Oct 24, 2016

Monday Meme: Not Qualified

If you are a Marie Bellet fan, you probably know this line from her song "How Do I Look to You," and you're probably singing it now. You're welcome. :-)

I discovered Marie Bellet's music seventeen years ago, when I was pregnant with my fourth. She was performing at the NACHE conference in Manassas, Virginia, but I was tired so we left early. The second day of the conference, everyone was talking about how wonderful she was, so I bought her CD. I listened to it and cried the whole way home. Seventeen years and four CDs later, I still cry when I listen to her.

Marie sings about motherhood, especially being a mom of a large family, and she sings about Catholicism. She sings about grocery store lines and not perfect marriages and exhausted mornings and welcoming another baby later in life. And she sings about failure and redemption. She is a step or two ahead of me in life and each new CD has been perfect timed to help me through each stage. (Pretty sure baby #9 was a result of her song "Nine More Months, One More Time"! 😉)

When I was a young mom and trying to figure it out, she sang "Does it Make a Difference?", asking God what difference the daily life of a stay at home mom with lots of little people could make. And God answered, "have some patience, teach my children, be a light for all you see. Life is loving, so mind the details, wrap it up and send it to me. And what a difference there will be."

When I was a little more confident, but busy and maybe a little discouraged, she sang "there will come a time with no constant interruptions, confusing all my senses, my reason, and my rhyme, and how my heart will leap to find one backpack in the hallway, and the promise of a face and a story just for me" in "Ordinary Time".

When I was really tired, she encouraged me with A New Springtime. And as my children were growing and began leaving, she sang about that too. She sang about letting go and getting older. She has one song about a son deployed to the Middle East and while my son was there (and even now) I cried and cried through that song, relating to being a mom, waiting and worrying.

All through her music is self-examination and refocusing on God. But don't think her music is somber or depressing. It can be fun, and it's always inspiring. The most important thing is that what she shares as her struggles, is what we moms go through, maybe not all of it, but enough, and it is a validation that we are not alone. We aren't the only women who cry in front of the sink at night, or spend our time saying "if only". She admits to buying books she won't read and having clothes in her closet that don't fit. She admits to being cranky and not be able to keep up with her life. And she admits to thinking others are probably doing it better. And often, she looks up and asks God why.

Ladies, we aren't alone. You may be a great homemaker, and I'm a lousy one, but I may be able to stand constant chaos and chatter and you just can't. We are different but we are the same. Our hearts burst with love and concern, and often some guilt thrown in. We all have our times when we call out to God and say "Does it make a difference?" And our times when we are done and all we can say is "Thy Will Be Done."

I cannot encourage you enough to buy her CDs, listen to them until they are part of your thought process, cry and be comforted. She has been an light through this journey for me. And I just want every mom to have that in her life!

(The song from the meme is "How Do I Look to You?" Marie does this wonderful thing in her songs...repeating a phrase but changing the meaning. So she starts by asking God how she looks to Him, but ends by realizing that she needs to look TO Him, and asking how she can do it. I could quote her all day, but just get the CDs! Lol!)

One more thing, my children have grown up singing her songs, and I know that will be a gift in their adult lives.

Marie Bellet CDs at Amazon

Oct 19, 2016

Blessings in Disguise

“Sweet are the uses of adversity…” Which Shakespeare play was that? I think it’s As You Like It, and it’s followed by something about a frog with a jewel in its head. Wise words from the Bard, though a tad incomprehensible.  And true: there are some blessings you can only get from passing through the fire, or by finding a bejeweled amphibian.

This week our youngest was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Weirdly, I had known it was coming. It runs -- practically gallops, as Cary Grant would say -- on my Dad’s side of the family. Both of his brothers were Type 1, and some of my male cousins are, too.

I won’t say there haven’t been some tears, at least on my part; but there hasn’t been shock, for some reason. In retrospect it seems God has been preparing us for this for many years, beginning with our other son’s Celiac diagnosis, and some other autoimmune struggles in our family.  I take after my Dad’s side of the family, and we have a love/hate relationship with carbohydrates: we love them, they kinda hate us.  So counting carbs is old hat to me.  I am familiar with the signs, and when Little Guy began drinking constantly ten days ago, I knew.

So once again our kids were called on to handle the home front while we were in the hospital, a drill that I know is all too familiar to too many families.  Thankfully we have a couple of adult kids at home, and that has been an inestimable gift.

So when my husband said that all this would turn out to be a blessing, I knew what he meant.  Sure, a lifelong chronic illness with potentially devastating sequellae is not what one would wish for one’s child. One is also not enthralled with the reality of harnessing one’s sanguine wagon to the very melancholic star of measuring and recording everything that passes the child’s lips, then sticking and poking him umpteen times a day. No, one most assuredly is not.

But... the challenges and losses that have been cropping up for a long time now have forced me to make decisions which ultimately have been a boon to our family peace and holiness.  My loss of health and mobility has drawn me back into my home, having to abandon the effort to help pay the mounting bills.

Being unable to pay the bills has led to a reevaluation of why we began homeschooling in the first place, and has led to the necessary withdrawing of our younger kids from a beloved co-op community.  The massive relief I feel at not having to be separated from my son at all while he adjusts and learns about his new normal is worth the price of admission by itself.  But something else has begin to re-enter our lives that has been missing for quite awhile now. Peace.

I used to laugh a bitter little laugh at the thought of ever having peace again. Who, I thought Martha-esquely, would get these kids educated? How would we get them through college? They need to play baseball and do ballet, don’t they? They’ve got to have a whole troupe of friends or they’ll have lonely childhoods, won’t they? Well then. Ha, God. There can be no peace in our time, no matter how much You want it for us, and promise it to us.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t currently sit here like a placid Buddha mysteriously smiling at all the busy bees, wishing they could have my nirvana. There’s lots to do, and a good percentage of it we mess up. The key is that God has herded us toward the right things for our family; things that are nourishing our unity and our contentment in one another.

I feel like this diagnosis is the final (please let it be the final!!) piece of our puzzle. We are so ready to step into this new life; it has been an almost seamless transition.  Beautiful friends are bringing meals and insights into managing diabetes; I am free to focus on doctor visits and redmond clay baths and measuring insulin.  Unstressed sibs are ready to play and cheer.  And best of all, my happy little boy loves having his mama around all the time. He knows that he and his brothers and sisters are top priority. They always were, of course; but it was harder for a child to appreciate when time was so limited and straitened.

The very best part about this blessing in disguise has been the discovery of our son’s remarkable courage and sense of humor. He had the docs and students in stitches on rounds every morning. Dr. Obvious told me to make sure to supervise him when he give himself shots, and I, a little naughtily, turned to Paul and said very seriously, “Okay, Paullie, so no running around the house with syringes, got it?” He fired back without a pause, “How about kitchen knives?” I about died laughing. Little snarkmeister! Where does he get that from? Happily the social worker in the room also found it funny. Whew.

It’s not all sunshine and roses; this morning as we drove to the pediatrician’s office, Paul scratched away at his Hand, Foot, and Mouth blisters (that’s right, picked it up in the hospital- yummy) while I mentally reviewed the contents of his travel pack- did I have everything I needed to make sure he wouldn’t die before we got home? Having answered myself with a tentative yes, I experienced a wave of frustration, and submitted what I would like to call a “passionate request” to God for some good ol’ fashioned undisguised blessings, you know, like unexpected checks in the mail or sudden weight loss.

Even as I made my demand, images of Paul’s brother Joe checking his sugar like a pro sprang to my mind, along with the beautiful face of my new daughter-in-law to be (Number One Son proposed the day after we brought Paul home), my folks asking when the diabetes care class is so they can attend, my awesome food values scale brought by a lovely friend with a Type 1 son,  my husband’s “not quitting” face as he learned to do a sugar check, Paul’s quietly ironic, “So hey Dad, maybe Mom could do the next one?” The existence of insulin, the advent of an artificial pancreas on the horizon, the fact that my crunchy doctor will still let me eat Doritos if need be, and even, a little randomly, the fact that Chesley Sullenberger landed a jumbo jet on the Hudson with no loss of life.

Yep, God’s here. We don’t know why we get the blessings we get, or the crosses.  But He really does weave it all together into something astounding, even if in deep disguise, and occasionally terrifying beyond belief.

Oct 17, 2016

Evil and St. Ignatius

Today, I’m thinking about evil.

Not the mass murderer, the thief, the crooked businessman, the social deviants that we all recognize are evil, but the less obvious evil doers and their evil deeds.

How do we recognize these “snakes in the grass” who are camouflaged so well in our daily lives? How do we recognize evil intent within ourselves?

I bring you St. Ignatius of Antioch, our Saint of the day, who says:

“For some are in the habit of carrying about the name in wicked guile, while they still practice things unworthy of God. You must flee these as you would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, since they are men who can scarcely be cured.”

So, let’s be on guard. Let’s stay close to God in prayer, in scripture, in sacrament, in reconciliation, and in reflection, accepting suffering with a purpose. Then, we will recognize when something is amiss, when something is shady. When even those we “think” are on the good side, actually are on the dark side. When chaos looms and doubt creeps in, that is when we know evil is approaching.

Let’s all pray for each other, that we can be vigilant and prayerful. That we recognize evil as it approaches and then have courage and strength, just as St. Ignatius revealed during his martyrdom, to be strong and find everlasting and eternal life in Heaven!

++St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us!++

Oct 14, 2016

Friday Feasting: Old fashion ketchup (before canning days)

Ketchup used to be fermented and health promoting.  Then came along factories, canning and the "bottom line".  The recipes changed to rely on sugar as a preservative.  The lacto-fermented process naturally preserved ketchup.

Fact: The word ketchup comes from a Chinese derivative meaning pickled fish sauce.

3 cups canned tomato paste
1/4 cup whey (unpasteurized, i.e. Made from raw milk)
1/2 Tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup fish sauce

1.  Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Mix.  I use a whisk to mix thoroughly.
2.  Place in quart size mason jar.  I use a wide mouth jar, and use two smaller size jars instead of the quart size.  It's much easier to use and store.  Do not completely fill to the top.  Air needs to be top.  I leave about half an inch to an inch of "breathing" space.  Twist on jar lid.
3.  Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days.  The ketchup will naturally ferment (lacto-fermentation).  Then put in refrigerator.*

*Information based on recipe in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Oct 12, 2016

Choosing To Be Present

A couple of weeks ago, late at night, I was doing something on my iPad, probably Facebook, while lying in bed. One of my kids came in and started talking to me about things going on in her life and the logistics of the next few days. I thought I was listening but my attention was divided and suddenly I realized she had left the room and I had no idea what we had decided. I wish I could say that hadn't happened before, or since. But I can't.

Another night, I was sitting by my daughter's crib while she cried about going to sleep. She's almost four and I just need her to sleep. I sang her some songs then thought about posting my bedtime struggle on Facebook. Then something struck me. With my older children, when I was with them, I was with them. I didn't have any way to broadcast to the world that the child wouldn't sleep, nor would it have occurred to me. I might have read a book or magazine, while hoping the child would drift off, but I was fully there. And I'm pretty sure we were both better off.

I hear friends on Facebook, usually in small, private groups, discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of Facebook. Most of the friendships I have on Facebook are either "in real life" friends, or they are women I have known through groups and forums that pre-date Facebook. Back when we had avatars and screen names and conversations that didn't involve memes! I can huddle with these ladies in our various groups to discuss motherhood, homeschooling, and our faith. That is the good of Facebook. But even the good can be overdone.

As a young mother, I never would have dreamed of spending the day on the phone chatting with a friend while my children needed me. But the lure of that app on my phone, while the third grader does his math problems, or I wait for the water to boil for pasta, or maybe when the baby is nursing, it pulls my attention away, a little at a time, until it becomes a reflex to click and scroll. For years, I've paid for caller id on the phone so that I wouldn't interrupt our day unless it was an important call. So, why do I let these devices creep in and interrupt constantly?

There are plenty of blog posts, articles, and even books imploring moms especially to put down our phones. Why does this even have to be said? I remember when my husband got his first smartphone and he seemed to be staring at it all the time. I couldn't figure out what he could possibly be doing. For him, it is sports, or news. Then I got one, and the Facebook app, and Candy Crush, and then Instagram. And gradually I became the one with a phone attached to my hand. And I cannot say it has made my life better.

So, what to do. Go back to a flip phone? Quit social media? I admit that I am addicted to my GPS app and love taking pictures that look good. So the iPhone isn't going away. Social media keeps me connected to family, sort of, and long time friends spread throughout the country that support me in this vocation. So, not ready to give that up.

What I can do, what we can all do, is maybe delete the app so it isn't just a click away. Set up break times to mindfully get online, whether it's Facebook, Pinterest, or blogs (or Candy Crush). Make sure the needs of those around us are taken care of first. Leave the phone on the counter or wherever, instead of carrying it around, tempting you, and interrupting you. Let your time with family be time with family. Only answer urgent texts or calls. Put your phone on "do not disturb" and be present.

I need to model to my children how to handle technology and also how to build and maintain relationships.  I need to be mindful of the message it sends if I look at my phone while they are talking to me. I need them to see that when they want my time, I am willing to walk away from all distractions to look them in the eyes. And I need them to see a mother who can just sit and think, ponder life or work with my hands creating something, rather than a mom who clicks and scrolls, who half-listens and who never actually seems to find calm or peace doing so.

Finally, my children need to see a mother who does not constantly seek affirmation from the world but a mother who prayerfully discerns and looks to God for direction and affirmation. I want my children's memories of me to be with a Bible or a prayer book in my hand, not an iPhone. What is the image you want your child to remember?

We can do this.  :)