorce.

I know this sounds a bit like "The end is near! Repent! We're going to hell in a handbasket!" I'm not a pessimistic, hopeless, fatalistic sort. I firmly believe there is hope for us.

There's Jesus.

But sometimes I fear that we think the really big sins are for someone else, someone we don't know and don't need to know. That's just not true.

Our neighbors, our families and our friends are suffering. Let's pray for one another today, especially for the families touched by sexual sins.

We can heal, but first we must recognize that we are ALL in need of healing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

wedding photos, second edition!

I'm so excited to share photos from our second wedding of the summer, that of my lovely daughter Lauren.

I must say that I don't think I've ever seen her look more beautiful. Here are some of my favorites, courtesy of Heather Fiedor Photography.