Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Honey....

Ordinarily, my husband is the most reasonable and accommodating of individuals (he has to be, to live with me). The only chink in his king-sized, Prince Charming armor that I've discovered so far, after almost ten years of marriage, is that he has a rule about birthdays.

The must be celebrated ON THE DAY. No squeezing it into the previous or subsequent weekend. No two-for-one birthday/Christmas presents ... even if they are twice as expensive as usual. He'll play along if we choose to have a celebration on an alternate day, of course ... But on the stroke of midnight each Dec 30, he turns to me (or pokes me awake) and crows, "It's my BIRTHDAY!"

I think that, growing up, he sometimes felt like an afterthought ... I'm told that at least once before we met, his birthday went altogether without comment. Sequestered as it is between Christmas and New Years, it is entirely possible -- and highly likely that the slight was not intended. So for the past ten years I've made it my personal business to be sure that he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that his birthday is one of the most important days of the year to me. Because HE is the most important person in the world to me.

There was a time when we would celebrate by dancing the night away, swirling around the ballroom floor in top form to every Viennese waltz, mambo, and cha-cha. How we loved West Coast Swing. Two kids and a dog later, with sleep coming in two-to-three hour increments, we have just enough energy to clink our teacups together in between pre-bedtime nap and actually hitting the sheets with exhausted thumps. Sad, I know ... but we're hoping it's a stage.

So anyway ... Sunday, we went out to a Japanese steak house with the kids and his older brother and sister-in-law, who are two of my favorite people. But TONIGHT ... tonight after he comes home from work we have his favorite stuffed mushrooms and key lime pie (he likes Mrs. Smith's), and I'm spending the afternoon putting together his digitial picture keychain while he shops for the big-screen TV he's been wanting for the past five years.

My present to him ... Well, let's just say it's something he likes even better than key lime pie. With a little effort (slightly less than a full-blown Hustle), perhaps even more than the big screen TV.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas, Mommy Style

On the first day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"I'm missing my right bootie."

On the second day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"I want two cookies
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the third day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the fourth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the fifth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the sixth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"We've got choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the seventh day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Let's go make snow angels,
We've got choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the eighth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Can we bake some cookies,
Let's go make snow angels,
We've got choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the ninth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"We need more batteries,
Can we bake some cookies,
Let's go make snow angels,
We've got choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the tenth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Let's surprise Dad for his birthday,
We need more batteries,
Can we bake some cookies,
Let's go make snow angels,
We've got choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the eleventh day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"I can't find my mittens,
Let's surprise Dad for his birthday,
We need more batteries,
Can we bake some cookies,
Let's go make snow angels,
Let's skip choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and I'm missing my right bootie."

On the twelfth day of Christmas Break, my children said to me,
"Three days more vacation!
I still can't find my mittens,
Let's surprise Dad for his birthday,
We need more batteries,
Can we bake some cookies,
Let's go make snow angels,
WE HATE choir practice ...
Maddie's piddled on the carpet again!
Dad, please take us sledding,
Mom, let's play checkers,
I want two cookies,
and the dog ate my left bootie."

Merry Christmas to all ... and to all, have a little Egg Nog!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spend a Moment with Mary Today!

Today Sarah posted the Carnival dedicated to "Our Lady of Guadalupe," patronness of the Americas as well as unborn children and their mothers. Check it out here!

Friday, December 05, 2008

"What Have You Done" Meme

Got this one from Sarah at "Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering." How many of these things have you done?

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (keyboards, when I lived in Senegal)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (DisneyWorld)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (does "counted cross-stitch" count?)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (they're called "mental health days," you know... once in a VERY blue moon, since I'm self-employed and my boss is very strict!)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (sort of. Overnight on a tin can to Bermuda)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (well, an anonymous dessert for a group of 6 teenage girls who had decided to attend their prom without dates!)
44. Visited Africa (lived there for a year)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted (Artists' Quarter next to Notre Dame)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (baraccuda scared the snot out of me)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (my parents took us to a double feature: Cinderella and Cabaret. Spent the entire second half with my face pressed into a pillow, as Joel Gray gave my mother the creeps).
55. Been in a movie (fourth grade, played Molly Pitcher)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Auschwitz, Poland)
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt (helped my friend piece one, and tie it).
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (office cleaning in college. Didn't pass white glove test.)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (over the course of years, not all at once)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do fish count?)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (John Paul II, Ruth Bell Graham, Elisabeth Elliot, several other authors at various stages of greatness...)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Just for fun, I'll add a few more:

* Potty trained a puppy
* Taught a dog a trick
* Went on a week-long, cross-country trip with less than 30 minutes' notice
* Invited a priest or religious sister for dinner
* Been in a foreign prison
* Went to a party in which you were literally the only straight, single person in the room (only one couple was married)
* Rode public transportation cross-country (any country)
* Ate kimchi
* Biked around Mackinac Island
* Milked a goat.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prayer for All Those Touched by Adoption

Although I thought it was appropriate to include the previous post, I didn't want the post to have "top place" on this blog for any length of time.

The season of Advent is about waiting, about longing. We are waiting to experience the miracle of the birth of our Savior, to retell the ancient story of Grace Incarnate, to share with our families the Hope that was brought to the whole world through the irresistable and matchless love of God.

At the same time, we wait with those who are suffering -- knowing that the "suffering" are not always easy to love, or grateful for our solidarity. Still, there is no getting around the fact that we are a part of the human family -- and in some sense, part of the Body of Christ. And so, in the spirit of Advent, we offer our prayers for those who need them. (Feel free to add your intentions in the comments ...)

For those who wander in darkness, that You would be our Light.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are empty, that You would be our Sufficiency,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are sad, that You would be our Joy,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are grieving, that You would be our Comfort,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are confused, that You would be our Wisdom,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are overwhelmed, that You would be our Provision,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
For those who are troubled, that You would be our Prince of Peace,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Best Argument Yet for Mutual Consent ...

"The Proper Adoptee" attempted to make the following comment in response to my last post. (In the past she has accused me of "lying" about her previous comments to me, so this one I am simply running verbatim.)

"Jesus wasn't Adopted by Joseph you liar. Was Jesus denied His bloodline? Was Jesus denied knowing who His Real Moteher was? Was Jesus told He could NOT know who His Mother was? THAT IS ADOPTION. You Pro Adoption Catholics are going to burn in hell for all the lies you tell. For how you refuse to forgive to get what you want. And I can't wait. I know Jesus will let me hear and watch you scream in the fifth realm and I CAN'T WAIT. Birth Mother Privacy IS A LIE AND YOU KNOW IT. And even if birth motehr privacy was real, which it is not, it is also CHILD ABUSE FOR ANY MOTHER TO NOT LET HER CHILD KNOW WHO SHE IS, and you support that? Yeah, you would because you are the devil."

If you were this woman's mother, would YOU want her to show up on your doorstep without warning? Doesn't the mother deserve at least a say in whether she wants contact?

At what point does the "need to know" turn from a need ... into an unhealthy obsession? Clearly, this is an expression of great pain ... and yet, it also raises the issue of why birth mothers may have concerns about being pulled into an emotional vortex like this one, after having already experienced the great pain of relinquishment.

This woman doesn't know me. Perhaps that makes it easier to use me for target practice. On the other hand ... imagine how her birth mother would feel to be on the receiving end of this kind of vitriol?

(This is also a good example of why I moderate all comments on my blogs!)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Entering Advent: Excerpt from CE Adoption Article

Last week I got a letter from an adult adoptee, who reminded me how important bloodlines were in the Old Testament -- of the long lists of genealogies that may be found in the Scriptures. He did this to support the idea that natural family ties are more important than adoptive ones.

However, as we enter the holy season of Advent, we are reminded that God’s redemptive plan involved adoption from the very start: the Incarnate Christ, the Son of God, was adopted by Joseph, the husband of Christ’s biological mother, Mary.

Both relationships – the biological and adoptive – were so critical to the salvific story that the lines of both parents are traced in the Gospels: Mary’s forebears are recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph’s in the Gospel of Matthew: “…Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ” (Matthew 1:16). Though Joseph was not related biologically to Jesus, his lineage was traced through the Davidic line that the prophets had foretold would produce the Messiah:

Little is said of the early years of Jesus, making it difficult to show from Scripture what kind of relationship Jesus had with Joseph, other than Gospel passages (Luke 4:16-17, John 1:45ff) that indicate Jesus was known publicly as the “son of Joseph.” The account of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:48-52) also offers this clue:
“He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them … And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:48-52).
When Jesus referred to “my Father,” invariably He was referring to God, not Joseph, for the simple reason that “his divine sonship, and his obedience to his heavenly Father's will, take precedence over his ties to his family” (USCCB/NAB Luke 2, footnote #13). His divine mandate was to prepare the way for all of humanity to become adopted as sons and daughters of God (CCC #2782-85).

As we read in John’s Gospel, chapter 1:
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice
nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

We find this adoption principle again in Romans (8:14):
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, 3 Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
We see this same principle at work in this passage in the Gospel of Matthew:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.")

But he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50).

In these passages, we are reminded of three important principles of adoption: (1) The bond of adoption is by nature permanent, (2) The bond of adoption, for the child’s sake, is reciprocal (even though initiated by the parent), and (3) the bond of adoption is associated with both individual suffering and loss … as well as with a lasting heritage. (While adoptive family life is no more “glorious” than birth families, adoptive homes reflect the redemptive, adoptive love of God just as married couples open to life reflect His creative, unitive love.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah at "My Wonderful Life" gave me something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving... check it out!

According to the rules, I have to post six things that make me really happy ... and pass it on to give six more people a reason to be thankful! (And not the least bit irked that they've been sucked into yet another meme.)

So... here are my six things:

1. A clean house
2. Finishing a home-improvement project with Craig
3. Acts of spontaneous generosity (especially from my children)
4. Christmas caroling
5. Tea with the girls
6. Puppy kisses

Now ... as for the tagging part, I'd like to "tag" any new readers/followers on this blog. Drop me a note with your link when you get it done! Blessings, Heidi

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Defiant Motherhood ... Now at "Secretum Meum Mihi"

Today Kristen posted my review of the book The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio at SMM (the image on the right is from the movie by the same title, which follows the book fairly faithfully).
This book is a must-read for any woman who is having a hard time finding something for which to be thankful this year.

When money is too tight to pay for the gas to go see the relatives, it puts things in perspective to read about a woman who had to beg the milkman to leave a gallon for her children's breakfast.

On the rare occasion I find myself missing the gallant man who swept me off my feet (literally) with his show-stopping ballroom moves, and who as a new husband spent whole weekends hiding away with me from the world ... who now has barely enough energy to make it home before his first pre-bedtime nap, it helps to read about a husband so shattered by bitterness and alcohol that his entire family felt the pain of it.

When my energetic twosome picks and pokes and bickers and whines until my head feels like someone is sandpapering every last nerve, I think about this woman who chose never to learn to drive (no escape!), and became the foundation of love her children needed so that one day they would find their wings and soar out into the great, wide world.

And suddenly ... I know just how much I have to be thankful for!

Evelyn, you experienced so much suffering in your lifetime,
Heaven must be that much more joyful for you now.
Pray for us defiant mothers everywhere,
that we might let go of daily dissatisfactions
and embrace God's love with greater perfection.

Jesus, we trust in You!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sheep and Goats

Today was the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel reading was one of my favorite passages of Scripture -- the "Sheep and Goats" passage from Matthew 25 (vv 31ff). You know...

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

"He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'

"And the king will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

Then He has words -- words with a much more ominous tone -- for the "goats" on his left. In this passage, we discover that to be a follower of Christ has very practical, everyday implications. It's not just saying, but being. Not just reading the words of Christ, but imitating Him -- to become a "lamb" [small "l"] "of God." Out there in the world, free to frisk and frolic under the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd.

In his homily today our priest (Father Gordon, who was ordained just a few years ago) had an interesting take on the reason shepherds used to "divide" the sheep and goats. During the day, he said, the flock could be out in the fields together, left largely to their own devices. As night fell, however, the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats because the sheep have thick coats, and can be out in the fields at night. The goats, on the other hand, need to be gathered together in a warmer place, because their coats don't protect them from the night air.

"We're a lot the same way, you know?" Father said. "The sheep -- those who imitate the Lamb of God -- have nice, thick coats. It's the goats the Good Shepherd has to separate ... and send to a much warmer place!"

As we enter the holy season of Advent, may we take today's Gospel lesson to heart, and resolve always to imitate our Good Shepherd. To become more like (in the words of Twila Paris) "a lamb of God" ... and less like the border collie who continually tries to keep all those four-footed critters in line!

Friday, November 21, 2008

St. Anne: Patronness of Birthmothers

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. At the tender age of three, Mary was brought to live in the Temple -- separated from her parents, who had dedicated her to a lifetime of serving God.

Jean at "Catholic Fire" has a post about it here: Catholic Fire: The Feast of the Presentation of Mary.

Imagine how it must have felt for St. Anne to walk away from her little daughter, knowing that she would see her at most once a year! Imagine how little Mary must have felt, seeing her parents walk away, leaving her behind. Did she understand what was happening? Did she cry?

St. Anne, patroness of birthmothers, pray for those who are missing their children today!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mighty Mom

From today’s reading …

“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.

"She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands. Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar. She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household. She picks out a field to purchase, out of her earnings she plants a vineyard….

"She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel. She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.”

Proverbs 31:10-16, 26-27

Lord, I want to be a worthy wife! Some days, however, I have to shoot for "better than Soup-for-One." This may come as a surprise to some, my admitting that when it comes to "redemption," it is as often my children who help me along the way as the other way around. John Paul II referred to the family as the "domestic church," an earthly reflection of divine love. Because none of us are perfect, we need to help each other along the way: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. The Christian life is the process by which we grow in perfection -- a state that will be completed only in heaven.

Some days we get farther along the trail than others. Yesterday, for example, was not a “worthy wife” day. The unending rounds of cyber vitriol had soured my outlook a bit. I snapped at Craig for leaving his shoes and computer bag in the middle of the floor, chastised my son for cramming all his school clothes under the bed, and swatted Sarah's bottom before planting her on the steps when she sassed me three times in a row.***

Next thing I knew, I felt little arms around my neck. It was Miss Sassafras. “Mommy, do you know why I love you? Daddy makes better scrambled eggs … but you are the best snuggler!”

So we snuggled, and we read “101 Dalmatians.” Later that day, when I woke up from my Tylenol-3 induced nap (those wisdom teeth are not going quietly into that dark night) I found a rapidly warming Diet Coke and a handmade card on my bedside table. “I love you, Mom. I hop yur teth fill bedr.”

And Christopher and his Dad had made his bedroom spotless. Including vacuuming.

That afternoon, I took Christopher on a little trip down memory lane: to visit his first foster-mom, Mrs. D. He was 2-1/2 when he came to us, but he had a recollection of being in another place. He wanted to see it, wanted to hear what Mrs. D. could tell him about that part of his past. We ate cookies, and he hung out in the living room, eavesdropping on our conversation.

Then we went to have dinner with his older brother and sister and their parents. Craig and Sarah joined us, and the four kids sat at their own table and squabbled and kicked each other the table. At one point the older ones teased him so he cried. Sibling rivalry can be kind of rough on the little guy. Especially when it means cramming two months’ worth into two hours.

That night I tucked him in, and sang him an extra round of songs. I wasn’t sure what else to do, as he didn’t seem to want to talk.

Lord, while You’re making me a “worthy wife,” care to take a stab at making me a “mighty mom,” too?

*** (Note: If the "swatting" line compels you to write a long anti-spanking diatribe, let me go on record right now as saying that I have HAD IT with long-winded commenters this week. Anyone who knows my strong-willed daughter can tell you that she is in NO danger of having her precious little psyche damaged from harsh discipline. So comments I deem less than constructive or supportive will be enthusiastically deleted.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mary Moments: Carnival is UP!

Sarah has posted this month's "Mary Moments Carnival" up at Behold Your Mother.

The theme this month is "Mary, Mother of the Saints." The family aspect of the Family of God is something I really need to read right now.

My contribution this month was a reflection on the "Divine Mercy," as revealed to us through the Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska. Her reflection on the necessary hiddenness of motherhood seems especially timely to me. This week my thoughts on motherhood (particularly adoptive motherhood) have drawn some fire. There are a lot of hurting, "hidden" mothers in the world. Mothers who, more than anything, are afraid of being forgotten -- or, worse, of never being known.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Bless all mothers everywhere
Those who are struggling
Those who are feeling lost
Those who want nothing so much as to hide.
Mary, Mother of saints and sinners alike,
Please pray for us. Amen.

Today at EMN: "The Adoption Mystique"

In my last article about anti-adoption advocacy at "Catholic Exchange," I mentioned a book by Joanne Wolf Small entitled The Adoption Mystique. I review it today at EMN ...

I also want to take this opportunity to apologize to Ms. Small for associating her with those who are seeking to abolish adoption. The issues surrounding adoption are complex, and the different sides of the triad often shout over one another. I should have listened more carefully!

Although I doubt the CE review hurt her book sales, there are enough misunderstandings in the world of adoption that I need not add to them. I appreciate her taking the time to comment on my article. (I'm putting this comment here on my blog for those who may not see it at CE, where I will post it as well.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

In Defense of Adoption: Coping with "Phantom Parents"

On Tuesday my article on "anti-adoption advocates" will be running on CatholicExchange, and include a reference to an anti-adoption article recently printed in the "National Catholic Register." I was horrified to see such a thing printed in a Catholic publication, and cannot understand why they ran it. If we want to eradicate the need for abortion, adoption is the clear alternative for those who are unable or unwilling to parent their own children.

This is not to say it is the easy choice. As my article indicates, the loss experienced by birth/first parents and adopted children is real, much like the phantom pains of an amputee ... and yet, those pains (however regrettable) may be necessary in order to save a life from the alternative: abuse and neglect, or even death.

Today, I came across this article by history professor Paul Kengor, entitled "Palin, for Posterity." The line that moved me most: "When Barack Obama voted against protecting babies accidentally born alive during abortions, it was after hearing testimony about a Down syndrome baby allowed to die after an abortion attempt. ..."

We cheer Sarah for choosing life for her child, and for being willing to use her platform to draw attention to the plight of these special children. But what about the vast majority (some say 90%) who receive the DS diagnosis and choose to "terminate the pregnancy"? Yes, we need visible examples of parents who choose to embrace these special-needs children.

Even so, many will not make that choice. Is adoption, then, really a fate worse than death?

Of course not. Not for these children, whose parents feel unequal to the task of parenting a special needs child; nor would it have been from the beginning for the hundreds of thousands of children lingering in group homes and foster homes today, victims of their birth parents bad choices; and not for those whose mothers make an adoption plan knowing that it is the child's best chance to avoid the most serious consequences of that birth parents' mistakes. They may struggle. They may question. But at least they are safe and alive.

What about years from now, when the child grows up and is angry about the fact that (a) he was separated from his parents and (b) did not get to choose the adoption for himself? How do we respond to the "phantom pain" of the parents he or she never got to know?

The "phantom parent" of the [grown] child's mind is just that ... a phantom. It is real -- but cannot be allowed to define that child's existence if he or she is going to heal. True, the child did not get to choose the adoption any more than a young child chooses amputation (or other serious treatment) for a life-threatening disease. These adult choices are made on behalf of the child.

Once the choice is made, all that remains is to guide the child toward healing. To a great extent, this is the primary job of the adoptive parent. (I was interested to read that recent therapies used to treat phantom pain include "mirrored boxes" or "virtual limbs" that allow the patient to strengthen his remaining muscles while retaining the illusion of his missing limb. Although I had not thought of it before, when I read this my mind returned to those first months of parenting my children, which were so difficult on all of us. Their parents were missing, and we were a poor substitute ... Only with time did they allow us to become fully Mom and Dad.)

Traumatized children (whether physically through disease or emotionally through losing their first parents) who for whatever reason remain "trapped" by their pain can be crippled for life. And yet, as my sister (a childhood amputee and cancer survivor) has shown me, those who are able to grieve their loss and move on find themselves able to do things that leave the rest of us breathless.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Grant the people's every request..."

The people have spoken, God help us ... and God has given them what they asked for. This immediately brought to my mind another time, in the Old Testament, when God did just that. From 1 Samuel 8.

Therefore all the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, "Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us." Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them. He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer: "Grant the people's every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.

As they have treated me constantly from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this day, deserting me and worshiping strange gods, so do they treat you too. Now grant their request; but at the same time, warn them solemnly and inform them of the rights of the king who will rule them."

And with that, Samuel anointed Saul -- a man who had the admiration of all who saw him, the sheer physical presence of a king, but darkness in his heart.

When we ask God for something, in His infinite wisdom He sometimes gives us exactly what we want. Time will tell what lessons we will learn from it.

Join the "Mary Moments Carnival!"

Join us for this month's "Mary Moments Carnival" at "Behold Your Mother"!

In November, the theme of Mary Moments is Mary, Queen of Saints.

* How does devotion to Mary make you more saintly?
* How has her intercession changed your life?
* Do you have a special affiliation with Mary, Queen of Saints?
* What sort of reflection does this title inspire in you?

Sarah writes: "Entries are not limited to these questions, of course. Submissions are due by November 13, using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you don't have a blog, you can still participate! I'll post your entry as a guest post over at my blog."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On All Souls Day

This week a package arrived in the mail for me from my Aunt Suzy. Inside were two photographs from my grandmother's estate. The first image was my grandfather's, who died when I was thirteen; the other was my Uncle Dicky and Aunt Betty, who died a few years earlier. I hadn't seen their pictures for more than twenty years.

Both my grandfather and uncle were good men, though neither was particularly devout. My grandfather enjoyed his solitude, and would frequently escape to his work shop when his grandchildren came to call. (Most often my sister Kate would follow, and she was inconsolable at his death.) My Uncle Dicky would always keep peppermints and quarters in his pockets, and call loudly for us as he entered the house for Sunday dinner. He was such a large man that hugging him was a physical impossibility ... but we knew he loved us.

As I heard the first reading this morning -- from the Book of Wisdom (3:1-9), my thoughts returned to these two men and to my grandmother, as she completes the final stage of her journey toward heaven. The reading, which is a succinct teaching of purgatory, speaks not of judgment so much as hope.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.... they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

"They shall dart about as sparks through stubble ... grace and mercy are with his holy ones." For many of those who believe themselves on the fast track to heaven, the teaching of purgatory sounds like a repudiation of the love and mercy of God and the sufficiency of the Cross. In reality, purgatory is mercy itself, the tender ministrations of a loving God who never loses sight of the perfection He wants to restore in us, His beloved children.

And so, today I'd like to offer this prayer for those Christians who find themselves in this "gray town," with no one to "pray them home." I offer it today for my grandparents, and their families -- lifelong Protestants who loved God as best they knew how.

Heavenly Father,
we offer up to you our heartfelt intentions,
united with the merits of Your precious Son,
whose death ransoms and restores every soul
who calls upon Your name.
We seek Your mercy,
not only for ourselves but also for those
wandering in darkness, mystified and alone.
Send Your angels to guide them through
the water and the fire, till every blemish fades.
And when we meet again,
may we rejoice eternally not because we were right,
but because You are righteous.
And may we adore You
not because we escaped the fires of hell,
but because You are the true and lasting light.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
especially those who did not believe in life
that they would need our prayers in death.
Dear Jesus, be with those we love.
Especially those imperfect souls we loved best
while they were with us.

(c) 2006 Heidi Hess Saxton

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Books for Foster and Adoptive Families

Today at Extraordinary Moms Network, I posted an article called "Playground Politics" about helping your foster child (or any child, really) cope with playground bullies. As I mention in the article, foster kids tend to see the world as a place they need to protect themselves from ... Either through aggression, or through passivity and withdrawal. This three-step strategy for kids will help boost their confidence, and turn them from targets into leaders!

When you are raising children, empathy and simple listening to the feelings behind a child's words is an important step in confidence boosting. One of the best ways to do this is through reading, both together and individually (for the adult). Here is a list of books I've found helpful over the years.

Tapestry Books is an especially good resource for books for adoptive and foster parents, with offers for parents and children alike. For the resources below, I've provided links to Tapestry for those products they offer -- the others are from Amazon.

For foster children:

* Maybe Days, by Jennifer Wilgocki (an especially good read when they first join your family)
* My Body is Private by Linda Girard (especially for children with abuse and boundary issues)

For foster, adopted, and special needs children:

* How Do Dinosaurs... Series by Jane Yolen (child friendly way to teach them about their world, from going to bed to teaching manners)
* I Will Always Love You by Jane Gerver (a gentle, reassuring book about two pandas, celebrating unconditional love)
* Ruthie and the Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin (the importance of truth-telling)

Especially for adopted children:

* Forever Fingerprints, by Sherrie Eldridge (for teaching facts of life to adopted children)
* I Don't Have Your Eyes by Carrie Kitze (especially good for trans-racial adoption)

Especially for parents: Some of these I've reviewed before. Where applicable, I've included a review link in addition to ordering information. An additional list of resources from Tapestry Books may be found here.

* Adopting the Hurt Child, by Gregory Keck (especially good for foster-adoptions, where child has suffered abuse or has other trauma). Review.

* The Connected Child by Karen Purvis (I noticed there were other books that ranked higher than this one at the Tapestry website, but I've read this one myself. In my opinion, if you buy just one book on attachment and related issues, such as learning disabilities, this is it!)

* Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel (about recognizing our own limitations is an important step in being a better parent). Review.

* Beautiful Boy by David Sheff (an intimate portrait of drug addiction, especially for parents whose children have birth parents with addiction issues). Review.

* Silent Prisoner by Amanda Young (a former foster child's story of emerging from her past). Review.

SPECIAL OFFER! Have you thought about joining the EMN mailing list and just never gotten around to it? This month you can also receive a free music CD of Lorraine Hartsook's "Bring That Child to Me" (an inspiring ballad about adoption) if you send an e-mail to heidi.hess.saxton@gmail.com with (1) A link to your blog and/or website with the EMN logo on it and (2) Your name and address. Hurry! Offer good to the first 50 women who respond.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Last week, my sister called me to tell me that her son (my oldest nephew) is getting married, just weeks before he is being deployed to Iraq. Yes, a baby is involved -- though not the way you would expect. Long story short, my sister now refers to herself as "G.G." (Gorgeous Grandmother), and my nephew is the proud adoptive father of a beautiful baby girl, Bella.

The road Ryan has chosen is not an easy one ... and yet, I can't imagine being more proud of him. And from what I can see, in the grand scheme of things it's better to deploy a happy soldier, one with everything to live for, than an unhappy one who feels he has nothing to lose.

My nephew's choice was unexpected, yet noble and unbelievably courageous. And because of it, we now have a little life in our family that may well turn out to be the most beautiful thing that has happened to our family in a long time ... since my kids joined it!

Of course, not all the choices we make in our youth turn out well. Today at EMN, I posted an article that at first I hesitated to write. Not because it isn't true, and not because it isn't needed ... but because it's about a subject that not a lot of us enjoy thinking about.

It's about how the mistakes of our past -- even those for which we've been forgiven -- continue to have very real and lasting repercussions on the present. If God forgives us, why doesn't He wipe away all the temporal consequences as well as the spiritual ones?

Take a look, and let me know what you think. If it helps you, please feel free to reprint and/or link to it as you feel so led.

Win a free CD!

Do you subscribe to my monthly newsletter?

No? You might want to sign up now by dropping me a line at heidi.hess.saxton@gmail.com. In this month's edition (released November 1), I tell you how to get a free Lorraine Hartsook CD.

No strings. No shipping and handling. No kidding. The first 50 people who respond ... win! (Hint, you may want to check to be sure you have the EMN button on your blog...)



Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghosts of Mothers Past

Sarah now has the new Catholic Carnival posted up at "Another Day of Catholic Pondering." Be sure to stop by and check out the collective wisdom!

I recently gave my dining room a face lift, covering the walls in a springy green to complement my grandmother's newly refurbished buffet. The dark wood is now antique white, the brass appointments polished, the heavy wooden shelves replaced with glass and interior lighting. Truth be told, it's a thing of beauty.

After a week of casting admiring glances at my new cabinet, it struck me that the old antique is the perfect metaphor for the difficult relationship I had with my grandmother. When she passed away a year ago, I did my best to focus on the good memories: the bountiful Sunday dinners, peanuts and Coke on the back porch, lovely rose gardens. I honed in on the last memory I had of her, confused yet undeniably pleasant as she chatted with my daughter in the nursing home. That she had no idea who I was, was a blessing in disguise.

In a sense, after grandma died I slapped a coat of paint and disassembled the interior of my memory banks. Historical integrity was not nearly as important as the intention to honor her memory. The shadows that slip around the periphery, old controversies and cantankerous exchanges, are like ghosts of mothering past.

For many of us, who have had such difficult examples of motherhood to learn from, to honor is to spin. And when I am unable to conjur up things I'd like to emulate, I can be thankful for the things I know not to do -- all because of "ghosts of mother past." I can think of several examples from my own life ...

* When I was nine, my mother's friend (who watched me while my parents were in NYC for my sister's chemo) found me crying late at night and told me that I had to "grow up" because "your parents have enough to worry about without listening to you whine." Because of her harshness, I was determined to show kindness to some poor little kid who needed it one day.

* When I was a teenager, I had a friend with extraordinary athletic talents and other natural leadership abilities that made her a rising star ... everywhere but in her own home. Especially in public, her mother -- an unhappy woman whose second husband soon followed in the steps of her first, leaving her just to get out from under the incessant nagging and emasculating -- never had a kind word to say about her daughter. Never encouragement. Only nagging little jabs and passive-aggressive manipulation. Mrs. F. made me resolve to praise those I love in public, criticize (when necessary) in private.

* In my twenties, I watched in horror as a young mother, desperate to escape an abusive husband, showed up on her mother's doorstop with her children, asking her to let them stay until he cooled off. Instead, the mother informed her daughter that "her place is with her husband now," and drove her back home. Years later, the mother wonders why the daughter lets her husband mistreat her -- and why the daughter doesn't confide in her any longer. I learned that, as a child grows older, the opportunities to lend silent support far surpass the opportunities to give advice. While the goal of every parent is to work herself out of a job ... There are times when even the most self-reliant child needs help.

The "Extraordinary Moms Network Carnival" this week is dedicated to mothers ... Mothers who have taught us to be better mothers than we otherwise would have, left to our own instincts. The Carnival brought in several touching tributes of women who understood the self-giving that is such a necessary component of good mothering. As for me, I wanted to pose an alternate point of view: That negative examples, in their way, can be every bit as powerful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mary Moments: Rosary Edition

Today Sarah posted this very special Rosary-themed Carnival at "Behold Your Mother."

Whether you've been praying the Rosary all your life, are intrigued by the notion of learning how, or are just interested in finding out why Catholics (and other Christians) "love those beads so much," why don't you stop by and check it out?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Join the EMN Carnival!

Do you have a favorite mom in your life? Biological or adopted -- someone who has (by word or deed) taught you important lessons in motherhood? At the Extraordinary Moms Network we will be honoring these women during our monthly EMN Carnival!

The EMN Carnival this month is going to honor these women. Send me your entry by October 20 and enter a drawing for $25 cash and (if you have the EMN button on your blog) a free copy of my book Let Nothing Trouble You. In case you don't already subscribe to my monthly newsletter -- to rectify this situation, drop me a line at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com -- here's the original announcement:

The month of October is replete with the feast days of Extraordinary Moms well-known to their “spiritual daughters.” As with most mothers, we learn most not just from what they say … but how they lived. (Of course, many of these dear saints were also very wise… St. Therese of Lisieux, patroness of missions (Oct 1), and St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of migraine sufferers (Oct 15), were so articulate in faith that they were pronounced Doctors of the Church. (If you’ve never dipped into “Interior Castle” and would like to start with an “easy reader,” check out my book Let Nothing Trouble You: Reflections from the Writings of Teresa of Avila, which is available through my website: http://www.christianword.com/. (It’s also available at Amazon.com, if you’re not particular about the autograph.)

Next month’s Carnival contest: My Heros. Who is a woman who taught you an important lesson about motherhood? Write about her on your blog … and send your link to me no later than October 20 at hsaxton@christianword.com. First place winner receives $25 plus a free copy of Let Nothing Trouble You. C’mon, you Extraordinary Moms … share your secrets!
Can't wait to read your stories!

To Date or Not to Date ...

This morning at Scribbet (one of my regular haunts in the blogosphere), Michelle raises the question that puzzles most parents of teenagers: How young is too young?

For Michelle, it's no dating of any kind before age sixteen, and no "serious" relationships while still in high school.

Now, you'd think that my having a six and eight-year-old at home would enable me to put off pondering this issue for a few more years. But just last week, Sarah came home and announced that she has a boyfriend (we'll call him "Davie") ... and a few days later, when we went to a "family movie night" at church, where all the kids were flopped on blankets and pillows in front of the screen, Sarah raced back to me and announced loud enough (in a tone naughty enough) for the entire room to hear that "I get to sleep next to Davie tonight and we're not even mawwied!"


Now, the silver lining in this particular cloud is that Sarah has already absorbed the message that sleeping together and marriage are connected. (The other good news is that Davie's mom is a veteran foster mom who understands the emotional needs of traumatized children.)

Finally, I'm being given ample opportunity to start forming in both my children the attitudes they will need to make healthy choices in relationships. Sarah especially, since I'm inclined to believe her headstrong nature will serve her well if she learns these lessons young.

Fortunately, she has a father who adores her, and parents who treat each other (and her) with respect and genuine affection. She has a mother who has made enough relationship mistakes of her own to understand that the vast majority of these mistakes must be headed off before the relationship even begins. A young woman who is confident in her own dignity and worth, who knows she doesn't need a boyfriend to be happy, who trusts her instincts and avoids unsafe situations, and who believes that every date is a potential mate is FAR ahead of the game.

She won't waste her kisses on players or liars or the emotionally bankrupt. She won't give her heart away to men who can't be trusted to protect and cherish it. She'll understand that her feminine charm is intoxicating, and a little goes a long way; where men are concerned, a little mystery -- and a lot of self-restraint -- is a good and necessary thing.

Oh ... and that if a boy wants to date her, he has to ask her father first ... preferably over brunch right after Mass! Because she is worth the effort it takes to be with her.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Oh, Happy Day...

It doesn't take much to make me happy, really...

One perfectly appointed corner of the world, where beauty and order reign supreme.

A tasty dinner in thirty minutes or less, comprised entirely of leftovers (which I find is often the key to a thirty-minute dinner). (Starting next week, be sure to check out EMN every Wednesday for "Wee Cook Wednesdays" featuring some of our family favorites.)

A husband who recognizes a fowl mood, and conquers it valliantly instead of ducking for cover.

A little girl who wanders out of her room in ten minute increments, handing me "I love Mommy, from Sarah" notes, complete with fat-lipped, bug-eyed cherubs, until I snap out of it.

A day at the zoo with said daughter and her friend, who has figured out the secret to world peace: "Keep making friends until the whole world smiles."

And a late-night snuggle with my son who is missing his dad, asking me to go through the full reperatiore of "Piggy kiss" (snort, snort), "Fairy kiss" (blow forehead gently, smooch), "Butterfly kiss" (eyelashes against cheek), "Buffalo kiss" (brush full head of hair over his eyes ... This was more effective when I had long hair), and "Raspberry kiss" (loud farting noise). Finally, "Mommy kiss" planted gently on his forehead.

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mary Moments: The Rosary Edition

Sarah asked me to post this ... why don't you hurry and jump into the Carnival, too?!

Mary Moments: the Upcoming Rosary EditionThe rosary has a special place in my life, and I can't wait for this month's Mary Moments carnival! We'll be celebrating the rosary with our monthly Mary Moments at Behold Your Mother.

Share your stories, your reflections, and your enthusiasm.
  • What is your "relationship" with the rosary?
  • What are some tips you have to share with others?
  • How has the rosary impacted your life?
Submit your posts by October 10 using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to host your guest post here at my blog. We'll have Mary Moments live by October 15.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How to Have a Happy Marriage

Today at Happy Catholic, Julie posts a memorable prescription for happy marriage from the pen of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth Elliot's first husband. In a nutshell, a happy wife will focus on the 80% of her husband she adores ... the discontented one spend their entire marriage chipping away at the 20% she wants to change, making them both unhappy in the process.

The interesting thing to note about the context of this quote is that the man who wrote it -- and the woman who lived it -- were missionaries living in a jungle, raising a young child among the Auca Indians of Ecuador. Jim was speared to death while trying to make contact with the Aucas shortly after he and Elisabeth were married. Their story is told in her book Through Gates of Splendor. After burying her husband, Elisabeth and her young daughter returned to minister to the same tribe that had murdered Jim. Because of their courageous fidelity, the Gospel was preached to that people, and Jim's sacrifice was honored.

I don't know about you, but I have great difficulty living up to Elisabeth's example. All too often, I focus on that nagging 20% (or nagging on that 20%), instead of appreciating the 80% gift my husband offers me every day. Just this weekend, my nagging reached such a high-fevered pitch, my husband kindly requested a list of ten things he could do to make me happy. I handed him the following:

1. Cart dresser downstairs (it had been perched in my kitchen for a week)
2. Fix lamp on porch (languishing on my kitchen counter for two years)
3. Kiss your wife
4. Replace burned out bulbs in downstairs rooms
5. Put pool away (last winter it stayed out on the lawn, getting yucky)
6. Kiss your wife again.
7. Take us to dinner at Red Robins.
8. Spend 30 minutes playing with the kids.
9. Fix my e-mail.
10. Cuddle up and watch a movie after the kids are in bed.

I'm happy to report ... He got the whole list done!

Sweetheart's Day is October 16 ... What "love list" are you and your husband going to give each other?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Come to the Carnival(s)!

I'd like to alert you to two Carnivals that are going to be coming up in the next few weeks... and extend an invitation to you to join us for one or both! I'll announce them in order of deadline...

1. The "Rosary" Carnival at "Behold Your Mother," for those who have a special affection for Jesus' mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This month's carnival will be featuring posts related to the Rosary -- link for information is here.

Sarah writes: "The rosary has a special place in my life, and I can't wait for this month's Mary Moments carnival! We'll be celebrating the rosary with our monthly Mary Moments at Behold Your Mother. Share your stories, your reflections, and your enthusiasm. What is your relationship" with the rosary? What are some tips you have to share with others? How has the rosary impacted your life?

Submit your posts by October 10 using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to host your guest post here at my blog. We'll have Mary Moments live by October 15.

2. "Mothers We Love" at Extraordinary Moms Network. This one is due October 20 ... and all who participate are eligible for a drawing to receive $25 ($50 if you have the EMN button on your site). Write a new post, or send me a link to a "classic" about lessons about parenting you've learned from other women. Submit your posts to Heidi (that would be me) at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com, or by clicking here. Watch EMN for further information (or drop a note to Heidi to be added to the newsletter list).

Have fun writing!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Thing About Beauty

When I look back at old yearbooks or photo albums, and see "girl Heidi" or "young woman Heidi," I'm sometimes struck by how darn cute I was back then. I didn't believe it at the time, of course ... I grew up convinced that I was both ugly and fat, and would never have a boyfriend.

In truth, there was nothing wrong with how I looked; the trouble was on the inside. I found it hard to make friends ... a hyperactive sense of responsibility (a backlash from my sister's illness) combined with an obsession with school work made it hard for my peers to relate to me, and I lacked the social skills to bridge the gap from my side. I had no athletic skills, and didn't speak the language of my peers, who chattered endlessly about movies and television programs I hadn't seen, music I'd never heard, parties I hadn't been invited to, and adventures to the mall and ball games I only dreamed of.

I felt alone, disconnected. And that disconnection made me feel ugly.

These feelings of disconnectedness came back to me as I watched Martian Child, in which a widowed foster father (John Cusak) attempts to connect with his new son. The boy felt so disconnected from the real world, so convinced that this man, too, was going to leave him that he pretended to be from Mars. It was the father's job to make those connections, convince the boy that he was never, ever, ever going to be left alone.

It's a task I'm now trying to accomplish with my own kids. They are undeniably cute. Like many girls, Sarah is obsessed with her version of beauty: the princess dresses and other extraordinary outfits, the makeup that languishes on my vanity, the pictures in magazines in which the models are graded "ladylike" or "not ladylike." My son goes gaga over pretty girls, especially ones old enough to be his babysitter if not his mother.

And so I find myself trying to teach them about the beauty that lasts, the kind that radiates from the inside. I remind them that no matter how cute they look, it won't matter if they are mean or unkind or hurtful to others.

And then I search for ways to connect with them, convince them that (unlike their first parents) Craig and I are never going to disappear. We try to ensure that these kids, who have lost so many important figures in their lives, feel as connected as possible to Craig and me. Some days I think we succeed. Other days, not so well. And yet, the intention remains ... and that, combined with understanding, is going to make a difference in the end.

Today at "Behold Your Mother," Kate Wicker shares her own thoughts on beauty, and how she transmits that sense of true, inner beauty with her daughters. Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Minimum Basic Skills ... for Mass

Today Lisa Hendey posted an article at "Faith and Family Life" entitled Catechetical Etiquette. She would like to create a list of expected behaviors, which catechists can pass along to students.

Last weekend we skipped our (nearly) weekly trip to McDonalds after Mass because I felt the deportment of our children had been ... well, unseemly. Growling at other children on their way back from giving Father their gifts. Refusing to shake hands at the sign of peace. Whispering about what we were going to do after Mass during the prayer of consecration.
True, they had remained in their seats and listened attentively (for them) when I went forward to do the reading, and had followed along in the hymnal during all the hymns. Still, I thought they could do better.

Then again, I had to acknowledge how far they had come. There was a time when it would have been imprudent to allow Sarah out of arm's reach even for a moment, to bring Father the can of soup for the homeless shelter. A time when it was all I could do not to bring a tranquilizer dart in the diaper bag to regain control over my three-year-old son when he started flicking Cheerios onto the floor and diving on them like grenades.

But just as I was pondering whether my expectations were overly high, I overheard a mom admonishing her five-year-old for crossing his arms and looking grumpy during the homily. He had been right behind me, and I hadn't heard a peep out of him the entire service. Even so, he got no donut that week.

What are the MBS required to avoid the raised-eyebrow brigade Mass? Different families have different expectations, but here are a few points to get the conversation started:

* Dress to show respect. You are going to spend time with God. Think "Sunday dinner with Grandma" (or someone else you respect), not "Showtime at the Apollo." Minimize distractions (jangly jewelry or fussy accessories, no electronics of any kind).

* Remember that our bodies reflect what is in our hearts. When we genuflect as we enter the pew, it is to recognize that we serve the King of Kings. We cross ourselves with holy water as we enter and leave the church, and again (without the water) at the beginning and end of Mass to remind ourselves of our baptism, our "birthday" in the Church. When we stand and sit, sing or pray aloud, hear the bells or smell the incense, we use all our senses to worship our Creator. It is not enough to just "go through the motions." If it's all just for "show," it does not honor God.

* Come expecting to hear from God. If you can, get there a little early to prepare yourself. Light a candle if you wish. Kneel down before the service begins and commit that hour to God, inviting Him to speak to your heart. The message might come from a song, a line in the reading, a story in the homily ... or some other way. But if you come expecting to hear from God, He will never disappoint you.

* Be mindful of how your behavior affects others ... either leading them closer to God, or farther away. Whispering, poking a sibling, scowling, fidgeting, and thumping the kneelers are all examples of distractions to avoid. If you are finding it hard to concentrate, tell God about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and calm you. He will. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She will.

* If you're not sure what to do, just follow the people in front of you or on either side of you. You can find the words to the prayers in the front of the hymnal. Everyone has a job to do in church, if everything is going to go smoothly and in order. Young children can sit quietly ... but the bigger kids get to pray and sing with the grown-ups!

* Shh... Jesus is here! Jesus whispers to us in the readings, and gives Himself to us in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. During those times especially, we need to pay close attention ... We are never closer to heaven as when we receive the life of Jesus in the Eucharist. If you listen very closely, you can hear the angels in heaven bursting into song at that moment, rushing down to carry the intentions of our hearts straight to the throne of God. If you need to ask God something, that is the best time of all to make your request!

* Mass is not over until the priest leaves the sanctuary AND the music stops. Don't cut your worship short just to be the first out of the parking lot. God has been waiting all week to spend some time with you ... Don't cut your visit short. You never know what blessing is in store!

* If you find yourself at church during the week, why not stop by and say hello to Jesus in the tabernacle, or light a candle? Tell Him how your week is going. Stop and breathe, and whisper a little prayer if you're having a particularly good or bad week. The Lord Jesus loves you, and looks forward to your visit!

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

Thank you to Therese from Aussie Coffee Shop for passing on I love your blog award to me! I love your blog too.

As a recipient of this award, there are rules to follow. I have to answer the following questions with one word answers and one word only! Then I must pass it on to seven others! The questions are as follows:

1. Where is your cell phone? Table
2. Where is your significant other? Sleeping
3. Your hair color? Auburnish
4. Your mother? Atlanta
5. Your father? Retired
6. Your favorite thing? Tea
7. Your dream last night? Sporadic
8. Your dream/goal? Podcast
9. The room you're in? Living
10. Your hobby? Baking
11. Your fear? Death (my husband's)
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Syndicated
13. Where were you last night? Restaurant
14. What you're not? Skinny
15. One of your wish-list items? Painter
16. Where you grew up? NJ
17. The last thing you did? Awakened
18. What are you wearing? Casualwear
19. Your TV? Hi-5.
20. Your pet? Needed
21. Your computer? Old
22. Your mood? Achy
23. Missing someone? Sister
24. Your car? Messy
25. Something you're not wearing? Earrings
26. Favorite store? Sale
27. Your summer? Over
28. Love someone? Craig
29. Your favorite color? Blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? Hmmm...
31. Last time you cried? Movie

Here are the rules for you people:Now, for you recipients of this award, here's the deal:* Display your award.* Link back to the person who gave you the award.* Nominate at least 7 other blogs.* Put links to those blogs on yours.* Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated.* Enjoy your award!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What does your name mean?

Today's quiz is courtesy of "Mighty Mom"!

What Heidi Means

You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.

Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.

Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.

You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.

At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are balanced, orderly, and organized. You like your ducks in a row.

You are powerful and competent, especially in the workplace.

People can see you as stubborn and headstrong. You definitely have a dominant personality.

What I really want to know is ... how did they get my mother to write this for them?!?

Mary Moments Carnival...

... is now up at Behold Your Mother. This month's "Birthday Edition" Carnival -- created by expert blogger Sarah Reinhard -- is dedicated to the birthday of Mary, the mother of Christ.

Come on over for some more great recipes and other spiritual "food for thought."
Photo credit: This photo was taken from this University of Dayton website, where you can find additional information about this Marian feast.

Apple Dumpling Day!

It's Apple Dumpling Day!!!

According to tradition (ours), the first forey into an apple orchard each fall is followed by a breakfast of apple dumplings with vanilla milk.

So, since the kids had a day off of school today, and the Cortlands were in season ... we headed to Wasem's for apple picking and cider swilling. Not to mention the tasty pumpkin donuts!

In honor of Apple Dumpling Day, I'd like to share with you this time-tested recipe, passed down through at least three generations of my family. (And while you're eating them, check out EMN, where our guest poster "Pops" talks about another great American tradition ... military service, and what it's like to be the parent of a soldier.)

To make Heidi's Apple Dumplings, you will need...

8 fresh-picked apples (peeled, cored, and cut in quarters)

3 C flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls baking powder
1C plus 2Tbls shortening
3/4 C milk

2 C sugar
2 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C butter
a dozen little cinnamon candies (optional)

First, make the dumplings. Cut together flour, salt, bp, shortening together to course crumbs; add milk to make dough. Roll thin like pie crust (handling as little as possible to keep it tender). Place hand-sized (fingers spread) circle of dough in one hand, cupped slightly. Put apple quarters on top, then draw up dough around apples, squeezing with both hands so that dough covers entire apple. Place each "doughed" apple in baking dish, making sure there is space (at least an inch) between each apple. Continue with remaining apples.

Next, bring to boil the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Stirring constantly, continue to boil, adding cinnamon candies (if used) in the last minute. Pour hot syrup over apples, making sure some of the juice gets on each one. Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

To make vanilla milk, take a pint of milk and add 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar. Pour over warm dumplings. Yum!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breaking the Migraine Cycle

Today I found an article at "Everyday Health" that described the relationship between migraine headaches and sleep deprivation.

The article gave the following recommendations on how to regulate sleep, so that you can get at least eight hours every single night:

In a 2006 study of about 40 women who experienced transformed migraines (chronic daily headaches), researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked half the group to make the following behavioral sleep modifications (BSMs):
  • Go to bed at the same time every night to allow for eight hours of sleep.
  • Eliminate TV watching, reading, or listening to the radio in bed.
  • Use visualization techniques to shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Eat dinner at least four hours before going to bed, and limit fluid intake within two hours of bedtime.
  • Take no naps.
After six weeks, the women that modified their sleep habits reported a 29 percent reduction in headache frequency and a 40 percent drop in headache intensity. The other group of women, who were given instructions unrelated to sleep, did not experience any improvement in headache frequency or intensity.

Now, it is counter-intuitive to eliminate naps when operating on a couple of hours of sleep ... or when actually fighting a migraine. And yet, this study shows that we need to "educate the body" to optimize the rest time we do receive ... so hang in there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gillian & O'Malley: Why "Cheap" is not always good.

I don't like to shop for clothes. Whenever possible, I do it online -- saves the hassles of the crowds, the lines, the irksome music. Once or twice a year, I "gird up my loins" and hit Target to buy essentials (and try not to pass out when the bill ... well, reflects the fact that I only do this once or twice a year).

Yesterday was one of those days. I had to get a few essentials ... including the support variety. I had just been measured at Curves last week, so knew my exact size. Then I found this "Ultimate" line of Gillian & O'Malley for about $10, and was so excited about how soft they were I bought 2.

That's $20 I'll never get back. After only a day, I'm walking around with this welt on my ribcage, even though (a) it fit fine in the store and (2) it was precisely the same size as my other bras (which do not leave welts).

Soft, shmoft. I'm going back to Playtex!

Who Am I? Wisdom from my Mother-in-Law

I am under 45 years old.
I love the outdoors.
I hunt.
I am a Republican reformer.
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment.
I have many children.
have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

Have you ever heard of me before now? Scroll down to see . . .

I am Teddy Roosevelt. Sarah's in good company!

Inlaws, Outlaws, and Other Family Issues

Today at Catholic Exchange ... yours truly!