Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heaven ... and Home ... is a Person

This morning as I drove to my doctor's appointment (finally time to get the ankle checked) I listened to Father John Riccardo's homily on the Prodigal Son. (If for some reason you can't access the link here, you can also find it on my Facebook page.)

One of the most striking impressions: That heaven is not a place, but a Person (God). Just as home is not about a place, but about loved ones ... and in a special way, about the mother who is the heartbeat of that home.

Last year, we gave up television for Lent. We had planned to do that this year as well ... until it struck me one day how much of our time we spend saying unkind things to one another: bickering, tattling, criticizing, or saying things that two seconds later we wish we hadn't.

So this year ... instead of giving up something, we're taking ON something: kindness. Compassion. Each time I catch them saying something or doing something nice, they get five minutes toward a weekend movie. Each time I hear an unkind word or snarky attitude, we empty the jar and start over.

I get a jar, too! Because, as Father John so kindly pointed out, heaven (and home) is about knowing intimately the heart of the person who loves you most. And I want the three people in this world who know me best ... to KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt just how much they are loved!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One Terrified Mama...

Sarah and I decided to meet at Kalahari Water Park (which tonight I discovered is the nation's largest indoor water park) for a little R&R with the kids. We hadn't seen each other since our grand adventure to the Catholic New Media Convention last summer, and were due for a visit.

Both of us got more than we bargained for. Poor little Nooner shrieked each time the Big Bucket drenched the main floor with the metric equivalent of a dumptruck of water, blowing a wet breeze her way. Four-year-old Babs was equally distressed with the prospect of following my daughter and me down the BIG SLIDE. Poor little kiddo.

Just as things calmed down a bit, we decided to move to the other side of the water park. Chris (9) said he wanted to hop across the hippos one more time, then meet me at the wave pool. "Okay, I'll see you there in ten minutes," I told him. That would give us time to settle in at the kiddy pool area.

Problem was, some kid took a dump in the kiddy pool, forcing the evacuation of that area. Our kids were too small to get into the wave pool area without life vests, which took more time. By the time we were all set to go ... close to thirty minutes had passed. I looked out over the water. No Christopher.

I asked Sarah to hold down the fort and went to the hippo area. No Christopher. "Have you seen a little boy with red, white, and blue swim trunks?" I asked the attendant, who looked at me as though I'd sprouted another head. "No, sorry Ma'am."

Trying not to panic, or give in to the horrific scenarios playing out in my head at that moment, I cornered Towel Guy ... who as it turned out was a VERY SMART Towel Guy. "Don't worry, we'll alert security, Ma'am," his voice was soothing, reassuring ... which made me panic just a titch.

We looked back at the Big Bucket. No Christopher.

We looked at the snack area. No Christopher.

Finally, I asked if he would go into the men's locker room ... Oh, dear God please help me find him alive and well! By this time a full hour had passed.

Just as the security guard was about to put the place in a full lock-down, Towel Guy emerged from the locker room with his arm around a visibly shaken Christopher.

I burst into tears. So did he (my son, not the Towel Guy, who was the picture of concern). Then I hugged the stuffing out of Chris, and threatened to make him hold my hand for the rest of the day. (Surprisingly, he seemed amenable to this.) We then walked around the park, and made a plan for exactly what he would do if ever ... EVER we got separated again. Which wasn't bloody likely, given the fact that I wasn't about to let him out of my sight.

When we got back to the girls, Sarah was pacing up and down the shallow end, clearly doing battle with the angels. "At first I prayed that you would find him ... Then when time went by and you still weren't back, I prayed you didn't kill him when you DID find him. Do you suppose that's what Mary did when they lost Jesus in the Temple?"

Yes, I'll just bet she did.

Thank you, Lord, for protecting us
from our own misguided sense of adventure,
and lapses in parental judgment.
Thank you, Lord, for helping this terrified Mama.
And please be with all those terrified mothers
who are still searching for their little lost lambs. Amen!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Limping Toward Lent

I wrote this post today as an entry for the "Mary Moments Carnival" that will be hosted at "Behold Your Mother" on the 25th of this month. If you'd like to send me a link to a post about Mary on your blog by 2/20, I'll add it to the Carnival! Send the link to

Our bedtime routine doesn't vary much from one night to the next. The last one to turn in walks Maddy down to the end of the driveway (about 500 feet). Last night Craig was exhausted, so I pulled on the parka and headed out with the leash and plastic baggie, to do "Doggie Duty."

Stepping off the porch, my foot struck an uneven patch in the cobbles, and my whole weight (never mind how much) landed on my ankle. My yell unnerved the dog, who proceeded to leap on me and give me a frantic tongue bath ... but my husband did not materialize, so I dragged myself back up on the porch on my hands and knees (in convenient reach of the dog) and let myself in the house. Oh, man, it hurt. A bad sprain.

This morning when I woke up, the pain (if anything) was worse, so Craig took the kids to school and left me packed on ice and pumped on Tylenol. Each footstep is painful, so I calculate the necessity of each move before I make it -- letting the dog out on my way to putting something in the microwave for lunch en route to the laundry room to shift each load, then retracing my steps as the crow flies to pick up lunch and let in the dog before collapsing, exhausted, on the couch.

Then it struck me ... I have to pick up the kids from school this afternoon. Unfortunately, the only pair of crutches in the house are in the basement. Well, I'd better get started.

I hopped into the basement, step by painful step, holding on to the rails. When I reached the bottom I scanned the area that ran the length of the house. There they were ... against the far wall, with a mountain of furniture and boxes standing between me and the crutches. Also little bits of shrapnel -- bolts and bits of toys and other bits of metal, making hopping out of the question.

Groan. Step. (Ouch.) Step. (Ouch.) Step. GRAB!!! Turn. Repeat.

Back on the couch, it occurred to me that what I had just done was a good metaphor for Lent. We see the prize on the other side ... and keep hobbling toward it, even if we have to limp a little. Our little crosses -- the fasting, the offerings, the aches and pains -- are not always pleasant. And yet, they pale by comparison to the sacrifice Our Lord made on our behalf, or to the real suffering the Blessed Mother endured, watching her Son.

For some of us, the crosses seem a great deal heavier, the obstacles all but obscuring the light ahead. This week I've been reading one of my favorite books, These Strange Ashes, by Elisabeth Elliot (Thomas Howard's sister). She writes:

"Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now the ratification of my calling, the reward of obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks again at the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo.

When I was sixteen years old, I copied in the back of my Bible a prayer of Betty Scott Stam's, whose visit in our home when I was very small made such an impression on me. Her prayer:

'Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.'" (TSA, 125-26).
This prayer of abandonment to the will of God is a powerful one ... one that, in reality, cannot be offered up except by grace. No doubt the Blessed Mother offered up a version of her own. As we enter the Lenten season ... may we make it ours as well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

V-Day: The Aftermath

My sister called to tell me she was spending Valentine's Day at home with a glass of wine, curled up in her favorite chair with her dog. Of course, you know what happened next.

"So ... how was YOUR Valentine's Day?" she asked.

So I told her. MY Valentine's Day started at 3:34 a.m. when my two kids and their puppy decided it was time to GET UP! The three of us went upstairs to Christopher's room, where I alternately threatened and bribed them to sleep for JUST TWENTY MINUTES MORE!

Needless to say, none of us (except my DH, who was dozing downstairs) got any shuteye. At 6 a.m. we all gave up and went downstairs, where the kids helped themselves to copious quantities of Cap'n Crunch, and I let the dog out for her morning constitutional (on a leash).

At seven, my husband woke up and got ready to go back to work. Yes, on a Saturday. The rest of the day was a blur because of the combined effects of sleep deprivation and migraine headache. Chain-drank Diet Coke for the combined effects of caffeine and private bathroom time. I believe there was a twenty-minute period of Grand Silence when I stapled them to their beds, handed them a book, and threatened them with mayhem if they moved. I could be wrong.

At 5 p.m., Valentine's Eve, my DH called to give me 'the choice': Did I prefer that he stay at work until his project was done, or come home so he could spend Valentine's evening with me ... and return to work the next day (Sunday).

I don't remember what I said next, but I DO recall it was pitched so high that the dog ran under the table. Thirty minutes later, Craig walked through the door with steaks in one hand, a bottle of champagne in the other, a box of chocolates under one arm, and a dozen white roses (my favorite) under the other.

Now ... that wasn't so hard, was it?

P.S. He didn't go back to work the next day. Happy Valentine's Day to Me!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Did you catch ER last night?

Last night on ER, a woman with a heart virus and a nine-year-old daughter (of whom she had custody, but had not finalized the adoption) winds up in the ER. Their only living relative ... the child's ne'er-do-well father, a Peter Pan with a guitar. He hasn't seen his daughter since she was three, and it is immediately clear that this arrangement suits him just fine.

When it becomes evident that the woman was going to have to stay in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, arrangements had to be made for the little girl. The father/"uncle" (to the girl) was called over the objections of the foster mother ... and he is strong-armed into taking the child until the mother gets well. (The mother is afraid that he is not up to the challenge -- and that he will hit her up for financial compensation before he returns the girl to her after she is well. Since the adoption was not formalized, she has no real standing in the decision -- which is made jointly by the social worker and doctors.)

The social worker turns up and educates "Uncle Stu" about what this will entail --getting the child back and forth to school and the hospital each day, plus doctor checkups and the like. You can see in his eyes that this is MUCH more than he'd bargained for. The doctor suggests that he go for a bite of dinner and think things through ... and the man slips out the back door and is never heard from again. Presumably the child goes into foster care.

One aspect of this storyline hits close to home, in that my younger sister and I were displaced for a time when our sister Chris was undergoing chemotherapy and my parents stayed with her in New York. We stayed in two different places -- and have very different recollections of both. In the first home (our neighbors), we were expected to go along quietly and not make a fuss about missing mom and dad. ("They already have enough problems, you know...") In the second home, we were invited into family life, milking goats and picking corn and helping with the housework. We were busy ... but the time flew by.

When a child is experiencing the trauma of losing his or her family, the kind of support he receives from those who take him can make all the difference in the world. A little kindness and understanding goes a long way. Thirty-five years later, I still remember how scared I was, lying in that little bed and hearing those impatient words from the neighbor lady. And I still remember the kindness of the Ormeshers.

Have you ever considered opening your home to a child who needs one, if only temporarily? Go to "Extraordinary Moms Network" to find out how you can help!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dreaming... of British Columbia!

Craig and I have decided to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year in style ... with a trip, just the two of us. My parents have already agreed to take the kids, and as of last night, we've settled the destination....

British Columbia, by way of Seattle!!!

If any of you have suggestions about places to go/eat/stay that you'd highly recommend, I'd love to hear them!
This would be July 2009...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Danielle Bean: Please help spread the word

"Faith and Family" editor Danielle Bean announces the creation of the Michael Dubruiel Memorial Fund.

This fund is for their immediate expenses; royalties from Michael's books will be used for the children's college fund.

Please be as generous as you can.

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Love is in the Air ... Gnawing on our Digits!

Tonight I received word that Michael Dubruiel (Amy Wellborn's husband) died suddenly today. It's a horrific loss for the whole family, and they need our prayers at this time.

At times like this, I tend to take stock of my own family situation a little more closely. Suddenly the ordinary distractions -- the bickering kids, the work-related stress, and little daily annoyances -- seem much less important, and I am challenged to consider the truly important things. Near the top of that list ... my own marriage.

I share this reflection with you knowing that, for some, it will strike you as a little "TMI." But for me, it seemed especially appropriate today.

Almost from the beginning, Chris and Sarah had diametrically opposed reactions when Craig and I expressed affection in front of them. Nothing serious, mind you ... He grabs me by the waist, I throw my arms around his neck, and we give each other a gentle peck on the lips that lasts -- oh, let's say 4-5 seconds. Possibly a little "Mmmm" thrown in for effect.

Christopher claps his hands and dances around. "Do it again! Do it again!"

Sarah, on the other hand, wedges her little body between us and pushes, Samson-style, until one or both of us loses our balance. "No! That's gross!"

Christopher, of course, eggs us on to gross out his little sister. Sarah, however, clearly believes that her Daddy has eyes for no one but her. (And judging from the fact that he routinely falls asleep next to her during their tuck-in session at night, she has a good case.)

Tonight, we found that Maddy also has a strong opinion on the subject. Shortly after we put the kids to bed and settled on the couch, I leaned over to give Craig a "proper kiss" ... and was promptly pounced on. Maddy shimmied up my back with all the agility of a mountain goat. She started gnawing on my hair. I pushed her down, but it didn't stop her for long.

"Ouch!" Craig winced.

"What's the matter?"

"She's BITING me!" I looked over my shoulder, and sure enough, "Trouble" had given up on my tresses and started gnawing on Craig's extremities, interlocked around my waist.

Apparently our Australian shepherd puppy has also formed a strong opinion about the propriety of our public (to her) displays of affection. One more reason for her to sleep in her CRATE, wouldn't you say?

Romance is hard enough to sustain in marriage. With all the stresses and demands of regular family life, energies wane and sustaining the "magic" takes a little extra effort sometimes.

But when the little interlopers start gnawing on our digits, it's time to draw the line, right?