Friday, September 30, 2011

Better than A Dozen Roses

Last Wednesday sucked! I don't know what makes some days worse than others as a Stay-at-Home Mother, but last Wednesday was a for me low point. I feel into cussing. Yes, I'm the Carmelite who cusses. Better yet, the Home-schooling Carmelite mother who cusses. With chagrin I realized that I've protected my children from the horrors of public school only so that they could learn directly from their dear Mother's lips the wonderful phrases of "I'm so pissed off at you!" and "this is f***ing hard!"


Just so no one is shocked at my poor behavior come Judgement Day.

By the grace of God, I get myself collected enough to decide that cheap pizzas and a cheap DVD at Target could create an impromptu "Movie Night" in order to hold things together until my husband comes home at 7 PM. I mean, this took all of my brain power. This was an equally heroic task to writing my senior thesis.

When my husband came home the pizzas were baked. The kids were happily watched "Cats and Dogs." We took the teething baby for a long walk around the neighborhood and talked in peace. I cried when I chatted about my day. We came to the conclusion that life is just hard for me right now. This pregnancy is still in a hard, early stage. Home-schooling under new state regulations is unsettling. It stinks to have no friends in a new town and to suddenly lose my husband to a commuter train for an extra 5 hours a day. In the end, I decided that I basically need to just gut through the next few weeks and trust that things will get better soon.

After our walk, I crawled into bed at 8:10 PM, exhausted.

Some time later my husband crawled into bed next to me and whispered "I called in sick tomorrow."

"What?" I said, instantly awake.

You have to understand, my husband never, ever misses work. Jon has stepped over my puking body racked with the stomach flu to get to work on time. The man even conscientiously made plans to return to work on his cellphone from a Children's Hospital NICU room as soon as we discovered that Baby Tessy's emergency heart surgery was delayed for 12 hours.

"I told them I wasn't coming into work on Thursday," Jon said. "You seem like you need me more at home tomorrow."

It was a gift better than a dozen roses.

Jon stayed home from work on Thursday. I got to go to Mass. I got to go to Confession. I had a normal day at home-schooling with my husband backing me up every time I ran into discipline trouble. We're apart for 14 hours a day during the workweek, but I don't feel like I'm doing this job alone anymore.

I love being married!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Teaching Class

I'm teaching 3rd/4th Grade Religious Education at my new parish church. It's such a gift. Our year long goal is to learn how to be "friends of Jesus" by following the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments. Today's lesson was on "hearing Jesus through Sacred Scripture."

So what does the little Carmelite do? I taught 8 kids how to do Lectio Divinia! In the middle of reading some verses on friendship with Christ from the Gospel of John I start thinking "this is going is such a failure." Most of the boys couldn't sit still. Our classroom doesn't have walls (of course!) so it's super noisy.

I was shocked to discover, however, that my kids adored it. Two boys actually said they "they never felt anything like that in their life" and "something good came into my heart."

So these totally ordinary 8 and 9 year old kids ASKED to do Lectio Divino at every one of our future Sunday School sessions. Then they voted to designate Saturday as the first day as a class that they would try to read Sacred Scripture at their own homes. These guys were so eager, I had to track down two Bibles to give to kids that didn't have them at home. I mean, who knew an eight year old kid would ASK to take a Bible home?

It's so humbling to teach, because He does all the work. One of my fellow teachers is very concerned about all of the kids "who aren't here every Sunday." But I was telling my husband today "I'm totally amazed at the kids who ARE here. He's got them marked. He's got each of them lined up for some special plan."

What an honor to have a special time to pour love into these little souls.

(I'm extra blessed because Hannah is in my class. Jon stops by often with Baby Tess. Meanwhile, Alex and Maria are both really enjoying their respective religion classes.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Our Lady of Ransom

Beautiful Feast Day today!

ht: Father Dan G.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Being Little

So after I read this heart-breaking piece about the one-child policy in China, I was FIRED up for today's OB visit, Baby! I reviewed all these different scenarios in my mind. If they gave me any grief about declining testing for down syndrome--I was walking out the door! If they gave me any flack about "having too many c-sections" or being an "elderly" mother, I was going to give them an ear-full.

I even figured out how to tell my doctor point blank to stop doing abortions on sick babies in utero. Because I hung out in the NICU ward of Children's Hospital, darn it--and each one of those critically ill babies were PRETTY DARN CUTE!

Guess what happened?


My darling husband wanted to be there for the sonogram. So he walks into my OB appointment with four kids ages 8 to 1. He carries the Tess inside her car seat carrier. My family stops traffic! Our shiny light stops the anti-life people in their tracks. The pro-life staff start jumping up and down. Everyone is so stunned to see a father genuinely excited to welcome a brand-new fifth child into his life.

After Jon appears, I start to receive the gold-star treatment. My doctor gives us an up-graded sonogram. We get souvenir photos for the baby book. Even the mean nurse who yelled about me about lawn chemicals during our pre-appointment interview happily gives me a special trick to get through my flu shot without any pain.

After our happy visit, I go to the Lab to get my blood work started. Jon takes most of kids back to the car. I keep my eight year old Hannah for moral support.

The Lab Tech is very cheerful and starts talking to Hannah. She starts to coo over my newest pregnancy. I cynically think "Wow, people are so nice when they think I only have two kids. Wish that could happen all of the time!"

Then it comes--that awkward moment in the conversation. Do I lie about what number pregnancy this is to keep up the good will, or do I tell the truth? I take a deep breath and tell tell the truth. "Actually I have other kids who are with their Dad. This baby is number five for us!"

Without a word, the Lab tech flashes me her palm.

I look at it with confusion. "What's that for?" I ask. "Do I need to show you my insurance card again or something?"

"I was trying to give you a high five!" she said. "I LOVE large families!"

I clapped her hand but my wide eyes kept looking at my oldest daughter. This was NOT the usual response we receive in wealthy suburban Maryland. Hannah and I were both stunned into silence.

Soon I come to discover that my blood is being drawn by a fellow Catholic survivor of the Rwandan genocide. She was from an original family of 10 who lost 4 siblings in that horrible tragedy. She is also a friend of Immaculee Ilibagiza, the author of "Left to Tell!"

What are the chances? I got see pictures of Immaculee on my lab tech's i-phone. So we're all chatting about the Virgin Mary and "the Lady of Kibeho" (which Betty Beguiles will remember sending me a copy of three years ago!) I was so happy. It was nuts!

Later, as I recounted this story to Jon, I had to laugh. "I was all ready to make a huge show-down for the pro-life cause today. But what did Mommy Mary have in mind? She wanted my husband and I to be joyful. She wanted us to silently shine our light. Then she wanted to give me a personal high five for having number five."

I truly get all the smallest job assignments possible from Our Mother! Yet I so love being so little!

My Penance Today Is Offered Up For Them

Off to my first OB visit to sneak a peak at the youngest Benjamin today. I've got normal HMO insurance, so this is major penance. I'd whine more about getting OB care for my sixth pregnancy smack in the middle of the culture of death, but I've got these images of suffering pregnant Chinese women (with their "illegal" second children) fresh in my head.

Jesus and Mary, pray for us!

Prayer Request

One of my little "Sacred Heart of Jesus" babies (in this case a toddler) is getting open heart surgery in one hour. Can you pray for Tommy today and his family?

Updates on facebook report that Tommy's surgery was successful and he's now breathing on his on. Please keep praying for a speedy recovery for this little tike! Thank you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Purity of Heart

Thank you. Thank you.

So surprise, surprise. Carmel meetings are not always a bed of roses. Or rather, there are heavenly roses sent down from our buddy St. Therese of Lisieux along with some sharp, juicy thorns from our other buddy St. John of the Cross that are aimed RIGHT at the most sensitive part of the back of my knee.

As I YELP in shock and pain, Mr. John of the Cross gives me a huge thumbs up sign. "Just making sure you're staying awake Miss Abigail" he shouts with a smile. "Wouldn't want you to get too comfortable. Carmel is not a spa treatment! This is hard work for Jesus, baby!"

(This was not my Carmel experience for the month of September!)

To wit I reply with complaints and tears "I work SO HARD for Mr. J.C. all month! Don't I deserve a little break? Isn't there one place where I can come and not get surprise jabs in the heart when I least expect them?"

So far the answer seems to be an emphatic "NO!"

I'm slowly becoming more and more okay with that.

Maybe, instead of a place of rest and relaxation--an easy well of spiritual renewal, Carmel meetings are a place of hard work for me right now. A place to give love. A place to donate smiles. A place to deposit more peace, and hope, and joy--than I withdrawl from right now.

Maybe Carmel is supposed to be more about serving Our Mother, and less about having a comfy place to crash among all my Marian siblings.

You duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped! But lead me on! I know you always have my best interest at heart.

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for me.


Thank you for all of your kind prayers. I'm actually starting to see the light at the end tunnel in regards to my morning sickness. (Of course, I'm so neurotic that my first thought at not feeling nauseous 24/7 was not "Thank you Jesus!" but "Does this mean I'm having a miscarriage?" See how much He loves me? He gives me frequent morning sickness so I do not lose sleep about possibly losing another baby). Now that I'm at the 12 week mark, I have SOME morning sickness still but I no longer have that emotional fog of depression that seems to accompany a constantly upset tummy.


Now, it's time to move onto my struggles with seasonal allergies. (Why did I volunteer to sign up my son for soccer if that means sitting outside for long periods of time in the Fall when pregnancy denies me use of Claritin? Oh yes, it's because I completely forgot that I now live in the country with actual mountains full of fall foliage.)


total doubts about making my temporary promise to my lay Carmelite order in November.

I had a stressful, intense weekend--which ended with one of the most awful, stressful Carmelite meetings ever on Sunday. I went to my husband in tears at 4 PM and said "I think I totally lost the ability to communicate." He said that I was extra sensitive because of my pregnancy and just noticing things that I wouldn't normally see--but that it was still totally cool to go home early.

Later, that Sunday night, while we walked our sick, non-sleepy baby in a stroller outside our house, my husband was so patient with me. My husband calmly explained to me "We've been going to Carmel meetings now for two years and ten months. If it was truly "completely impossible" and a "total waste of time" like you feel, I think we would have figured that out before now! Instead, it's slightly coincidental that all of these doubts are suddenly hitting you eight weeks before we make our temporary promise."

I admitted to him that the timing was slightly suspect. Still I was confident that the thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing were the truth.

Then I went inside and read an email that was sent at 9:30 PM on Friday night. My extreme agitation during Sunday's Carmelite meeting caused me to ask my husband to take me and the kids home at 4 PM in the afternoon. This previously unread email was asking Jon and I to come to our profession "pre-interview" between 5 PM and 6 PM.


Thankfully we can make it up on October 16th.

However, I now have to stay calm for the next four weeks while my whole psyche is screaming "this whole thing is impossible" and "I do not need this extra grief and agitation in my life."

Will Abigail make it up Mount Carmel? Or will Johnny be climbing this Holy Mountain alone? I don't know. Tune in and find out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Choosing "Life" Over A Perfect Life

A Reaction to this quote in the NY Times.

"Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. “This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction."

(ht: the Anchoress: Repugnant Non-Parenting)

My father-in-law was an identical twin, born in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. At the time of his birth, his mother had two older children ages 3 and 5. (She would eventually go on to have six children). His family was poor. His father was addicted to prescription medication.

At some point, his mother became overwhelmed by the needs of her young children. When her husband was called into service during WWII, she gave away one of the six year old twins to his paternal grandparents.

This abandonment left a huge scar on my Father-in-law. Even though his grandparents lived close by, he never came home again! When his father came home from the War, his mother invited her son back home. However, her little boy refused to come home. He said he was "used to" his grandparent's home now. For some reason, she never forced her nine(or ten) year old to move back in. (She later expressed regret to my Mother-in-law. She said it was a mistake to ever send him away.)

As an adult, my Father-in-law still spoke about "the exile" as though he were sent to a different country, rather than 100 yards across a gravel country road. There was a lasting distance between him and his birth family. At age 20, he got a job for the State Police and moved hundreds of miles away his family. Even though he talked often on the telephone to his twin brother, he rarely returned home to visit his brother or his mother.

The boy grew into a man. He had an important job in the community, locking away criminals. He married and had three children. The intimacy scar affect his family life. He found it hard to talk to his children, especially to his only son. He didn't attend his children's sports events or talk much about their friends.

Work was hard and took a lot out of him. He worked hard 12 hour shifts some days/some nights. He had a soft spot for the poor and gave money to the desperately poor he came into contact with through his police work. He hated seeing kids abused or neglected.

And my Father-in-law was mad at God. Very mad at God.

At age 73, he caught a rare form of blood cancer that for some reason was ubiquitous in his small town. A victim of an environmental toxicant, perhaps? He was dead within 12 weeks of his diagnosis.

Yet something amazing happened to my Father-in-law during those last 12 weeks. His twin brother, the favored one--the one that got to stay with Mom while he was sent far from home--prayed for him. His son prayed for him. The twin brother called his little known nephew, my husband. These men prayed together on the phone for my Father-in-law's conversion.

My Carmelite husband called a priest, and asked him to gave his Father the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Sick. His Father's heart was opened.

The last three weeks of my Father-in-law's life was beautiful. It was a living example of the men in the vineyard who were called "late in the day." The priest brought the Eucharist four or five times. Three Nuns came to visit the sick man in his house. He died in the full grace of the Roman Catholic Church. He died a holy death and gave a sign of seeing the Virgin Mary.


I was horrified when I read Jenny's reason for aborting a twin "so that she wouldn't be a second rate Mother." It seems so horribly close to the same reasons that I've been beating myself up for having morning sickness with a fifth child and spending weeks "abandoning" my own older children. Who knows how much this sick culture of death has infected all of us American women. What is a "good mother?" Why are we so afraid of failing or children?

My husband's grandmother was in Jenny's shoes. She lived Jenny's worse nightmares. For some reason, Grandma Ruth felt like she couldn't "handle" twins. Her decision to give my Father-in-law to his grandparents had a lasting effect on his psyche. I came into my Father-in-law's life when he was more than 60. He still talked of that hurt with fresh tears in his eyes.

And yet....

My Father-in-law was alive. He went on to become the father of my dear husband. The Father of a Carmelite. The possible Grandfather of a Nun.

What would my life be like if Grandma Ruth had the option of "twin reduction" abortion?

How much love would the World have missed out on?

Posted by Picasa

My father-in-law with me and two of his grandchildren in October 2007.

We're coming up on the 2nd anniversary of my Father-in-law's death. Blessed Virgin, pray for the soul of Bob Benjamin. Pray for all of our beloved dead.

Real Saints are Hidden

I've been staying away from reading Father Corapi posts. (I've simply prayed for him instead). Yet this post was a really insightful read.

This quote just knocked me out. This is something my husband has been trying to tell me for a long, long time.

From a blog by Father Dwight Longenecker:

“Where shall we find a holy person? Where shall we find a saint? It is difficult because the real saint is hidden and humble and holy. Instead of looking for the hidden holy ones we fall for the celebrity ‘saint.’ We want the big dramatic conversion story. We want the dynamic, uncompromising speaker. We like the one who speaks out on sin and rails against the devil…

“…Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were saints they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you–the ordinary person who perseveres–the little person who serves others–the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people–then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones…

“It is the little way that leads to salvation. Not the way of pride and pleasure and power. Not the way of wealth and the world. Not the way of ego and ambition.

“Only the way of the cross. When are we going to learn this?”

Wow! This is Carmelite spirituality in a nutshell. Yet again, God is teaching me some really great lessons from my morning sickness and forcing me to take life super easy for a while.

Blessed Mother pray for Father Corapi, Father Pavone, and all of our dear priests.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wow, Totally Amazing Comments

I should go underwater more often. Your support and prayers and advice are totally amazing!

My friend in real life Maria B., wrote in from her tropical vacation to help me!:

"I feel the same way during pregnancy. Depressed, joyless, overwhelmed with feelings of failure on every level. Deep guilt for not joyfully embracing my cross and my seeming total inability to offer up physical suffering.

During my last pregnancy, I went to Fr. Jaffe for some spiritual direction on the while situation. He helped me come to embrace a spiritual attitude I had used in other tough situations, but I mistakening thought was "weak." Stop carrying the cross. Give it to Jesus. In fact, He actually has already carried it for us. He just wants us to embrace Him, walk along with Him. He does all the heavy lifting.

It was very freeing for me to be able to just tell God, "I can NOT handle this. I'm dumping it all on YOU!" The amazing thing is....that is what He wants.

I think this approach is right there with St. Therese's wisdom on spiritual poverty. Once we just embrace the reality of our absolute spiritual poverty and hand the whole mess of to God, the the guilt and heaviness lifts and the freedom of being a child of God can begin to seep in.

I have to constantly keep doing this over and over. And it doesn't really change any externals or make life much easier in a phyical sense. But there is the internal change you talk about. Freedom from the illusion that I can do this (because I can't, only God can) and a deep sense of hope that God is carrying me through life, like a Father carrying a sleeping child."

Melanie from the Wine-Dark Sea posted this AMAZING letter on Faith during pregnancy written by our buddy St. Francis De Sales. He hit the nail on the head. Go read it right now! That should be required reading for all pregnant Christian ladies out there!

Then my friend Patrick sent this link to a super cool St. Francis of Assisi post on "pure joy." This is a must read also!

Finally, Carla, who has never met me in person, also had this important insight

"Abigail was trained as a lawyer (me too) - we were graded and measured by our accomplishments...and we often bring this expectation to motherhood AND prayer..."

I feel like there is this major "purging" that is going on right before my temporary Carmelite vows. (Pray for me! God willing, I will make my 3 year vows to be a lay Carmelite in November 2011). It's really humiliating because I'm NOT in a good prayer schedule right now. I don't know how the entrance interview is going to go next month. (The guys doing the interviews are a little intense and I'm trying to picture my responses. "Well, I'd LIKE to have more prayer in my life but I'm currently flummoxed on how to do that with five kids! I'm sure God has some sort of plan, though. He sent me a Carmelite vocation at the same time I have all these angels to care for, after all!")

Still I think this lack of perfection is really, really positive for me. I need to figure out in the deepest part of my mind that just because I 'check off all the boxes' doesn't mean that I'm a good Carmelite (or a good Mom!) And the counter statement is also true. Just because my 30 minutes of prayer turned into a mere 5 seconds, or just because the kids are eating cereal for dinner and I'm buying extra underwear at Target because the laundry pile is so back-up--that does NOT mean that I'm automatically out of God's will. In fact, not being a perfect "Clair Huxtable" Mom might mean that I'm right where God wants me to be!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blowing Prayer Bubbles Up From Under Water

This is me.


Blowing prayer bubbles up to God.

Saying "Help!" and "SOS" and "You've got to get me out of the mess, right?"

I'm in week eleven of pregnancy. Which means it feels like I'm on week nine of perpetual flu sickness. Fatigue. Nausea. Dragging my weak body along after four older kids.

I told my husband yesterday that "I've invented a new game. I drag my sorry body into different positions around the house for variety's sake. This morning, I laid down on the rug in my son's room for an hour. I talked to him about his new Lego creations with my cheek pressed against the floor. Then I went to the girl's room watched Mimi cut up chunks of our newspaper with safety scissors."

I'm reading about St. Elizabeth of the Trinty writing about suffering being a "purging fire that brings us closer to God." I'm not there yet.

Then I had this intense experience in the parent waiting room during my kid's gymnastics practice, where I'm asking God "when am I going to experience real joy?" Because I looked around at the other home-schooling Mothers (Hannah has a special home-school P.E. class) and they all look terrible! Depressed. Anxious. Sickly. Either overweight or overthin. And none of them appears to be pregnant or have young kids in the house. (Because I'm the only idiot who shows up pregnant with three kids to entertain while my oldest plays in a gym class meant for 6-18 year olds. Most Moms appear to have wisely waited until their YOUNGEST was six to enroll in an optional P.E. class).

In my green in the gills, awful state, I match the exterior stress of these Mothers completely. I prayed "Please God, I don't want to still look like this when my youngest is six!"

It really shook me up, because I think so much of my sadness, my "lack of joy" comes from simply not sleeping well because I have so many young children in my house. There is always someone who is teething, or someone who has nightmares. But what if all my lack of joy isn't physical? What if its because I'm not yet centered truly on Christ? If so, my kids are going to get older, but I'm still going to be their same sad, tired Mom.

In sharp contrast, the only guy in the room was a work-at-home I.T. father. He looked jolly. He looked together. He spoke cheerfully. One of his jolly, cheerful comments was "Yes, we only have two children. I was afraid to have more!"

At the exact moment that he said this statement, Tess and Mimi were both crying at the same time. I held the hands of two girls while trying not up chuck myself onto the shiny clean floor. Those words hit my ear and I thought "You were right to be afraid. This stuff is kinda hard."

I took my sobbing girls outside. Alex immediately saw a black, mud spattered jeep in the parking lot. "Look Mom, a jeep!" he said excitedly.

"Yeah, your Dad used to have a red one of those. See the doors are even off. Your Dad used to drive me around town with the doors off back when we were dating. Go check it out!" Alex went over for a closer inspection. Dad's old jeep that got traded in for a family car when I became pregnant with Hannah is a source of endless fascination for my only son.

Twenty minutes later, I watched happy I.T. guy load his two children, one girl and one boy, into the back of his mud spattered, doorless black Jeep. He looked happy. His kids neatly folded up into the back seat his Jeep--which was really a symbol of his family neatly folding up into the back of his formerly single life.

As I watched them drive off, I prayed hard. "God I know this is an illusion. I know that the whole idea that you should limit your babies to a number that your life can easily handle is a complete lie. BUT YOU HAVE GOT TO HELP ME MAKE IT. You have got to help me find real peace and joy as a Mother of five. You've got to help me make it, on this Christian path.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11

This is Jeremy Glick, a fallen hero from Flight 93. I listened to his widow tell the story of his life and their marriage in an interview on September 11, 2001. I was twenty-six years old and a newlywed who had been married for less than three months. Watching that TV interview was the exact moment that I discovered that I really, really wanted to become a mother.

Blessed Mother, pray for the soul of Jeremy Glick. Pray for his dear family. Blessed Mother, have mercy on the enemies of the United States. St. Micheal, Keep our soldiers, fire-fighters and police safe from harm.

9/11 Oral History Project

Columbia Center for Oral History Project

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

Getting Clair Huxtable Out of My Head!

In chatting with my husband today, I realized most of my troubles with my first trimester pregnancy symptoms are in my head, not in my body. I'm counting myself as a "poor excuse for a Mother" right now, because I suffer from a complete lack of realistic expectations of motherhood in general, and "motherhood while pregnant with a fifth child" in particular.

My favorite job as a kid was "camp counselor" and I consider myself a "camp counselor" kind of Mom. I'm happiest when my kids and I are having a grand time designing some sort of fun project together. High energy, laughter, and loudly singing show tunes--those are not really a big part of my life motherhood right now that I'm feeling tired, quesy, and "green around the gills" for most of the day.

If the perfect "Mom" in my head is Clair Huxtable, a Mother of five who appears to be always witty with her husband, always engaged with her children, and with perfectly coiffed hair to boot-- no wonder I'm feeling like a failure at this stage in my life.

So Johnny and I talked about "reframing" my interior monologue to make it slightly more likely that I stay out of the crazy house during this fifth pregnancy. I therefore submit the following resolutions.

Number One: Resting counts as an activity while I'm pregnant!
I make the mistake of not really counting Baby Olive as a "real kid" until she (or he) appears outside the womb. This is false! As a pregnant Mom, resting counts as an activity equal to rocking Baby Tess to sleep. Taking naps while pregnant does not count as "shirking" my Stay-at-home duties. I need to stop mentally judging myself as harshly as if I were spending all the time holed up in my bedroom watching HGTV reruns and eating chocolate bon bons.

Number Two: Dinner is my primary domestic contribution right now.

I'm not going to get all pharisaical on this topic, and there is plenty of room for misses in this area. In general, however, I will try my best to get dinner on the table before my husband gets home from work. Cleaning can wait until the weekend. Laundry can wait. Home-schooling doesn't even need to happen each and every day. But my family always needs to eat! If I get something easy into the oven by 4:30 PM, then I make a smooth and happier night happen for everyone else. So in my mind, if I get dinner made each night I get to check off the "good Mom" box in my head, even if the floors are messy and no one has seen fresh sheets on their beds for more than a week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sometimes Religious Tolerance Is NOT Love, It's Laziness Instead!

When I was 25, I lived in an interesting housing situation. I was a member of "St. Francis House", an experience in "religious tolerance" at the University of Wisconsin. Twenty students lived in the basement of a beautiful old Episcopal Church in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. We received practically free room and board in exchange for doing tasks around the church and participating in Sunday Mass.

It was so much fun! Most of my roomies were international students from Africa, Asia or Europe. I think there were only three or four Americans in the bunch. It was a huge blend of different religions: Shinto, Buddhism, Muslim, Catholics and unfamiliar (at least to me) Protestants like "the Dutch Reform Church."

Every weeknight we took turns cooking massive dinners for the whole community. I will probably never eat so well again in my life. I developed a special fondness for "Blue Crab Soup" (from Japan) and "Pineapple Mashed Potatoes" (from Columbia).

After three months of living in this diverse religious community, I (a firm Christian) imagined that I was "Miss Tolerance Herself."

Every Faith had something valuable to contribute to world. Each of us were "equal" in dignity. No spiritual path had a "monopoly on truth." Yada Yada Yada.

Then I met Jon.

My tall, thin boyfriend was a Catholic. No surprises, there. He had some odd New Age/Buddhism influences in his Christian thought. No surprises. Jon never said anything odd about Jesus that I hadn't heard a thousand time before by other college students.

The surprising thing, was that I, Miss laid back Christian girl, suddenly cared deeply about he thought about this Jesus Guy. I wanted to correct my sweet boyfriend's mistakes.

So I started arguing with him. I mean, it was INTENSE. One time I remember fighting so intensely about this crazy issue of "if Jesus said no to dying on the cross could God have found a replacement." Jon said "yes." I started yelling at Jon in the car "God only had ONE son. No one could have taken over his place." We were arguing so passionately that neither recognized that we took a wrong turn on the high way. After one hour, we suddenly saw the Mackinaw Bridge in front of us--telling us that we had gone North on a central Michigan highway instead of South!

I didn't recognize this "formerly" laid back girl who was suddenly fighting so hard with her boyfriend--as if it matter what he personally thought about God. In fact, when we got engaged, I remembered our atypical fights over religion with shame. "What if this fighting spreads to other areas?" I worried.

Now that dear husband and I are both Carmelites, I laugh.

I think my deep interest in my boyfriend's personal thoughts about Jesus and God because I loved him! His religious viewpoints directly mattered to me! Jon was about to become my husband. My fellow Carmelite. The Father of my children. In our joint vocation- matrimony-- it is intensely important that BOTH of us are pointing in the right direction in matters of faith.

Sometimes fighting over Faith is a sign of True LOVE and "Tolerance" is simply lazy, self-interest.

(inspired by thoughts from He Adopted Me First and Little Catholic Bubble).


This past weekend was the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death. My grandfather died after a hard battle with cancer while Baby Tess was in her first hospital, being treated for simple jaundice. Everyone was scared to add to my stress by telling me that my grandfather died, so I found out the news from Facebook.

On September 4, my Dad left his dying father's bedside to race to Maryland. He (and my Mom) where there the infamous day of September 5, when Baby Tess went from "fine" to needing an emergency baptism and a transfer to Children's Hospital. My parents were there to witness the baptism and drive home their completely exhausted daughter from downtown D.C. They even got a hotel room across the street from my apartment, so they could watch over Jon and I.

Then in the morning, before we even left to see Miss Tess, my father organized my life for the next month. He rented me a car so we could get to the hospital easily (we were poor Carmelites who relied on the bus at the time). He took my three older children to his house for two weeks, so we could live in the NICU. He even handed me cash so that Jon and I could easily get meals in the hospital cafeteria.

All that happened and it was a gift. My Mom was her normal self during Tessy's home-coming. But my father "got it." There are expressions in his face when he held his totally held granddaughter that I'd never seen before.

All that is so precious to me.

Somehow slathered on top are these maddening photos I received in my in-box this morning. My aunt and my uncle celebrated the anniversary of my Grandfather's passing by going to a lake on Sunday and throwing pine cones into the water.

Throwing pine cones into the water???????

There is this piece of me that is screaming--who are you baby boomers??? GO TO CHURCH! It's Sunday. Say a prayer. Sing a hymn. Remember your father in a place that makes sense both to Him and to God!

Grandpa would have gone to church!!!

Pine cones in the water? The guy didn't even fish!

The whole world needs prayer. Most American Baby Boomers seem to need it double! I'm off to go make my contribution to the improvement of society by enduring my morning sickness bravely today. Hope everyone had a happy and restful Labor Day.