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 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: (It’s also available at, 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 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!