Friday, August 18, 2017

7 QT: 101 Places to Pray

Franciscan Media provided a book for my review.  All thoughts are my own.  Links are non-affiliate.

When I volunteered to review some books, 101 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin' Catholic's Guide was high on my list to check out.
I love a good road trip and have fond memories of visiting shrines and beautiful cathedrals during youth group pilgrimages.  We would take two weeks, travel to work somewhere for a week, visiting holy sites along the way, then go play at an amusement park before heading home.  

Praying somewhere new, seeing the variety of holy, beautiful places in our country that celebrate our Catholic faith were formative, growing experiences as a teen.

If you're planning a family, individual, or group road trip, this is the guide you'll want to include in your trip planning.  From Hawaii to Maine and everywhere in between, our country is filled with treasures to behold.  

Here's my wish list of places I'd like to plan trips to soon.  If you've been there, or you know, have a place for me to crash along the way, holler!

(1)  Peosta, Iowa.

This one hails from close to my neck of the woods, and really, it's on my list to visit as soon as I have a weekend to take for a retreat.  This monastery and retreat center has a guest house with twenty-two rooms, so group retreats and individual retreats are both welcome.  They also offer structured retreats for those in discernment (not me - but maybe you!?)

(2)  Detroit, Michigan

Assumption Grotto  (pg 101)
This church has daily Latin masses, something I've never been to, but what a great pilgrimage experience for the whole family!  The Gothic architecture and close proximity to other interesting Michigan sites puts this on the list as a great stop for a family trip.

(3)  Fonda, New York

I've actually been to this site, and it's gorgeous.  It's one of those spaces where nature and Church come together to give you a sense of what it may have been like for our early Church ancestors in this country.  The shrine is an restored barn and there's a beautiful outdoor statue.
When I was there last, she was Blessed Kateri Tekawitha and I was a teen.  Since then, she has been canonized and is the patron saint of my oldest, whose name means Lily, and shares her birth month with St Kateri's feast day (July 14th).  

I really want to bring my girl to this place to see the shrine of her patroness.  Time to break out the old Almanac and plan a road trip for a summer soon!

(4)  Portland, Oregon

About The GrottoI am so drawn to Our Lady of Sorrows.  As a child, my parents had a print of  the Pierced Heart of Mary with the seven swords representing the seven sorrows.  In my adult life, as sorrows have gripped me, I've sought refuge in Mary's Mantle, comforted that she knows my sorrows as a mother and woman.  

Traveling to see the shrine to her sorrows is a dream trip.  The sanctuary also has amazing botanical gardens and a marble replica of the Pieta!  Go look at their website cover photo and tell me you don't want to join me.  So strikingly beautiful.

(5)  Doylestown, PA

My Polish grandmother was such a treasured part of my childhood.  Visiting this shrine to Our Lady of Poland and a center for Polish culture would be a chance to visit with her heritage.  

With all my grandparents deceased, presenting some of these experiences and parts of our heritage to my children has become even more treasured.

(6)  Dickinson, Texas 

This shrine has a relic of the true cross.  What an amazing treasure.  Texas has a special place in my heart, my brother's family lived there for a number of years, one of my sisters lived there and was married there.  

If only I'd had this book a few years sooner, I would have known to visit this shrine before my family moved back north!  Next time Texas, next time.

(7)  Champion, WI

Living in the Midwest, I had heard vaguely of this shrine, but after reading a bit more about the healings that have been attributed to this site, it's moved much higher on the priority list to get out there.  

It's also the only authenticated site of an apparition in the United States.  I started looking at when we have off school for teacher in services to take a family trip north sooner, rather than later.  

This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

For more quick takes, and Kelly's amazing news this week, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday, August 11, 2017

7 QT: Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Franciscan Media provided a book for my review.  All thoughts are my own.  Links are non-affiliate.

In July, my parents invited my family to head to Michigan with them for the week.  One night, we all went out to dinner together and my mom told me a story about my great-grandparents.
On the end of a dirt road sat an old homestead.  Only the stone foundation remains.  There, my great-grandparents lived and worked, making their life in tune with their land, a very Wendell Berry kind of life.

As times changed around them, they remained as they were, an outhouse and no electricity.  Finally, the electric company needed a place to run their lines and needed a piece of the old homestead to do it.  In return, they would provide electricity to the house.

One lightbulb.  My great-grandparents had one lightbulb installed, because as my mom tells it, anymore would have been just too frivolous.

I've been rolling this around in my head.  I don't know how many lightbulbs I have in my house.  As I feel my moral superiority for keeping the air conditioning off on an 80 degree day, I'm reminded, I'm not all that connected to my surroundings.

With this trip on my mind, I picked up my newest read from Franciscan Media, Wendell Berry and the Given Life.

Seven thoughts on this book:

(1)  This is a book club kind of book.  You'll want to talk about it with your friends.  You'll want to tease out the complexities and thoughts.  It's so packed with big thoughts, big ideas, big dreams for what our lives can be.

(2)  If you love Wendell Berry, you probably need this on your wishlist.  This is a structured and thoughtful breakdown of his thoughts and ideals.

(3)  If you, like me, are having a hard time with the mid-30's angst of all the big questions:
 - Where am I going in my career (or relationships or life in general)?
 - Is this what our family looks like forever?
 - Will we have any more big adventures? 

The concept of the given life, rather than the built life is a kind a spiritual salve.  Just soaking into the first chapter felt like a deep breath from my center, pulling loose some of those tightened anxieties.

(4)  " be at rest is to fit in the place you are meant to be, to accept and work well within the confines of creatureliness." pg 21

This reminded me very much of the common phrase, "Bloom where you're planted."  My constant struggle is wanting more, to do more, to go for more.  The thought that sometimes, I may need to stop and evaluate if I want more for the more, or more as I grow into who I am meant to be.

(5)  "We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do." pg 29

There have been times in my life where my first thought upon reading this would have been, "Ummmm, I'm poor enough, thanks very much!"  I remember doing the poverty food challenge with my family one year where we lived on what the average person would get on food assistance and I literally changed nothing about my meal planning.  

Certainly others have more extreme versions of poverty.  I've always had the blessing of a clean home and more than enough to eat, even if it was beans and rice.  

But, the reality of today is, I do have more than I need.  And it's a challenge I need to embrace to live more simply, to be poorer in my living so I can be richer in my giving.

(6)  "There seems to be something in the human condition that is restless unless formed in stability." pg 77

I was formed in the most stable environment you could imagine.  My parents are rocks that have been married 43 years this November.  Still, I struggle with an internal wanderlust that will never quiet.  Within the bound of my own stable surroundings with my husband of 13 years, I seek constant change.  The color of my walls, the pillows on my couches, the rooms each of us sleep in, the arrangement of the furniture, I crave change, need it, can't breathe without it.  

(7)  Not every thought resonated with me, but I felt like there were good thoughts to turn over, to pull apart, to examine.  I'm not going to leave my lightbulbs behing (sorry Great-Grandpa Dockery!), but I'm thinking about what we could grow in our yard.  I'm slowly transitioning to buying meat from local farmers, rather than the grocery store.  

Little steps, thoughtful moves, doing what I can in the live I have been given.  Which isn't on acreage, but it is on a yard with enough room for some carrots and potatoes.  Not every piece of a Wendell Berry life will fit into your life or my life.  But, we can take the pieces that fit.  We can pick up our little pieces of land and grow some tomatoes on our balcony.  We can rejoice in nature around us.  We can plan our errands thoughtfully to conserve gas.  Little pieces, little steps, more thoughtfulness.

This book is available in hardback, Kindle, audiobook and CD.  If you read it, or have read it, I'd love to pick your brain.  

Stop back over to Kelly for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Waiting in the Hallway

The foster license process was a whirlwind, and then suddenly, the licensing rep walked through our house in May, and it was complete, we were licensed.

The license completion felt like the end of a long race.  We had the pep talks along the way, we had the moments of mind over body to sit through class after class.  We set down our privacy, opened up our lives, our family histories, our personal stories to the State.

As May ended without a call, I thought perhaps June would be the month we got a call.  Then, June stretched out in front of us, full of lazy days and crazy camp schedules.  Birthday parties and friends filled our days, and the phone didn't ring.

Now, we sit at the beginning of July.  Thoughts are turning to the school year, school supply lists and the final plans for summer.  A vacation week is arranged, and in the back of my mind lingers the thought, "Do we need more space in the car?  Or will the phone stay silent?"

On the one hand, the empty spots in our home feel like a happy ending.  The reality that a child doesn't need that space because they're home and whole is a good thing.  That a parent and child haven't had to be separated is good

But I worry about the one who is suffering with no one to speak up.  I worry about the child stuck in a dangerous place, isolated from help.  Every mass, I pray for those children.  "God, send them an intercessor.  Help them find help.  St Michael, guard these precious little ones." 

Every week, I cry a little and pray there isn't a preschooler hiding under her bed somewhere without us to keep her safe.  I pray for the baby, neglected and isolated, losing contact with the world around her.  "Mother Mary, wrap them in your mantle."

On Pentecost, "Holy Spirit, give those who see child abuse and neglect the courage to stand up for those children."

On Father's Day, "Heavenly Father, help us to go where you lead to protect Your children."

So we wait, and we pray, and we entrust all those children in need to God, recognizing all the time they were His to start with.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Phantom Due Date

May was a slow and steady progression in denial.  In carrying a weight around my shoulders of every should have been. 

As the days slowly passed on the calendar, the smallest offense was met with fiercest scrutiny.  Why couldn't everyone around me see the torture we were living in?  How could they not feel the crushing oppression?  How could they feel joy in times such as these?

I should have been pregnant, full term.  I should have been in the doctor's office checking that the baby's small head was positioned for birth.  I should have been up at night with frequent bathroom trips and heartburn.  I should have been washing baby clothes, holding them to me as I smelled the forgotten fragrance of newborn clothing. 

Forgotten, but always longed for. 

Instead, I faced down mornings of unwanted ease.  No bag is packed, no special load of laundry necessary. 

The baby isn't coming.  The baby died long ago.  And while the transition of Fall to Winter to Spring feels like it should have made this long ago loss somehow less weighty, the full weight falls on my shoulders as I scrape my way ever closer to the day that should have been.

The busyness of school ending for the year dulls the edge of the pain for a while.  There are too many places to be, too many ways I need to be present and celebrating the girls I do have to dwell on what I do not.

But then, the school year ends and it is the final week of May.  The May 30th due date looms large above me.  Each morning, I feel an internal gong sounding an alarm.  Pushing me, propelling me to a sense of urgency, of something forgotten. 

When I remember again, the knot of dread in my chest comes out as angry exclamations at everyone in firing range.  No dish is properly placed, no chore promptly completed to the satisfaction of my raw, angry grief. 

Pictures of babies begin to appear in my Facebook feed.  Babies born when my baby should have been. 

I throw myself into workouts, into busyness.  I carefully take the supplements and medicines to support balanced hormones.  Every attempt to keep the full weight of the grief off me. 

It's a weighted ball I throw into the air.  Gravity returns it to me time and again.  Until, finally, it is May 30th.

Texts come in from friends, prayers rolling over the waves of sadness.  Then, it is all grace.  It is the first day of lightness.  I have labored through my loss and come out on the other side.

Not to forget or never feel the grief again, but feeling birthed onto the other side of it.  It isn't a present tense loss anymore.  I have crossed over into past tense.  Finally released from the pregnancy countdowns and babies born where mine should have been.

Hard days will follow, but the crisis has passed.  The final hurdle in completing this segment of the grief journey.  The pregnancy is complete in all timelines.  Now, the anniversaries and days ahead will be marked with varying degrees of difficulty, but I have passed this time of expectation and longing and the days no longer each carry so much weight.

The phantom due date has come and gone.  I feel to my soul the words of Jesus on the cross, "It is finished".

On that day, the words that carried me, the grace that sustained me was found in the friends who held vigil with me.  Who remembered what May 30th should have been and offered their day for mine.  And in that experience, of once again wrapping myself in the offerings of others, I am knit more closely to them, and united through it all in the Body of Christ.

If you have a sister in Christ who has gone through pregnancy loss, I encourage you to reach out on the day of her due date.  She needs to know she does not remember alone.  She needs to know you walk beside her.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pio Prints: A Review

Pio Prints provided a shirt for my review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

With PCOS and my other fertility struggles, diet, nutrition, and exercise are always pretty top of mind.  Self-care is generally important, but it's also particularly important in my health challenges.

So, when Pio Prints asked if I'd be interested in a review of their workout tank, I figuratively (because it had been a little bit since my last workout) jumped at the chance to try some new workout gear.....because we all know when you're struggling to get back in the groove of working out, there's nothing like something cute to help you over the hump.

When it arrived, I was eager to try it on and see how the fit was.  It's an A-line cut tank, so it's narrower at the top and widens to the bottom hem.  The back center has a gather to help form the shape.  I love the fit and cut of this narrower top to wider bottom because it's fitted where it needs to be and then flowing over the reasons I'm out there jogging in the first place.

The other great thing I love about the cut is that it doesn't come down too low in the front.  Because, ladies, when you wear a compression sports bra and hate high collars touching your neck, you generally end up with workout shirts that you have to monitor to make sure they're not slipping down on you in the front.  *This* is not one of those shirts.  This shirt is high enough in front that you're covered, but also low enough that you don't feel confined or choked by a collar rubbing on you while you work out.

The weight and feel of the fabric is also great.  It's soft and smooth and was perfect for a sunny day jog with a very furry puppy (Ginger).

After our jog

The price point for this particular tank is $25, making it the perfect treat for your workout slump, hitting your newest milestone, or a thoughtful birthday present for a friend who loves the saints and fitness.  I'm putting another one (or two because I'm having a hard time only working out in my favorite shirt) on my Mother's Day/birthday wishlist.

If tanks or workout tees aren't your gig, they also have great shirts, cards, journals and mugs.  Support a family and shop small.

Stop by Pio Prints online or on Instagram

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Pharisee In Me

About a month ago, I did the thing I shouldn't do and engaged in a Facebook debate.....because we all know that's productive.

I didn't know it was a debate when I commented, but it's just so darn hard to walk away when it turns into one and you're TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING :P

A mom asked for opinions on baptism timelines...which seems to be heating up as a conversation piece as we enter Lent and there's a mix of what dioceses do in terms of Baptism during Lent.

I commented that I appreciated the model of the Greek Orthodox Church giving a set time of six weeks when the mother is then welcomed into the church with a special blessing and baptism can then happen because I feel it honors that need to heal and recover from childbirth, but still moves with prudent haste towards baptism.

What I got back was pretty strongly worded, and Catechism citing content on why I was basically taking the souls of my children into my own hands if I didn't get it done before I was even up to sitting through mass.  Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

Commenters went on to tell me that I was presuming on God's mercy to think I could wait what I thought was reasonable because:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
 But they skipped the next bit:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
 I left that conversation feeling so disheartened.  Especially as the mom of two souls who passed in utero and the foster mom of one sweet girl who I took to mass every week for 2.5 years without the ability to baptize her.  I was being told my belief in obedience to the pastor on whether or not to baptize during Lent was misplaced obedience and that I was foolhardy to put so much reliance on God's mercy over making haste to the point of leaving a parish over it.

In the moment I blocked the conversation from my feed, I felt something inside me break.  I thought this, this is how people leave the Church.  I felt so hopeless and sad for my dead babies.  I felt like rules were overpowering mercy, and I just cried over it all.  As I lay there and dried my tears, I wondered, what if this had been the last thread holding me to the Church?  What if this had been the thing that had broken in me that felt unfixable?  What if these surely good and holy women were the precipitation of my downfall?

They wouldn't have even known it.  But they could have been, even with every good intention.

There's a tension between mercy and truth.  We must always always reach for the truth, and the layered beauty of our tradition and Catholic heritage are so so good.  But, where are we placing our interpretation of the rules or preferences over compassion?  Where am I failing to see that God's mercy is not to be outdone, and I'm not the boss of it?

Where am I drawing a line in the sand over a timetable that God never put in place?

I'm struggling with finding those answers inside myself, but I'm trying to move towards a default of seeking to understand before being understood.  Because even when it's an inflexible rule, seeking to be heard before listening will never win a heart, and that should be the business we're in.

Monday, December 19, 2016

On Choosing to Quit

As we're staring down the calendar at a new year, it's a time of reflection on our choices, a time to evaluate where we are and what's working.

We've been a homeschooling family for most of our parenting years.

As our oldest entered sixth grade this year, we made the choice to transition from homeschooling to our local parochial school.

Our four year old is also in preschool there three mornings a week.

LB had been asking for a while to go to traditional school, and SP LOVES her preschool.  So much so, she told me she was very sad when I made her stop going after PK3 (otherwise known as Summer Break).

But the deciding factor for going back to school this year was me.  I need some breathing room.  I need to not feel like I'm failing to do ALL THE THINGS constantly.  I need time to work from home without that precarious balancing act of childcare hanging around my neck.

I needed to stop trying to do it all, all at once, without a break.

For over ten years, I've worked sporadically from home as an Instructional Designer, developing online training and tests for companies who would rather hire that out than keep someone on staff.  I've balanced working from home and homeschooling through the younger grades, but as schooling became increasingly complex, I constantly felt like I was behind on grading, not following up enough, or just generally not doing enough.

I felt a lot of peace about making the decision, but I also felt that stereotypical, "we're not doing the most involved thing we possibly can so we're probably failing".  Because isn't that the message we get from all the worst parenting gurus?  Do all the things and do them my way or you're the worst.

This school year has solidly reinforced what I've known to be true for a long time.  We're all doing our best, and it's going to look different for everyone. 

My best for this year might be different from my best for next year.  And it for sure looks different than last year.

Going back to traditional school has taken the entire burden of LB's education off my shoulders.  I still find myself grading homework most evenings, or reviewing upcoming assignments, but all the mental space of planning and organizing it has been freed. 

Choosing to quit the homeschool life has had some downsides - can you say early bird wakeup calls? Mornings will probably always be rough for me, but we're making it.  I can't put the school week on hold when life starts to be too much.  I can't time the school day around our family life.  It all happens on their schedule. 

Still, the hour+ I spend shuttling people back and forth, the early mornings (which my husband helps with A LOT), the homework assignments, the extra committee meetings, it's all been working out.

It's been a positive shift to have a more rigid structure in our day, and the downtime it's afforded me has allowed me more time to work on my Etsy store, as well as my Instructional Design business, meaning my husband was able to move to a position with fewer hours last month.

Although the thought of sending SP off five days a week next year still gives me pause, and I'll never rule out homeschooling completely, in all I've learned that sometimes, quitting is the very best choice after all.