Oct 31, 2016

Monday Meme: The Eternal Battle

With all the references of the death and skeletons due to Halloween, it is a good time to reflect on the afterlife. What is your perspective regarding the hereafter? Most would regard it as the ultimate of all battles, particularly good vs evil morphing into triumph vs failure.
So here are two opposites, but dealing with the same subject of the diablo, aka devil. Which one is your perspective? Good vs evil? Empowerment vs blame? It is all about temptation and spiritual warfare. How well equipped are you?

Oct 26, 2016

Offer It Up

Image result for obedience quotes catholic

My 14 year-old son had a doctor’s appointment today. He is tough. He is rough. He didn’t cry when he broke his arm. He didn’t cry when he stapled his finger with the heavy duty stapler. He doesn’t cry and he doesn’t complain, either.
But today, he cried. He was frustrated and I saw tears streaming down his face during his procedure. I could see in his face a look of pain and panic….. Fear of the pain that was still yet to come.
I tried to comfort him and console him with a soft touch on his back, a goofy joke to distract him, and then finally after nothing worked to lighten his pain, I went in with the big guns.
I said to him, “Offer it up. Pain is temporary and it can be a blessing.”
I won’t tell you his immediate reaction, but it did include an eye roll and a big sigh.
I suggested he embrace the pain, as Jesus embraced the Cross. Absorb the pain and send it back up to Heaven as a prayer for those who can’t pray, won’t pray, don’t pray. Look deep into the Lord’s sacrifice and own a piece of it, humbly and with joy. You are being allowed to experience a small portion of our Lord’s pain. Offer it up for Grandma who is battling breast cancer, for a sweet dear big sister who is studying for mid-terms, for Grandpa’s soul and eternal rest, for friends, for family, for babies, for the Nation.
After I rattled all of the people and circumstances that need prayer, I was humbled and convicted. When in my busy day, have I followed my own advice? Embraced an annoyance for the good of another? Asked for an inconvenience to allow for another person’s peace? Welcomed a negative comment, a slight of embarrassment or an insult to aid another’s salvation?
Then, I thought of our Lord’s Divine Mercy and was thankful that my judge of success in humility is a forgiving and loving God. He wants us to embrace his Passion, but forgives us when we fall short.
So, dear friends, join me as I rededicate myself - welcome the pain, embrace the heartache and offer it up for our brothers and sisters who are in need, our Nation who is in need, our families who are in need.

Look at the Cross, own a piece of it and love it, with joy. And repeat after me, “Jesus, I trust in You!”

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.  :)

Oct 10, 2016

My Favorite Time of the Year

No matter what is going on around us.  No matter how the world or our country spins their agenda, God is still in control.  And when we can't see Him.  When we feel like He's far away or maybe that He doesn't hear us, He gives us just what we need.

Right now, autumn is just what I needed.  The crispness of the air, the beautiful splash of colors, the tartness of a fresh picked apple, and the knowledge that He gives all of those things for my joy – how lovely.

Thank you, Jesus.

Oct 7, 2016

Friday Feasting: Raisin Bran Muffins - Blessings From the Desert

"When baby #3 arrived, we were living in the sweltering August heat of the Mojave Desert in the “largest cul-de-sac” in the world (AKA, Fort Irwin, CA). Far away from extended family and in a new home, I was more blessed than I could have imagined. Neighbors came from everywhere with food and treats and offers to help. One dear friend brought me these muffins, and provided me with an ample supply for the freezer too! They were moist and delicious and perfect with a cup of tea, coffee, or even a cold glass of milk. Every time I make these, I think back to the days in the desert, with good friends and abundant blessings. I hope you enjoy them too!

Recipe can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. For an added treat melt one teaspoon butter and one tablespoon of brown sugar in each muffin tin before filling. Pure deliciousness! This recipe is best if made in advance and stored in the refrigerator." 


YIELD 60 muffins

1(15 ounce) box Raisin Bran cereal (Flakes, about 9 cups)
3cups sugar
5cups flour
5teaspoons baking soda
2teaspoons salt
4eggs, beaten
1cup vegetable oil
1quart buttermilk
1 1⁄2teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Optional Topping
12teaspoons butter
12tablespoons brown sugar

Mix cereal with raisins, sugar, flour, soda and salt in a very large bowl. Add oil, eggs and milk. Allow to rest before use.
Store in a covered container and use as needed.
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
For an added treat melt one teaspoon butter and one tablespoon of brown sugar in each muffin tin before filling.

Oct 5, 2016

Stress Management: How to Avoid the Self-Destruct Button

A year ago, I couldn’t have even watched the Presidential debate; I probably would have had a coronary just from the hairstyles alone, much less any reflections upon how on earth our country got here and speculations on where we could possibly be headed now.  I was fragile, anxious, and just about ready to snap in half from a variety of reasons.  I wasn’t sleeping well, eating well, or praying well. You can substitute “at all” for “well” in that last sentence.

I will spare you the specifics, because you already know them; you or people you know have been suffering from some or all of the following: financial stress, health struggles, feeling overwhelmed by caring for aging parents, for small children, for older children, for adult children. Toss in cultural chaos, uncertainty and division within our country and even the Church, and the current political climate, and you have a recipe for a kind of Cortisol Candyland, where stress rules, and peace is impossible.

One of the worst things about stress like this is it can rob us of our ability to effectively do the things we need to do to conquer it.  I can’t tell you how many times I told myself (and was told by others) that I needed to pray more, and better.  Sometimes in this valley, prayer can feel like booming echoes that do little but emphasize one’s sense of isolation, and give you a headache.  Hello? Is anyone there? Never mind.

“You need to sleep more, eat more, take care of yourself.” Agreed. How do I do that, again?

The truth about managing stress is not that we need to do more; it’s that we need to do less, and do what we do in a different way.

My training as a young mom was to do one million things every day.  I don’t think this is terribly different from people with challenging jobs outside the home: the wonderful boon of technology means that not only can we do more faster, but that we are expected to do it all faster, and never stop.  Now, truthfully, many of those things are non-negotiable in certain circumstances: when babies and little kids need to eat, you need to feed them; change them, bathe them, etc., and it all has to happen when it needs to happen. Schedules help, but let’s face it: there is just a lot to do.  As little ones get older, the immediacy of their needs lessen, but we insert more needs: playdates, activities, and hey! Younger siblings with all of the original needs!

Thank Heaven babies and toddlers come with their own built-in hormonal stress relieving system. We cuddle them, smell their heads, get kisses, and have these joy surges that largely help to counterbalance the strain.

As kids age, we have less access to that kind of relief, particularly if we are Marthas, concerned with many things: help pay the bills, care for the folks, help others in need- and woe betide if we should happen to fall ill.  The stress builds, and the relief fades.

We are like frogs in hot water- we don’t notice until we’ve boiled to death.

There has got to be a way to stop the madness, for ourselves and for our kids. ‘Cause guess what? We model stress for our families as we model everything else. We have to learn to calm down so that they can learn to handle what life has in store without breaking. But how? you ask.

Fortunately, I have done the breaking down for you! Having been almost completely physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually wrecked myself, I have been given the gift of more time to figure out how not to do that again, and I am delighted to share the fruits of my personal destruction with you.

So without further ado, Nan’s Hard-Won Keys to Stress Management:

1.  Do less. 
Ruthlessly hack away at your schedule. Pare it down, Chuck things out the window, even good things. Especially good things.  Focus in on what’s absolutely vital. Let the rest go, at least for now. No more extracurriculars, or fewer.  I had to get seriously ill to achieve this- hopefully you are less pigheaded and can manage it before your body breaks down. Stop helping everybody all the time! You will do nobody any good by having your head explode.

 2. Live deep, not shallow. 
I find that when I was most stressed, I was skating over the surface of life, no time for a story, no time to be goofy, no time to stop and look deeply into a child’s eyes, or Heaven forfend, my husband’s eyes. “Oh yeah, they’re green!” I actually said this recently, mostly kidding, as my husband and I stopped and took a minute to gaze at each other. Sit in the sandbox; stare at a wall, or a flower.

3. Stop kicking yourself for the cruddy quality of your prayer.  
So your prayer stinks. God’s used to it.  He is not booting you in the face, you are.  Stop trying so hard. Take more time for it, and flail around less. Shut up. Listen. Just snuggle with Him for awhile, He’s not going anywhere. He doesn’t need you to compose the new prayer of St. Francis. He’s already got one, and it’s fine.

4. Stop kicking yourself at all. 
Life will kick you plenty.  Do we need to examine our consciences? Of course- but limit it to once a day, preferably not at night.  And try to remember why God loves you. Because He does, which is weird, but there it is.

5. Stop dieting. Please, stop dieting. Please please please stop dieting.  
So many of us have developed hideous relationships with food and with our bodies- it’s a cycle of self-loathing that becomes a vortex. This food is bad, that food is bad, I am bad, it’s all bad, meals are occasions of guilt and punishment, instead of refreshment and gratitude. This is from the soul of the Italian in me: love food. God wants you to eat good food.  If you are having trouble digesting, get some nice expensive high quality supplements, preferably with enzymes to aid in breaking down that good food so you can get the benefit of it.

6. Touch people, as much as you and they can stand. 
Hug, caress, stroke hair- and try to remember to do that with kids, especially adult kids, as a replacement for talking, as often as they will allow. Sometimes we talk, and the words are good, and we mean well, and we are being very instructive, and all everybody needs is just some proof that they are loved well. I am not saying never talk; but how many times have words gotten us deeper into the woods, and love has gotten us out? Start with the unconditional love- and maybe stop there.

7.  Love rest, love leisure. 
These things are restorative, and God intended them for blessings. Slow down and enjoy things. I had gotten to the point where I could not stop working. I could hardly sit still at the dinner table- those dishes were waiting and it would be better if I could get to them right away. Sleep? Who could sleep? There were so many things that needed doing, and so many things to beat myself up over not having done. God wants you to love His gifts.  When you do move, move because it feels good to use the body that God gave you, not because you have an emotional gun pointed at your head.

Make yourself do a fun thing. So the cows won’t get fed for a half hour- will they DIE? So a doorbell or phone will ring unanswered- it probably isn’t the FBI or your long-lost aunt- let it ring, let them go away. So you’re unshowered and look like the wrath of God- your kids will adore you for sitting down for one half hour and playing with them. DO IT. STOP DOING OTHER STUFF. STOP STOP STOP. YOU HAVE TO STOP!!!

8.  Read for relaxation.
Not everything has to be spiritual reading.  Read you some Jane Austen! How about a buddy series set in the British navy during the Napoleonic wars? (Patrick O’Brian- oh yeah!).  Even St. Francis de Sales would tell you, enough already.  Relax.  Ok, maybe it would be Padre Pio or St. Philip Neri telling you- they are paesanos- they get it.

9.  Here’s a weird one: try for awhile not to read any books about saints that aren’t written by saints. Saints are very honest about themselves.  Saints tell the whole deal, how they screwed up, and continued to screw up after their conversions.  Biographers tell us how perfect the saints were, how pious, how gifted at prayer, how instinctively holy.  We get a lot about bilocation and the stigmata- well guess what? You’re probably not going to bilocate or get the stigmata, and if you do, it won’t be because you read about it somewhere.  I am not saying lives of the saints have no value; but when you are stressed, they can seem more like accusations or confirmation of your own hopelessness. Actual saints talking about themselves don’t have that effect. They talk about what brats they were as kids or the struggle to love somebody unloveable- the real stuff.  It helps. And it’s funny!

10.  Give yourself a break. 
Teach your kids that it’s ok to give themselves a break. And I mean this in two senses: one, take an actual break. And two, when you mess up, apologize, forgive yourself, and move on. Everybody messes up. Every-single-body. There were two who didn’t, but since you and I are not called to be Lord or Lady of the Universe, we can probably afford to make a few mistakes, like St. Augustine, like Pope John Paul the Great, like every other person who ever lived. Say out loud: “I am sorry. I forgive myself.” Yes, I know it’s God’s forgiveness that really counts, but He really doesn’t have much trouble forgiving. Forgive yourself; say it out loud even if you don’t really mean it. MRI research has shown that saying these words has a physically calming effect on the brain.  Every thought has a corresponding physiological action: it can be a cortisol eruption, frazzling your mind and body; or it can be a peaceful, antioxidant spa.  Say positive things out loud. “It’s going to be ok. God loves me. God loves you. Get me some Doritos.”

Oh, I’ve got a bunch more to say to you. But I won’t, because I am taking my own advice, and stopping. In closing, allow me to point out that almost every rule above has the word “stop” or “don’t” in it.  These rules do not demand more of you; they beg that you demand less of yourself.

Yes, I realize that the general cultural failing is not that everyone is trying too hard to be holy; but if you are stressed out from trying to live a good and holy life, you don’t need the same admonitions most people need.

You gotta STOP. Get somebody to give you a hug. Breathe. Snuggle with God; let Him do the heavy lifting. He’s got you.

Oct 3, 2016

Monday Meme: Snooze OR Do

Every morning, I wake up with two choices:  go back to snooze or get up to do.  Lately, I’ve been getting up earlier than usual.  Understand that I am not a morning person.  It is much easier for me to stay up until 3am than to get up at 3am.  However, those early moments of precious silence are critical for my own peace of mind. I can pay a few bills or plan dinner.  I can pray or exercise. I accomplish something before the gang gets up and starts the “Momming”, like “Mom, where is my shoe?” or “Mom, make Joey stop looking at me.”

Getting up earlier than necessary is crazy to some, but every so often, that may be the only time moms get to be by themselves.  It is worth assessing if that might be helpful.  Of course, it does not have to happen daily, but once in a while, it can actually be a well deserved treat.