Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prayer Request for Henry's Family

Sometime this afternoon, one of my favorite people in this world died, Mr Henry Dobrovits. His Mama Carla was a long time reader of this blog. She insisted that I start praying for her son, while he was still an orphan living in the Ukraine. I think my first urgent prayer request for Mr. H was for some sort of ridiculously impossible, time-sensitive, total reversal in international adoption policy. I prayed sort of half-heartedly, because his Mama was so darn pushy about it. (In the best Italian mother way, of course Carla). She badgered me daily until I promised to pray for him often, to pray for him a lot. To my surprise, the prayers of so many Catholic women worked. Henry came home--quickly.

I stopped by his Mama's blog about his adoption often and before long I was hooked. Mr. H. is a charming soul. Those pictures of him joyfully struggling went straight to my heart. I was his prayer warrior and his cheerleader.

 My favorite ever crazy post-op routine was feeding the kid Mc Donald's french fries. Evidently, my little hero always had major issues trying to start eating again after surgery. (Sometime my daughter Tess and I could relate too!) The one thing that always worked to get him started eating solids again was a Mc Donald french fry. I loved watching those crazy photos of a smiling guy--a former Ukrainian orphan--eating the classic American food--especially at a time when all other Americans Mothers are boycotting giving their children that taste. I looked forward to those "French Fry" pictures on Facebook as proof that Mr. H was well on the road towards recovery.

Mr. H, you didn't get your French Fry post. It was one more surgery, in a long litany of surgeries this Fall that I prayed often for you to pull through--because you were a big soul, a tough guy. Now you are dead. I miss you.

There will be other posts, where I talk about how courageous your Mama is, and how much she reminds me of our joint Blessed Mother. For now, I just want to say that I miss you. I miss praying for you.

Thank you for your service Mr. H. You reveal the Glory of God. It was an honor to pray for you this year. It was an honor to be your friend.

Servant of God, Dr. Jerome LeJeune, pray for us!

Update: Leila has all the great pictures on her post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

God's Blessings in the Home

(my meditation today)

Psalm 127: God's Blessing in the Home

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
In is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil:
for he provides for his beloved during sleep.

Psalm 128: The Happy Home of the Faithful

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walk in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion.
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pre-Advent Work

Got some emotional trauma at Thanksgiving. "He afflicts only to heal" as Tobit says. I got my marching orders for Advent. It's time for perfectionism and vanity to go--I've got too many exciting souls to love to remain constantly hung up on the same old battle wounds.

Watched "Lincoln." Wow.

Watched only the preview of "The Impossible" a true story about a family of five who survived the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Double Wow. Can not wait for that film to appear.

Last night we hosted a new family at our parish who asked us to become their son's Godparents in two weeks. Joanne, this was a direct outreach of my hospitality work.  (I greeted them with a smile for a few weeks and the Mom asked me after a few light conversations). Last night we had them over and fed them meatloaf. In the middle of dinner, we discovered that this toddler is a Children's Hospital NICU Kid the same year as our Teresa!

Can you imagine that coincidence? When Tess was in the hospital, I was praying and praying for all the kids who were unbaptized, to get baptized. Two years later, we are going to become Godparents to a Dr. Bear NICU kid. His Mom is in RCIA too, and I get to be her sponsor!

Please pray for my little godson and his Mom, Lindsey. My godson was a 28 week preemie, who almost died many, many times during his first week of life in 2010. He's totally healthy now. Yet his Mom went through all the NICU drama without any sacraments and understandably has a lot of remaining trauma. Time to get her wounds healed by the Divine Physician.

Blessed Mother, pray for us!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spiritual Canticle--St. John of the Cross

Now I occupy my soul
and all my energy in his service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Anti-Harried Wives Club: Family Is Not About Blood

I'm paraphrasing Jesus here, but he says "Who is my mother? My Brothers? My kin? My Mother, My Brother, My Sister is whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven!"

Blood does not make a family! Family is about a spiritual connection formed by doing the Will of God. Occasionally, blood and grace co-exist in a beautiful harmony. For example, think of the Martin Family (the family of the Little Flower) -- where the Mother, the Father and the youngest Child are all recognized Catholic Saints.

For most of us, that is not the spiritual reality of our families of origin or our in-laws. The world being what it is today, its going to be uncommon to have a Martin like experience at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow.

That's why, I can't take those digs at my life personally. Of course, no one in my extended family is going to think that it's a good idea for me to stay home another year, keep homeschooling, avoid overcommitment in sports, have another baby, or avoid spending too much money on Black Friday sales. My little Catholic life doesn't not make sense on a rational level.

Again, women can fight dirty. It's the verbal jabs at my parenting, my messy hair, my imperfect behaving children, and my overweight child producing body that really hurt. Seriously, sometimes I think actual fist fights around the Thanksgiving table would be better. A black eye seems an easier injury to nurse afterwards than the vague "emotional flu" that can sometimes follow me for days after a tense Holiday gathering.

I am Christ's little Sister, however. He gets hit, I'm going to get hit. When I think about how much I love him, it gets easier. I'm less "harried" at big family gatherings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Anti-Harried Wives Club: Stop Wanting Everyone to Like You

Whew! Vanity. Got that sin in spades. The cure for vanity is great fidelity to Christ. I work on pleasing the one sinless guy in my life-who ironically is pretty easily pleased by me--and let the constant inner "shredding" of trying to be all things to all people all the time fly out the window.

Here's are two shortcuts I've adopted to getting over my people pleasing hump. First, I know that wherever I show up (church, prayer groups, homeschool co-ops, civic meetings, etc.) 1/3 of the people aren't going to like me, 1/3 of the people don't care a hoot about me, and 1/3 of the people do like me. It took off a lot of stress to stop worrying about every negative comment made in a Target parking lot, or every not-so-kind stare in Daily Mass. ("Oh, that's to be expected. That's the negative 1/3).

Secondly, instead of freaking out about the negative stuff, I'm trying to rejoice in the positive interactions during my day. If we're both in Christ, that "I recognize Him in you" means that a deep friendship can start very quickly. It's beautiful!

Another shortcut, which I started trying this Fall is "say no to things without giving a reason!" I think the full mantra is "No, from an adult is a complete sentence." As wives, we have to say no to good things all the time. "No" means, "I'm going to stay home tonight and play Scrabble with my honey." We've got a lot of intricate balancing acts going on in our lives. The stranger at cub scouts doesn't need the details behind why Mom is canceling her son's appearance at the Raingutter Regatta.

We ladies are way too easily offended at regrets for social obligations, and committee work. My real friends are going to understand when I say "Sorry we can't make it, hope you have fun!" I'm a wife after all. My work is obvious. There are also going to be people who flip out "What do you mean you're not going? We need you! The Church needs you! Are you mad at me or something?" Rather than fall into the trap of saying "Oh course, I'm not mad---I've got X.Y. Z going on.." I'm trying to step out of the drama.

It's about me, Jesus, and my husband Jon. If the three of us decide that something is off limits--it is, no explanations necessary. We three committee members are the only ones with voting rights in my life. When I stop trying to please the world, and start trying to please Jesus --guess what? Life is clear. Life is more fun. Life is a lot less "harried."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Family Issues

"Encourage each other while it is still today" (St. Paul in Hebrews)

If you're beating yourself up because your conversion to Catholicism hasn't yet translated into greater peace with your family of origin--don't. Have Hope. Have Patience. Have Humility. But don't go walking around second guessing yourself for not delivering the best Apologetic Defense of the Pope over hor d'oeuvres, or feel like a fraud because a family member gets under your skin.

What Jesus is looking for is growth. Growth is slow, and uneven, and often horribly messy. Trust that your prayers for peace are heard.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Carmelite Wedding

Today, I went to my Carmelite Community's November Profession Mass. This is the one year anniversary of my temporary promise and the three year anniversary of reception of my brown scapular. I watched a friend make her Definitive Promise--a lifetime commitment to follow the Carmelite charism. It was so beautiful. It was like attending a wedding.

I have at least two years more of discernment before making that lifetime vow. For today, I feel so hopeful. The Mass was so elegant. It really reminded me of the great grace Our Lady's gives to our vocation. Our priest kept stressing the "evangelical" part of our promise during his homily. We're called to live a life of "evangelical chastity, evangelical poverty and evangelical obedience." Falling in love with Christ makes you a witness to the world. It catches others up into your love affair with God.

Please pray for Jon (my husband) and I to have great courage during this tough discernment period. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if God wants me to leave the Secular Community which has nurtured my vocation for four years, to another community that is much closer to our new house.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Anti-Harried Wives Club: Dealing Maturely With Insecurity

I'm horribly insecure as a Mother. This is supposed to be the most important job in the world.  I so often have no idea what I'm doing. As soon as I do master a new skill set, a new rhythm, a new budget--then along comes another monkey wrench.

I can deal with the bumps in the road with humility--or I can start freaking out and try to grab control of the situation. Almost always my little attempts to regain control make my life (and the life of my family members) go from slightly off-kilter to wildly chaotic in a matter of hours.

The mother is the heart of the family. There is a lot of pressure to try and keep my heartbeat relaxed and steady during the Day Light Hours.

Underneath all this insecurity is probably a lack of realistic expectations of myself as a Mother. My internal ideas of "what I'm supposed to be doing" change frequently. I didn't grow up in a Catholic home. Current American culture is bereft of healthy role-models. But I've got to say, my parish isn't really overflowing with healthy Mother role-models either. For example, I'm really hard pressed to come up with an "in real life example" of a Mother who is joyful. There are many Catholic mothers who I admire for their excellent Martha qualities. Not so many who exhibit her sister Mary's qualities.

My husband and I were chatting about what a "realistic" Mother would look like in today world. I think his definition was someone who God loved. To Jon (a Carmelite) when God loves someone he gives her (1) limited money, (2) real crosses (real ones not fake drama crosses), (3) supernatural joy in the middle of those crosses.

That means the heroes I should start to look for are not the Mothers who look "together"--because that is a worldly standard, but a Mother who has real peace in the middle of suffering.

St. Margaret of Scotland, pray for me.

Anti-Harried Wives Club: Restoring Your Sexual Purity

My husband is my virgin. I am his.

When I became a Catholic, I confessed my past sexual impurity. I was married at the time of my First Confession. I regretted it. I got cleansed.

Years into my marriage, however, I started to really feel the regret. I was horrified. I couldn't believe that I let my husband down this way, that I let down God, that I let down myself.

That was all spiritual pride. That was all bad theology. That was all deep shame that was mucking up my connection to my body and to my marriage.

If God forgave you, let it Go! You aren't just someone who has a "second rate" Catholic marriage-- a little consolation prize for those of us sinners who got our wedding rings blessed by a priest. You have the precious gift of a sacramental marriage. You are the prize Virgin! You have the Bridegroom's Heart--both your spouse's heart and the heart of Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords.

Do not keep dragging out that lumpy second-rate feeling of "I wish I was a Virgin on my Wedding Night"  into your bedroom ten years later. Get it out! Go pray. Talk to your spouse. Make your husband or wife dump out all their guilt too.

Virginity is about purity. Its not some "technical" thing--it's about having a pure heart. When Jesus forgives our sin, we're restore as pure as new fallen snow. We need to get that right in our heads in and in our marriage beds--because we are supposed to living a Song of Songs life.

Jesus is the Bridegroom. At death, he will come to claim us and we will be the Bride bedecked in all her jewels. We married couples have a unique way to be chaste while experiencing that type of "being uniquely wanted" here on earth.


(Hat tip: It sounds crazy but I really credit Christian Romance writer Deeanne Gist's two books "Deep in the Heart of Trouble," and "Bride Most Begrudging" for encouraging me to dump this lie and embrace all of that deep Theology of the Body stuff in my heart as well as my head.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reminder to Self: Don't Make The Holy Catholic Faith Just Another Fairy Tale

(Today's Reading: From a Homily Written in the 2nd Century)

My name is constantly blasphemed by unbelievers, says the Lord. Woe to the man who causes my name to be blasphemed. Why is the Lord’s name blasphemed? Because we say one thing and do another. When they hear the words of God on our lips, unbelievers are amazed at their beauty and power, but when they see that those words have no effect in our lives, their admiration turns to scorn, and they dismiss such words as myths and fairy tales.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anti-Harried Wife Syndrome: Wisely Choose Your Friends

Are your "friends" really your "friends"?

Here's the thing about us women, we're sneaky when we're being mean. You can't always tell when another woman is envious of you, or overly perfectionist about herself. A conversation can look civilized to a neutral outside observer, yet from the insiders perspective of your heart, it's a flat out bar room brawl.

So St. Ignatius of Loyola's of discernment of spirits is always helpful. Jesus promises us "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me." (John 10:27). Can you identify Jesus' unique voice over the noisy din of the world?

Jesus' words are always encouraging, gentle, and hopeful. He does admonish us, but it's "admonishment"--not eye rolling, sarcastic comments, put downs or jokes at others expense. Jesus does not give us a "manic" list of things we've got to do better, right now! It doesn't matter how Holy a woman appears on the outside, if you're not leaving her presence feeling uplifted and re-energized about your vocation as a wife, then she is not good friendship material!

I'm not always great at recognizing "hurtful" female friendships yet--but my husband is! (That his protection role coming out in full force.) A few years ago, he told me to stop reading certain blogs because they negatively impacted my psyche. At first it felt so strange to follow his advice--"I can't stop talking to these women online, we have a relationship, we're friends!" Yet in my heart of hearts I knew he was right--I just couldn't figure out how to extradite myself from messy social obligations.

My advice to younger wives is "Embrace the Awkward!" 

This year my husband asked me to ax a new friendship with someone who we see often. It is totally awkward. My withdraw has negatively impacted the friendships that my children had with this woman's children, and my husband had with her husband. My husband said "Who cares! You are more important!"

I don't think I'm the only woman who has it ingrained since birth to "play nice." Making a conscious decision to withdraw from a friendship feels so foreign. I've got to say, despite all the awkwardness--it's making my life so much better!

I like telling myself He needs me! (God) God's got things for me to do, people for me to love--and if I spend all my time licking my wounds from catty exchanges with women who I already know are not good for me, and don't have my best interests at heart--that's time I'm not spending helping to heal the world!

Remember: Jesus was many things to all people--but He never gave the Pharisee's access to his Divine Heart. Be more like Jesus!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mes Aïeux - Dégénération (English Subtitles)

Anti-Harried Wives Syndrome: What To Do When You're Poor

If you are Catholic, you are poor.

It doesn't matter what income bracket you're in, when you're a practicing, believing, hopeful Catholic you are trying to do more than your neighbors with far less time and money.

Everyone's financial challenges are different. Maybe you're trying to raise 5 kids on one income. Maybe you work for the Church or Catholic charities. Maybe you're trying to launch a start-up business in this dreadful economy, or paying for Catholic School tuition, or supporting your widowed mother, or adopting a special needs orphan from Bulgaria. Our financial struggles look unique--but they follow a similar pattern.

Jesus tells us "you can not serve God and money." So if you elect to serve God in your heart, you are going to get less money in your life. It's a one for one trade.

Now, God provides. It doesn't follow that opening your heart to following God's will in your life is going to necessarily mean that you'll soon be redeeming food stamps. Yet it's important in our American Culture of excess, that we embrace the blessings of poverty.

God sees poverty as a virtue, not a vice.

If you are having financial trouble in your life, don't let it zap the strength of your marriage. Stay unified. Stay hopeful. Say your prayers to the Infant of Prague together. It's okay to wish this burden to pass, but remember you are not alone in your suffering, and God gives us this poverty as a way to protect us, teach us, and save us.

The holy widow in last Mass' reading could not have gotten her great blessing from Jesus Christ until God had whittled her savings down to only two small coins.

Let yourself be whittled down by the blessings of what St. Francis of Assisi called "Lady Poverty!"

Anti-Harried Wife Syndrome Part V, Are You Having Enough Sex?

We have a sex crisis in American culture. It is insane. We hear a lot about the crisis of sexuality that goes on outside of a sacramental marriage--all bad! But there is another hidden crisis of sex--we're not having enough sex inside of marriage!

Again, be a social anthropologist for a moment. How many married women think it is completely okay to be too tired for sex for months at a time? I admit it. I was one. There are all kinds of excuses, mostly I'm too tired after an exhausting day of caring for your children!

Here is a quote, from a source not usually on my radar (or my blog)--I was doing some research for a single girlfriend of mine online and this insight smacked me between the eyes yesterday.

From Greg Behrendt's book "He's Just Not That Into You,"

"I'm about to make a wild, extreme and severe relationship rule: the word busy is a load of crap and is most often used by assholes. The word "busy" is the relationship Weapon of Mass Destruction.  It seems like a good excuse, but in fact in every silo you uncover, all your going to find is a man who didn't care enough to call."

(Sorry Jesus for using profanity on my blog, I felt it sort of added an important element to this quote.)

So here is the thing wives, we all use the "I'm to tired honey, don't take it personally" line--but it's all a bunch of baloney.  Our job is to love our husbands. That marital promise is not covered by a tiny peck on the cheek for weeks on end.

I want to stick up for men in general here. My husband is a gentleman. He is not going to insist on his right to love making when I'm puking from a migraine, or in the death throes of agony in morning sickness, or even weeping after the much anticipated pregnancy test is negative for yet another month.

My husband might encourage me to let myself get into the mood when I'm depressed about a homeschooling failure, or a fight with my mother, or a failure to lose weight soon enough after childbirth. That's not him being inconsiderate of me, that's him loving me.

If you find yourself often being "too busy" or "too tired" for sex, something is seriously wrong. Ask God for help, and fix it. Take a vitamin. Start running. Quit a Committee. Hire a babysitter. Call a friend. See a therapist. The one thing to usually avoid is blaming your husband.

My adaption of Mr. Behrednt's quote for Christian wives, is "when we claim we're too busy for sex with our husbands, we're not being right, we're being jerks."

Anti-Harried Wife Syndrome , Part IV--Advice from St. Paul

Today's Mass Reading:

Titus 2: 3-5

"Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in their behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink: they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, and good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited."

This unfamiliar reading of Titus is starting to become so beautiful to me. I'm still a feminist, so the phrase "submissive to their husband" feels totally unfamiliar and vaguely wrong. But I recognize the "Truth" behind my own fears.

The definition of "submission" means "a tending towards, or inclination of humility." Can you believe that? I love humility. I'd like to get a little more of elusive virtue in my life and in my marriage. A tending towards humility doesn't mean turning into a slavish "yes" man to my husband. It's not an unthinking servility where I'd just blindly follow my husband off the cliffs of mortal sin. It's tilting my heart to follow his good advice, to trust in his love for myself and my children, and to assume the best intentions behind his actions, instead of automatically always imagining the worse.

St. Paul informs me that there is a specific reason to struggle for change in the naturally "stony" inclinations of my heart, "so that the word of God may not be discredited." Ladies, we have a crisis in marriage in America! This Sunday, I want you to do an experiment after Mass. Hopefully, your parish has some sort of "milling around period" we Protestants used to call "Time for Fellowship" after the Mass. It might happen over coffee in the parish hall, or it might happen in the parking lot. A little time for visiting with new and old friends from the parish family.

On one Sunday, act as a hidden anthropologist. Take note of the following: Are husbands and wives standing together? Are they smiling as they pass a tired infant back and forth or are they snarling at each other? Do they check in with their eyes across the room, or do they seem disconnected? Does someone offer to get their spouse an extra cup of coffee?

My unofficial thesis is that a) the vast majority of men under age 40 will be holding a feisty infant with no wife in sight, b) the young Mothers are either running towards the car frustrated that their prayer time was interrupted yet again or c) are standing together in a slanderous knot complaining about their overwhelming lives, their insensitive husbands, and their stressful children.

I used to be one of these young women! I'd go to Mass, feel totally frustrated that my kids behavior was out of control, feel pinpricks of scorn from others, get frustrated that my husband wasn't doing more to help me, and leave Mass feeling so much more depleted than when I came into the door.

Here is one simple change that made a lifetime of difference. I sit next to my husband now during the Mass. I sit next to my husband--and its a fight not to let a kid sit between us--I hold a toddler, he holds the baby, and then our other kids "fan" out along side us. The squirmy son sits next to his Dad. I have the nine year old who loves to pray beside me. The five year old and toddler flip from side to side.

It is an incredible change to sit next to my husband, instead of hemming in all the kids on either side of the pew. I love sitting next to him. Whenever there is a deeply meaningful reading or song lyric, I get to just press his arm in recognition. We're being fed together the Word of God.  As a side effect, I'm so much more peaceful, the kids are better behaved.

If one of them needs to go out of Mass (at this point that is most likely the newborn or the toddler) we just have an unspoken agreement that I'm the one who takes the kid out of Mass. That sort of happened by default because I'm the only one who can nurse a colicky Baby Abigail, but once we added "Tess too" to that equation, life is so much easier. We don't have that tense debate during the homily--"Does she need to leave? Who is taking her, you or me?" If Tess is screaming, I'm the one who does the walk of shame to the back of the church, while my husband stays still and holds the line. (My only son is way more likely to listen to his Dad and stay in the pew rather than fighting to leave also). God is so kind to me, that almost always I run into a favorite friend in the back of the church during my exit. Their smiles usually help me overcome my wounded pride.

We Catholic Wives have so much to teach the world. There are so many insights from our prayer life and beauty to share with others. But when we're irritable with our husbands after Mass (usually because they aren't doing enough to help with our high maintenance children) we discredit the Word of God. We discredit the Eucharist. God is here! We are his! Lets not let a little rumble in our family routine discredit all the beautiful graces that is ours in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sexual Difference Video | Marriage Unique for a Reason

Sexual Difference Video | Marriage Unique for a Reason

--video from the US Catholic Bishops

I love this video and study guide for so many reasons, not the least of which it features the struggles of infertility. Go Catholic media!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Honor of Being My Kid's Mom (Part I)

It's a special nails on the chalk board feeling I get whenever my priest calls children "the future of the church." I say agitated under my breath--"Kids ARE a part of our church! They matter right now, in the present!"

Here's a picture of my little red head! Here is my Maria, age 5, dressed up as St. Margaret of Scotland (the real life Brave Saint) hugging a friend at the All Saint's Day party. Today we had another special Children's Event at our parish. Afterwards, another friend's mother came up to me and said "Our daughters have a special bond..." I nodded my head and something like "Oh, all the girls are so cute together, aren't they?"

The Mom corrected me, "No, my daughter has a special bond with your daughter. Every Sunday morning she gets dressed and says "Will I get to see Maria at CCD today?" She's so excited when she does and so said when she doesn't. Your daughters the reason mine is so excited to go to chuch each Sunday?"

My Maria? Maria literally has dozens of these types of bonds. I now know of at least two kids that go to CCD class just to hang out more with the "girl with the curls."

I'm inspired to be be my kid's Mom. She IS the face of the Roman Catholic church and she is glorious, just like her true Mother in Heaven!
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Part II

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Some lucky two year olds get real life baby dolls!

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Thoughts on the Election

My feelings are so vague and undefined, I can't even talk about them yet.

On Tuesday, I felt just "weird" all day. I tried to pray. I tried stay off of the last online polling updates. After dinner, I crawled into bed after nursing the baby and I fell asleep 7 PM. I missed all the early exit polls. I woke up at 4 AM on Wednesday to nurse her again. My husband was asleep and the entire house was quiet.

 I had no idea who won the election. I didn't even know if we knew who was President yet. I've never been in such a passive position of not knowing "anything" about any Presidential election ever.

It was just me and God.

I knelt down to pray before opening my laptop to check the results, and I told God "whatever happens, I trust in you."

I felt okay--not peaceful, but okay. God is still God--way above politics and all that. Whatever happens would be for the best for me and my family personally, and our Church collectively.

Then I read the results--or rather found the electoral college map my husband had still up on our computer--and I just, I don't know.

I was in shock.

It hurt to lose by such a little margin. I thought the Republicans would win Ohio. I thought they would win Pennsylvania. I hoped they could win Virginia or Wisconsin.

My husband came and found me totally indignant.

"The gloves are coming off!" I told him. I'm done. I'm done worrying about hurting people's feelings. I told him three things I wanted to do that day--things I'd been hedging about for fear of alienating people (one was writing the Harried Woman Post). He said "go for it."

It's been 72 hours and I'm still in shock.

I can't believe I even care this much. Because I didn't care. I used to love politics. I grew up on politics. I interned on the Hill. Then I started climbing up Mount Carmel, and felt "oh it doesn't really matter, God is in charge." I thought the gigantic Republican field was pretty silly.

Then I got excited about Santorum. In 2006, I read his wife's autobiography while I was sobbing about losing our son in a late miscarriage. This year, it was like having friends from your parish suddenly running for President. Then he left the race, and I stopped caring. I was pretty anti-Mitt. My brother started working on his campaign and I didn't even get a yard sign for him. Then he picked Paul Ryan for VP, and suddenly it was like having another Catholic from your very same parish running for President.

Suddenly, we got to the first debate. That first debate knocked my socks off. I didn't just like Mitt, I suddenly believed that this economy wasn't "unfixable." My husband and I looked at each other and said "we could start a business." We don't just have to sit still and let this economy roll over us. So we started some projects, and the coolest one is that we're working to open up an abandoned Rock Quarry that's behind our house and convert it to a public lake.

It felt good to hope. There was a chance that HHS Mandate could be rolled back in a flash. That my Sister who works for the State Department and most likely will be in Pakistan next year, might actually have viable protection during her stay. I felt so encouraged for my husband, for all of our friends who dread layoffs, or who are currently unemployed and can't find work. I knew in my heart--better times are coming soon.

Now that's gone--and it feels like we missed it by a hair.

The worse thing for me is that I'm so grateful that I didn't go into politics. That was a road not traveled for me--and its so weird to see that political stuff vanish in a flash. It's back to that small quiet room again--just me and God. Together we're eeking out a little life in the forgotten Mansion of  Mother Church.

Mary, the Immaculate Conception, pray for us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Anti-Harried Wife Syndrome, Part III--Everyone Can Run

Three weeks ago, I started running. I finished my morning prayer and visualized taking down my new Wal-mart tennis shoes and going for a run.

I'm the least athletic person I know. I didn't even own a pair of tennis shoes for 5 years.

My "run" is very light. I run in the street in front of my house. I don't even go around the block in case someone wakes up early and needs me.

It feels incredible. It's so great to do something outside of a "gym class" where someone else is telling me how far and how fast to go.

I like being out in the morning and watching the sunrise. I like the extra energy I have during my long day.

There's something else, I love have a "steady template" to know instantly if something is "off." After Hurricane Sandy, I could barely run. My back was very tight and sore. I realized how much stress I'd been under during the storm. I made sure to be extra gentle with myself that day--both physically and emotionally.

Today, the first day after the election--I couldn't run at all. Nothing. It was a beautiful day. The air was perfect. I felt great to be outside, but there was nothing. My back was so tight, it turned into an all walking day for me. I thought "Wow, this election was more stressful than a Hurricane!"

I'm usually very out of touch with my emotions. I don't realize I'm stressed until I start snapping at kids or sobbing over some minor hiccup in my day. I'm so grateful for my new morning run--however short--because it lets me "check in", figure out where I am on the stress meter for before resuming responsibility for six precious souls in my care.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Anti-Harried Wives Club, Part II

Remember when I went on my quest to figure out what the heck "giving my husband unconditional respect meant?" Well, I found a couple of definitions that brought tears of recognition to my eyes.

Here's one definition of respect neatly laid out by Shakespeare,

Girls, girls! Wipe those frowns off your faces and stop rolling your eyes. This disrespectful stance towards the man who is your lord, your king, your governor tarnishes your beauty the way the frosts of winter blight the land. It mars your reputation the way a whirlwind shakes fair buds.  And in no way is fitting or attractive.

An angry woman is like an agitated fountain--muddy, unpleasant, lacking in beauty. And in this condition, no one-however dry or thirsty he may be--will stoop to sip or touch one drop of it.

Your husband is your lord, your life, your keeper, your head, your sovereign, one who cares for you and for your ease and comfort, commits his body to harsh labor both on land and sea. Long stormy nights at sea he stays awake, by day he endures cold while you lie safe and warm, secure in your beds at home. 

And in exchange he seeks no more from you but love, kind looks, and true obedience--too little payment for so great a debt. 

A woman owes a husband the same loyalty a subject owes his king.  And when she is peevish and preverse, sullen, sour, and disobedient, what is she but a loathsome rebel and an ungrateful traitor to her loving lord? 

I am ashamed that women are so foolish as to declare war when they should plead on their knees for peace, that they seek authority, supremacy, power, when they are under an obligation to serve, love, and obey. Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth, unfit for toil and trouble in the world, if not so that our soft qualities and our hearts should agree with our external parts? Come, come you weak, ungovernable worms!*

(Katherine's closing speech in Taming of the Shrew, Act 5, Scene 2, updated in Modern English at "No Fear Shakespeare") 

Wow, there is a lot of things to chew over in this speech! Doesn't it sound totally strange to modern ears? I ask you, have you seen the Taming of the Shrew on the stage recently? I'm a Shakespeare girl, this is one of his most famous plays, yet I never remember seeing on stage, or reading it in school.

In defiance of the Devil, who killed the definition of marriage inside the only American State that bears the name of Mary, the Mother of God yesterday, read this passage to your husband when he comes home from work. Watch him melt. Most likely, he has never heard such a clear definition of respect, either.

I know some of this stuff seems outdated. Domestic violence is real. The Catholic church hands out annulments for valid reasons. You might be reading this post while you're at work yourself, and scoff at the medieval notion that women are considered "unfit for toil and trouble in the world!" Yet that's not what Shakespeare is saying.

Shakespeare assumes in this passage that a husband is a loving lord. He asks a wife to give true obedience. Sometimes a wife has to tell her husband a painful truth. However, that conversation should always be done respectfully and courageously. It's should be done with gentleness and love.

When Shakespeare's character says "plead on your knees for peace"--he's tipping his hand to us ladies. There is nothing my husband's wouldn't do for me, nothing!

I'm his everything.

The one payment my husband wants for all his unselfish service to me is to try my best to always remain a lady. A lady makes calm requests with the assumption of goodwill. (Think Mary at the Wedding of Cana).

My communication skills really stink. I'm fine when I'm in a good mood, but when I start to get unglued--watch out. My tongue starts lashing, and my eyes start rolling. I've got sarcasm, and witty come-backs and petty past grievances in spades.

Shakespeare reminds me in those emotionally difficult moments to-- Be an adult. Take some time to pray before I speak to my husband whenever I'm upset. Be humble, instead of self-righteous. Be little.

My name Abigail means "a fountain of joy" in Hebrew. I take delight in that apt description of myself, so bubbly, so joyous, so generally useless except for mere ornament in my Father's garden. Shakespeare reminds me to try my best to remain "an untroubled fountain".

There are a lot of people in my life who depend on me. I'm not much in the world, but to the few people who see me, I am their world. The more that I strive to become a lady, a true "gentle woman" in times of crisis, the better for all concerned.


*It's very interesting to reread this passage and think about our relationship to Jesus. He is our true "loving Lord." He has suffered so much for us, but all he asks is "loving looks and kind words" from us, His friends.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts About Harried Wife Syndrome

Marriage is under attack today in my old neighborhood. I can only pray and hope about that outcome today. Here's my first stab at talking about an even more insidious erosion of sacramental marriage--a rotting from the inside out.

My husband needs me. It doesn't matter how many non-sleeping toddlers and newborns we have in our house. I doesn't matter how critical I think homeschooling is this year. I doesn't matter how many church committees I get invited on. It doesn't matter how much I want to pray, or write, or organize a craft room.

If it gets to the point (like this past summer) where I scowl, or hiss, or look at him regularly like "there is nothing more inside me honey, I don't know where you think this extra energy to take care of your needs is going to come from?" It's up to me to back up and start over.

There's a book called "A Mother's Rule of Life" that I heard touted about online but I rushed to pick up before this year. As a Carmelite, I'm totally allergic to rules. This isn't "rules" about household management--this is more about Order. The author talks about a hierarchy of needs. Here's the passage that really helped me. (Thinking about putting this 5 P things in order)

Partner (Spouse)
Parenting (Kids)
Profession (Ummm, I can't really remember the exact title of the 5th P, and the book is with a sleeping baby so can't check it right now.--but basically it would be work for my husband and household management for me).

This simple chart was revolutionary for me to chew over last summer. First, It conquered my feelings of envy. I'm a messy person-with frizzy hair and loose (okay practically non-existent) sense of household order. I really envied my friends who had clean houses, lots of kids, and beautifully smooth lives. I realized that I had mistakenly assumed that if the "household management" part of their life was smooth, that it meant they had hit the other four parts of their life in order too. That wasn't necessarily the case. Moreover, I shouldn't be spending my time on pinterest, dreaming of organized pencil boxes for my home--I wasn't on that level yet. That would be a "misuse" of my time and attention.

What did shock me, was the "Person" level. I had to go back and find the inner Abigail that had gotten lost under layers of "Ack! There is a crying newborn in my house!"

I had gotten confused--and unintentionally become a member of the  Association of Women Suffering From Harried Wife Syndrome--because everyone kept talking about "the need to put yourself last." I don't know how many Catholic chats I had where it was told to me "God First, Then Others, Then Yourself." That is very true, except that service occurs after you've had a shower!

If you haven't had a baby yet, you probably think this is crazy disorganized of me, but there were many days that I didn't get a shower until 4:30 in the afternoon because I had a kid with colic. I'd wake up at 5:30 AM and she would be screaming. I'd nurse her until 6:30, and then the toddler needed milk and a diaper change. Then my six year old wanted oatmeal, which I made while bouncing a mad newborn on my shoulder because no kidding, she had turned herself strawberry red while screaming for the three minutes it took to change her older sister's diaper.  Round and round it would go.

I neglected myself.

I neglected my husband--who is the better half of myself, because that was part of neglecting myself.

It's been very strange in this journey to go back and "reinject Abigail" into my life. I feel like I got everything peeled away as a stay-at-home mother. I gave up my career dreams. I gave up my artistic dreams. I gave up my little vanities and pleasures. Here's the thing--that was very holy! I was not a pure, well-formed soul when I entered into this marriage--so I needed God to strip away my very, selfish and hardened heart.

Yet now we are in a stage of "reintroducing" Abigail back into her life. It's not going back to the old ways of chatting for hours at Art Gallery Openings or coffee houses. It's things that are so injured and forgotten, I didn't even think I could do them anymore. Tennis. Running. Scrabble. Chocolate Souffle.

Now, no matter how many shades of frustrated my sensitive baby girl becomes, she goes in her crib in the morning. I have an early morning coffee with my husband. I pray with Jesus. I put on my tennis shoes and run in front the sidewalk in our house. I take a shower. I fuss with my curly hair. I write a blog post. Then I spend the rest of my day, taking care of others ahead of myself. Its easier to take care of myself when I have the inspiration to do so in order to "serve others better." Its easier to serve others better, when I'm feeling more fresh and hopeful myself each day.

I don't want to be a Harried Wife, anymore. When I get like that, I hurt my marriage.

Voting Today

I don't live in Maryland anymore. Yet if I did, I'd vote NO on Question #6.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Bishop of part of Maryland explains)

"Marriage is a private relationship with a public significance. In the human love that brings a woman and a man to marriage, we already hear God speaking to us of the beauty and fidelity of love, its transforming power, and its creative energy. In the sacrament of matrimony, God speaks to us of a fullness of human love. Our limited experience of love is only a sign and beginning of love that changes us into children of God, who share his own wondrous and unending life in love."

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Prescription for True Joy

They are happy who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the road to Zion.

-Psalm 84, Longing for God's Temple
Today's Morning Prayer

(Can I just say sheepishly, I can't believe I ever complained that I "never get anything out of the dusty Psalms" when I started out as a Carmelite. When I pray them now, its poetry that is clear and seems so relevant to whatever is going on in my life.  If you're struggling with praying the Liturgy of the Hours, keep going. It's like Tennis. It gets easier and so much more fun with a little practice.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Angela Faddis Funeral Homily by Fr John Parks

On All Souls Day, this is a powerful homily offered earlier this fall for a 32 year old mother who died of cancer. Life for all of us is too short. Our Faith matters. Prayers always help!

Our Need to Bury the Dead

All Souls Day is a day that we pray for the dead-- a spiritual act of mercy.

I'm also concerned about a vanishing tradition of the corporal act of mercy--burying the dead. 

Did you guys watch the Sheen movie "St. Jame's Way?" It's about a Catholic Father coming to terms with the tragic death of his only son by hiking the traditional pilgrimage path in the Spanish Mountains. All during this movie, I'm gasping because the Father takes the ashes of his son and "scatters" them on the path.

This is not Catholic.

Catholics allow for cremation, however, the ashes of a body are holy and worthy of respect. They are supposed to be buried in the same dignity as a body. That means in the ground, or in one of those special vaults at a cemetery.  

Yet we are surrounded by a culture of paganism. The worse practice in Ancient Greece was to destroy the body of an enemy and "scatter the ashes to the wind." Now, we are in a place where taking a beloved grandfather, parent or child and "scattering their ashes" is seen as a good thing.

In the alternative, some grieving parents and children hold onto a loved one's ashes until they find the "perfect" burial spot. They can't bury their child right now because they will be moving soon, or can't afford a nice enough spot, or just aren't ready to drop a loved one in the cold hard ground and walk away. Those people have dead that remain unburied.

I truly get that death "sucks." It is not easy to leave someone you love in the ground. 

God's ways, however, are not our ways. God's ways are supernatural, because they are hard, but also because they are "healing." My husband and I have experience the healing that came from burying our son and burying his father.

In our culture, it's become hip to say "anything goes." "Oh you're grieving man, whatever brings you comfort." The Church, however, is our trusted Mother. She knows best. She urges us to do better.

Today, if there is someone that you love who still has the ashes of a dead loved one in their home, or who has plans to "scatter her ashes on Mount Kilimanjaro", pray for her. Then love her enough to tell her the truth.

Tobit, pray for us!

Reference: Catechism of the Catholic Church 2300- "The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.

2301-The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

All Souls Day

Did you know Catholics are some of the only Christians who pray for the dead?

When I was a Methodist, I'd go to funerals and the minister would lead us in prayers for the family--- there was never any mention of praying for the soul of deceased. We assumed that he or she was already rejoicing in Heaven. (The concept of Purgatory doesn't really exist in United Methodist Circles). I don't think my Protestant upbringing was unusual in this regard.

So that means on All Souls Day, we have Catholics have an extra duty to pray for the dead! Today, if you visit a church you have a chance for a Plenary Indulgence. There are also special indulgences attached to visiting a cemetery from Nov 1 to Nov 8.

Do a bunch, and then hit Confession this Saturday. Take your kids!

Happy All Saints Day

I believe the right Saints "find" you, and your are blessed forever by their affectionate, and personal friendship. Just a smattering of my good Saint friends.

Mary, the Mother of God             Crispian                                      John Paul II
Teresa of Avila                            Elizabeth of the Trinity                Mother Teresa
the Little Flower                          Louise and Zele Martin                Jesuit Martyrs of North Amer.
John of the Cross                        Francis of Assisi                           Uganda Martyrs
John of God                               Clare of Assisi                               Mother Cabrini
Luke                                          Elizabeth Ann Seton                      Bonaventure
Peter                                         Kateri Tekakwitha                         Anthony of Padua
Paul                                          Jude                                             Mary Magdalene
Gerard                                       King Louis of France                     Elizabeth of Hungary

Hope some of my bff friends find their way into your heart too this year!