Friday, March 20, 2015

We Must Care

It comes again, that persistent voice of doubt that says "WHAT'S THE POINT?" Why care? Does it make any difference?

I choose to believe that yes, it does. In fact, it makes such a tremendous difference not only in our lives, but to everyone we encounter, that I think it must be the single most important thing we can do.

We can care. Even when it hurts, and sweet Lord, it hurts SO much to care sometimes. Like you, I am horrified by the plight of civilians in the Middle East and Africa. I am overcome with rage at the stories of injustice, violence, cruelty, and selfishness. Like you, I want to turn away from the truth, that there are worse things than beheading which ISIS is doing to children. The other evening I asked my husband, bitterly and petulantly, "Is there anything we can do about ISIS? Because I really don't want to hear anymore about what they are doing to people if there's nothing that can be done to stop them. It's just too much."

I don't know if there is anything we can do to stop them. Maybe an international force is the answer, but we are far away from reaching any sort of consensus on that. In the meantime, what can be done about ISIS? What can I, as a suburban housewife with four kids and a little blog, do about one of the most violent and terrible threats of our generation?

So little. I can care. I can teach my children to care. I can encourage others to care.

From that, perhaps a tiny spark is lit. Some glimmer of solidarity that could lead to action. Maybe not right this moment, but someday. Because what's the alternative? Further isolation? Compartmentalization? A culture of apathy that says the world has always been thus, and shall always be thus, and it's someone else's problem, not mine? As Philip Yancey so eloquently stated:
"The strongest argument in favor of grace is the alternative, a world of ungrace. The strongest argument for forgiveness is the alternative, a permanent state of unforgiveness." 
Thus the strongest argument for caring is the alternative, a permanent state of indifference. The greatest crimes against humanity are committed by those who do not respect the dignity of human life. If we don't wish to lose our humanity, we must care.

And if we care, we must act. Which leads me again to the original question: What can I do?

I am so small. It feels that anything I do is so insignificant that it's hardly worth the effort. Moments like these, I am inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux because she acknowledged her own humility and weakness, but never let it stop her from doing what God called her to do. She said,
"Merit does not consist in doing or giving much. It consists in loving much."
In other words, it consists in caring. If you believe, AS I DO BELIEVE!, that prayer is a way to love those we cannot love in any other way, then please pray with me this coming week: that the native forces fighting ISIS will resist the temptation to retaliate against citizens belonging to different sects or religions. I am trying to offer up my own desire to retaliate (when my kids are defiant, when I am wrongly accused, when someone cuts me off in traffic, etc.) for this intention.

If the most that happens is that I spend my time "turning the other cheek" then I can say two things: I cared, and I did something about it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Let Habit Be King

I have been working on my discipline lately. Little things help with my motivation, like offering up my laundry for a friend or using the time I wash dishes to sing praise. For me, that elevates the task to a form of worship and helps me see it through to the end. 

I've also been blessed to discover the liturgy of the hours on my Laudate app. I started with some of the daytime prayers, then read the Catholics Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours and discovered the greater hours are Lauds, Compline and the daily Office. So I began focusing on those hours and rapidly found myself getting to the end of the day without having prayed any Hour!

Then I read in the Guide some common impediments, and it jumped out at me that I was making the critical error of pursuing the perfect at the expense of the good.   The guide said that ideally, we would dedicate a period of silent contemplation to praying the Hour with attentive reverence but sometimes this isn't possible. If we skip because we don't have time to devote ourselves fully, we risk losing our habit. 

That's exactly what I discovered was happening. So I am trying to pray badly rather than not pray. I read the Hour while making breakfast or sometimes I only get through one psalm. But I am hoping the act of opening the Word gets me closer to fully participating in the liturgy. 

I haven't yet found a good rhythm for homeschool that balances the requirements of my sons education with his personal sense of responsibility. I am determined not to spend the whole day fighting with him. This surprisingly hard to do because he is always behind and has no desire to study. It is very difficult for me to let go but I've set 3:00 as the last hour I will help him. After that I am no longer his teacher. 

Otherwise all is going well with kids and husband, home and family, and Parish ministries. Praise God!

St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I think we can put a Big Fat FAIL on today. Sigh. I don't want this blog to be a place where I whine about how darn hard it is to homeschool and how frustrated I am with motivating my son to do his best work. So I have not been posting, which tells you all you need to know about how it's going so far this year. The thing that drives me the most crazy is that we have occasional good days that are so beautifully perfect it keeps me believing that this will all bear fruit someday.

Last week he did all his work every day. He wrote an essay on Friday that had me dancing when he read it to me (Oh, the transitions! The descriptive words! The persuasive phrasing!) I thought, at last, we have hit upon the right combination of variables. Wake him at 8:30 and bring him down for breakfast. Perform some sort of physical activity, either Tai Chi, bike riding, or basketball. Brew a cup of green tea. Start with Spanish, then Math, Reading, Language Arts, History, Geography, Memory, Science, Religion, and Current Events. Sign off each subject when it's complete; give him my undivided attention. Work him through each step of the assignment. Read the directions, ask leading questions. Compliment him. Use the funny voice. Make him snacks. Take short breaks. Reward him with screens on Wed and Sat if he has achieved a star on the other days. Notice when he makes any improvement, even in the slightest measure. Don't neglect one-on-one time. Find moments to connect. Be clear with expectations and requirements. Empathize. Explain.

I guess if I think back, we did not do the physical activity today and I did not make him green tea. Is it really THAT delicate? No, it started before that. It started when I woke him up and then left the room instead of dragging him out of bed. He did not get up and I had to go back upstairs to get him out of bed, and that right there was the start.

I can't be perfect every day. Honestly, I would take the occasional bad day if it came occasionally and was the exception rather than the rule.

I will begin again tomorrow and try to stick to the routine a little better. Starting the day with physical activity is key.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughts on Depression

Like most others, I was struck personally by the news of Robin William's suicide. Having grown up with his films and his comedy, I feel that connection with him that is the hallmark of a great actor: he is so authentic and wholehearted that the audience feels WITH him as he performs and takes that performance with them when they leave the theater. Some of my favorite and most watched films -- Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, and Good Morning Vietnam -- are great in large part because he starred in them.

There has been, unfortunately, a great deal of ugliness on the internet in the wake of his death. If I am believing the best I have to think that it comes from a place of fear and a need to separate themselves from his choice because they know, deep in their hearts, that we are all capable of falling into despair and seeing death as the only end to an unbearable existence.

Thankfully, the ugliness is more than balanced by sound defenses of the truth and lovely tributes to this talented man.

Glen Close: "Robin was incredibly sensitive to the crew, to the people who don't always get the recognition they deserve for the various jobs they do during a shoot. Robin knew everyone's name and could always get a laugh---not a laugh aimed at himself, but a laugh that recognized others. He gave various favorite crew members special nicknames. Our camera operator had famously combed-back, black hair that had considerable amounts of product in it, keeping every hair in place in all kinds of weather. Robin dubbed him "Teflon Man" and would do hilarious rifts as an archeologist in the distant future finding "Teflon Man" with his hair still perfect."

Ben Affleck: "Heartbroken. Thanks chief -- for your friendship and for what you gave the world. Robin had a ton of love in him. He personally did so much for so many people. He made Matt and my dreams come true. What do you owe a guy who does that? Everything. May you find peace my friend."

Anna Kendrick: O Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells. Rise up, for you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills.

Ben Stiller: His kindness and generosity is what I think of. How kind he was to anyone who wanted to connect with him. And he could not help but be funny all the time. He would do something as long as it would keep you laughing. He made many, many film crews laugh out loud before the audiences ever saw it. He made such a big impact on the world. So there is the man, and his talent and I think in his case both were extraordinary. 

Our understanding of mental illness has grown in the last decade so that we are finally at the point where we can look at depression and see it for what it is: illness, rather than weakness or lack of faith. I think that's what bothers me most in a situation like this. Of course he made the wrong choice. It amazes me that this is up for debate! Suicide is NOT the answer. Never the answer. But rather than blame, we should be filled with compassion and sorrow. Depression wrecks your logic like a tsunami of despair. It invades every part of your mind and soul. No matter how you try to escape it, the waters rise up and pull you under again. They twist you so you don't know which way is up or where to find air or what to hold on to. It makes no difference if you have God, a loving family, financial success, friendship, or none of the above. Depression can still take you.

I do think, in my own experience, that having a proper understanding of who God is and my place in the universe helped me through my depression. Even when I didn't feel His presence, I knew He must be there and the problem was with me, because all the literature and testimony of thousands of years of humanity's relationship with Him continue to repeat "I am with you, even to the end of time."

But I have to admit that had I been capable of it, I might have come much closer to suicide than is comfortable to think about. I was pregnant and so miserable that I do remember I wished for death. I had a night where I couldn't stop throwing up, and I lay there and thought, "It's fine. I could just keep throwing up and die. That way this baby wouldn't be born into a world of suffering, and my children could be free from me. It's probably better if I just let myself die."

To look back on this moment from a place of health (both mental and physical) I can see the absurdity of it. I had everything: beautiful, healthy children, a warm and comfortable home, family supporting me in my illness, excellent medical care, freedom to rest all day long, entertainment to distract me, and access to any food I desired. Yet I couldn't see that. I could only see my own misery and loneliness.

I don't know what could have been done to help Robin Williams. I'm sure his family did what they could. They clearly loved him. We all did. I know he is at peace now. I know he regrets killing himself.

I am grateful that I am also at peace and my personal tsunami has receded. God is ever merciful, ever forgiving, ever loving, ever unchanging. May we imitate Him and show such love and compassion to our fellow brothers and sisters here on Earth.

Depression Does Not Discriminate

People Who Need Help Sometimes Look a lot Like People Who Don't Need Help

Robin Williams Didn't Die from a Disease and My Detailed Response
by Matt Walsh

5 Common Myths About Depression

10 Ways to Show Love to Someone with Depression

Depressed Catholics: God Wants You to Get Help

Monday, August 11, 2014

Peace and Prosperity

It is almost midnight and I should be in bed if I am to have any hope of getting up tomorrow at 7 am but I see that my last post here was in April (!!) and I feel the need to pop on if only for a moment to update the blogosphere as to what I have been up to.

I am in a great place, happy, peaceful, trusting in God's plan and doing my best to love my family no matter the circumstances. I am being challenged in a few key ways right now, mostly related to homeschooling which I am undertaking this year for the second time with my eldest. It did not go well the first time, but God brought everyone around to believing it was for the best that we try again. I am determined this time to focus on character, not performance, and work to make the experience as positive as I can.

My health is good, Praise God, my children are growing and active. My husband started a new law firm a year ago and it is growing with all the accompanying growing-pains that are to be expected, even desired. But naturally there is stress involved which my husband is bearing the brunt of. I personally have no doubt about his success, if not with this endeavor than with the next. That doesn't help him out much, though.

I am hoping once I get into a rhythm with homeschooling and the kids fall activities, and get a handle on my volunteer positions (Shepherd for my daughter's American Heritage Girls troop, Registrar and Prayer Coordinator for my Mother's Group, and volunteer with Catholic Charities Archdiocesan Housing) and my home, that I will be able to focus more attention on getting back to living simply and communicating some of our wonderful new Pope's wisdom on the subject.

Till then, blogging will likely be rather spotty. With love and prayers to all who read this little blog, Good Night. :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Not the brightest bulb in the....bulb box....

"Lord, help me today, Good Friday. I give this day to you with all its trials and sufferings. I want so much to make this day holy for you, to find a way to sit with you in your suffering. I don't know how I can do it because the kids are already fighting with each other and crying, and I know I'm going to spend today in chaos with all the kids at home making messes and being noisy, dragging them to prayers and Stations and enduring their whining and constant demands. Show me how I can create a space to celebrate your Passion today..."

Oh. Wait a minute.

Yeah, that makes sense, Lord.

"Lord, help me today, Good Friday. Be with me amid my trials and sufferings as I struggle to parent these beautiful gifts whom I love. Shower me with Your grace so I respond to complaints with compassion, demands with gentle forbearance, defiance with love, and disruptions with patience. Grant me the strength to be mindful of You in the everyday moments of my life today. I offer my sufferings to You as a partnership with Your Passion for the salvation of the world, and particularly for those in my life who do not know You. I love You, Lord Jesus. Guide me today. Amen."

Title quote from Frasier. Love that show.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Too Much Joy

Blessed Lent to you all! I might be enjoying it a bit too much this year. None of my sacrifices are bringing me down...on the contrary, I am so excited to be healthy enough to make a sacrifice! And it's fun to choose the sacrifice I want to make instead of being given a cross I can't carry.

We decided as a family (okay, I decided and told my family and no one jumped ship so it's happening) to do a rice and beans dinner challenge for the 40 days of Lent. Basically, dinner is rice and beans and whatever vegetables and spices go with the dish. But no meat. No other grains. No tofu or tuna. The idea is to experience some solidarity with the majority of our world's poor, whose main staples are rice and beans, by limiting our dinner choices to those ingredients. The addition of vegetables and spices is for health and palatability, although we have decided on Fridays of Lent to have a simple meal of black beans and rice without vegetables or spices.

So far it is going well. God Bless my husband, who is not Catholic, and is nevertheless such a trooper in situations like these. I didn't expect that the kids would really eat their dinners and they aren't. But they don't eat anything I cook unless it's spaghetti or tacos and even then, one kid won't eat the chunks of tomato in the sauce, another only eats the noodles, etc. So I make the meal and serve it, they must try one bite, and then they are free to make whatever they'd like for their own dinners. Usually the toddler eats her rice and then asks for a sandwich and one of the older kids will make her one. My 10 year old likes to cook himself a cheese omelet, and my 7 year old eats apples with nut butter.

I've made the following dishes since Ash Wednesday:

Black Beans and rice
Red Beans and rice
Pintos Picadillos
Moroccan Chickpea Stew

The best part about this challenge is that the dishes are easy one pot meals that cook on their own. So the dinner hour is not stressful. I have much more time in the late afternoons to do Bible reading and prayer, clean the kitchen so it's not such a disaster after dinner, and spend time with the kids. We took advice from Jessica at A Shower of Roses and made a Lenten calendar detailing who to pray for and what blessings to count as penny offerings for the poor. The kids have been excited to participate in these devotions so far.

It's all been wonderful, and I feel so very grateful for the joy that surrounds me these days.