Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Choices

I dropped my cellphone. It slipped from my too-full hands and crashed at the Wal-Mart checkout. It was the second time it happened that day. Poor little, underappreciated device, I casually picked it up and shoved its battery back in, replacing its rear end to restore its dignity.

The young male cashier commented, "I love how you just pick it up, like 'no big deal'. If that was a smartphone I would have been freaking out, like 'Everybody remain calm!'."

I laughed. "I don't have a smartphone, but my son really wants one."

"My little brother is only maybe a little bigger than him," he said, indicating my five-year-old Danny I supposed. "And he has a smartphone, an I Pad, two tablets."

"I was talking about my twelve-year-old," I responded.

"Oh," the genial young man replied, confused. "Well, uh...have a nice day."

What was left for him to say at that impasse of philosophies? That conversation illustrates my idea of a healthy world and the current, mad trend. Does anybody left in this technological age believe in choices? In consumer wisdom and conservation of resources? Or the idea to earn through effort and sacrifice what you desire?

Hmmm. We give I Pads and tablets to toddlers. We plant phones in the hands of often foolish adolescents who do not understand privacy and courtesy as it was understood just within the last century and who do not appreciate what is simply handed to them. We listen to acquaintances complain about the cost of gas in shepherding their children to activities, or credit card debt, or mortgages, meanwhile holding in their hands an "indispensable" and very pricey smartphone or tablet.

Yes, my Berto, at the ripe old age of twelve, wants a cellphone. No, excuse me, a smartphone. He moans when we announce he can have a flip phone like mine when activities get too great, and he must go many places without us. He wants a smartphone. Anything less would be embarrassing.
He asked if he could have one if he helped pay for it, but his dad pointed out that it is not just about the sticker price of such an expensive gadget, it is the money we will pay monthly for data, talk, and texting service. But every last one of his friends has a smartphone! I believe him, though it makes me shake my head and moan in turn.

I understand peer pressure. I understand that phones are the new status symbol. So why will we not get him a cellphone? Well, my philosophy on life does not allow for status symbols, first of all. But it is also for the same reason that I tell my preschooler no, we can't get a balloon or toy at the grocery store, because balloons and toys are for special occasions. It is for the same reason that I tell my younger children that, no, we can't eat out at a fast food restaurant today, because we just got take-out as a family last week, and to eat out every week or every few days would be financially foolish. It is for the same reason that my children keep their school backpacks for at least a couple years or until they wear out.

No, that reason is not that I am a meanie head. It is that I dislike consumerism, and I dislike a throw-away mentality (and, yes, that includes exchanging an electronic gadget for a new one simply because a more advanced version has come out, or trashing a backpack merely because it is so "last year"), and I dislike going into debt by nickeling and diming myself to death over things that do not matter.

I believe in choices. If we buy that bigger house, we cannot take a fancy family vacation months later. If I got Starbucks last week, I will not get it this week. We do not need more toys - ever! - because most toys do not help a child grow their imagination, only serving to clutter our lives and our home with useless junk. No, we will not have a TV in every room, and definitely not in the bedrooms. We only need one computer in this family. My kids cannot have a huge birthday party with their friends and a ton of presents from us and go out to dinner. If they have the party or take two or three friends on a fun outing, they receive only birthday books from Mama and Papa.

But it's about so much more. It is about being aware of the world around us. I am convinced that if we all read the news, the real news, every day, we would not feel the urge to get that bigger house, sleeker car, brand new gadget, or even that junk food that we crave. For in reading about an African slum quarantined because of Ebola in which the thousands of residents only have three restrooms between them, we become aware of our foolish claims. In reading the words of a young boy in a refugee camp as he cries that he has no parents, no education, and no hope, we become more aware of our self-absorption. In seeing the pictures of minorities driven out of their homes by extremists, we become aware of what truly matters, and we recollect the words of a wise man who said, "Live simply, so that others may simply live."

The conversation with my children about these vital matters are frequent, and I confess I am perhaps too heavy-handed. Yet, in speaking to them about how we, here in America, run to the grocery store on a whim, because we are "out of ice cream" or "we need that Irish soda bread with the raisins" for our St. Patrick's day dinner, juxtaposing that with families living in Haiti who are eating dirt biscuits for their dinner and kids in Africa who are getting worms from poor drinking water and AIDS orphans living several to a mud hut, they can see, I fervently hope, just how spoiled we are and how we should really try not to be. We can then choose together not to make that trip to the store for things that are so obviously superfluous to our health and happiness.

You have heard about this "entitlement generation". Perhaps we have all become part of it. But what if we could save ourselves? What if we could change our kids' perspectives by teaching them that life is about choices? What if we instilled in their minds that status symbols passed out like stickers are worthless, but effort, solidarity and integrity are everything? What if we could all sacrifice pleasures and wants now and then in order to afford a greater charitable offering? We might then be able to fight the plague of consumerism, clutter and unreasonable expectations that are attacking the sense of what is truly necessary and enriching and destroying the spirit of hard work and sacrifice that our grandparents and parents exemplified.

Yes, I am crazy, and, yes, I have my own consumer weaknesses. I wish I could get a Starbucks every day! I balk at cooking dinner most nights. If chocolate is on sale, I'll grab it. And I have at times desired that bigger, nicer home. No one has yet or ever will walk into my home, and declare it to be gorgeous, beautifully decorated and exquisitely furnished. Our house is small; most of our furniture is second-hand and repurposed; and nearly everything on my walls or shelves that could be termed "décor" was given to me by family members or friends - therefore not complementary but full of sentimental significance. And that is suitable. Alas, I'm too frugal to buckle under pressure for appearances. The antidote is in acknowledging the poverty in the world around me. And so every day I thank God for our health, our home, our food, our safety, our overwhelming blessings that may seem so plain and unadorned to the world's eyes.

And what of my beautiful, intelligent oldest son? Well, we didn't refuse him a smartphone, because we don't love him. We didn't get him one yet, because we do love him. You can spoil kids with things, but you can never spoil them with love or attention. (Hold that baby as long as you like!) I have assured him that by not caving to the world's superficial expectations of him, by not burying his mind in myriad electronic distractions, he will someday grow to be a successful leader and team player, able to look into others' eyes while communicating effectively (for which characteristic other parents have already praised him), full of the solid values and soft skills with which every human being should be armed against vanity, dissipation and selfishness.

What is important, after all? It's all about choices.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sunlight on the Forest Floor: Baptism


It is Holy Week for Christians, and though we do not observe it exactly the same way, we all rejoice at Easter, the holiest and most celebratory time in the Christian calendar. For Easter is the great event that caused St. Paul to muse:

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56

For Catholics the Easter Vigil when we mark salvation history through myriad readings from Scripture beginning with Genesis, is especially sacred. For after months of preparation on their part, we welcome new members into the body of Christ through baptism. (In fact that period of intense preparation on the part of the Catechumens is how the forty days of Lenten preparation for the whole community originated many centuries ago.)

Before I speak of baptism, I want to share a joke one of our parish priests told at the beginning of a homily. The gist of it was this: St. Peter was giving a tour of heaven to a man, showing him all the many beautiful banquet halls where the faithful were gathered together, joyously eating and conversing with one another. St. Peter and the man then approached a closed door, and St Peter warned the man to be silent and to tread lightly.

"Why is the door closed, and why do I need to be quiet?" asked the man.

"Because," replied St. Peter, "the Catholics are in there, and they think they're the only ones here."

The priest said he wasn't just picking on us Catholics by telling that joke; one could substitute many different Christian groups. I have myself heard the judgments pronounced on various communities of Christians by their fellows.

Now we come to baptism. In Acts of the apostles we see quite a diversity of baptisms. There is the baptism of the multitude who heard Peter's speech at Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41). There is the unusual case of the Samarians who were baptized in the name of Jesus but were later visited and prayed over by Peter and John, so that they could receive the Holy Spirit who had not yet fallen upon them (Acts 8:14-17). Then there is the opposite event when Peter preached to Cornelius' household, and the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening, and Peter cried, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" (Acts 10:44-48). Later we read the account of the jailer, guarding Paul and Silas in prison, who asks what he must do to be saved. They told him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved." He and all his family were baptized immediately (Acts 16: 25-33).

Many of the baptisms we find in Acts happen quite quickly with little preparation except the inspired words spoken by the Apostles. And Scripture tells us that households and families were baptized together. I think we should reject the belief that we know precisely the proper time, place, age and manner in which someone else can be baptized, that we must understand fully the implications of our baptism. If it were necessary to understand the transformation fully before it took place, it could not take place for any of us. But after baptism? Ah, then the grace comes, and new wine can be poured into new bottles.

For the sake of dispelling some misunderstanding, let me share with you some of what Catholics believe about baptism. To do so I must briefly explain what we mean by the word Sacrament.

"The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" through the work of the Holy Spirit. (From the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults)

Efficacious means they do what they are supposed to do.

Water is the ordinary matter of baptism, but it signifies a spiritual reality, that of dying to sin, being cleansed, and rising to new life in Christ. Baptism is necessary for salvation (John 3:5).  However, we believe "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but he himself is not bound by the sacraments" (CCC no. 1257). Thus we believe in a baptism of desire, such as that of a catechumen who dies before the Easter Vigil or that of anyone who would have desired baptism had they known its necessity, and we believe in a baptism of blood, meaning that of a person who dies for Christ before they can be baptized.

But what does baptism do? In it we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we become the children of God, co-heirs with Christ. Our sins are forgiven, and the stain of original sin is removed, though not its effect (Romans 7:18-25).

In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:18-21

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more! I love that. As we will sing in the "Exsultet" during Mass this Holy Saturday night, "O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" Instead of living under a spirit of slavery to sin, through our baptism we are able to partake of the divine life, to live as children of God in a spirit of adoption, being "born again" through the Holy Spirit and led by grace in an ongoing conversion to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son.

Who performs a baptism? Though a priest is considered the ordinary minister, anyone can baptize. The Catholic Church accepted my baptism and accepts the baptisms of other Christians. We do not re-baptize those who convert to the faith unless they have reason to believe that they were not truly baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). Baptism is done only once, a permanent change in our spiritual lives.

People have compared baptism to a membership card that allows entry into and participation in a church, as if church were some elite club for do-gooders. No, no. Please, when you see the word Church, understand Christian family; understand Body of Christ; and see the church built on the rock of Peter against which the gates of hell will not prevail.

Yet we do acknowledge baptism, as well as Communion, as the sign of the New Covenant, just as circumcision was a sign of the old. Jewish babies were circumcised and thus brought into and instructed in the Jewish faith. Now we bring our children into the faith through baptism. Remember that when the jailer believed Paul and Silas' words, his whole family was baptized. Grace is always given in baptism; it is efficacious. Faith is first and foremost a gift from God, His call to us. Our response makes the circle complete, and grace is the foundation of our response.

But the Lord's mercy is from age to age, toward those who fear him.
His salvation is for the children's children of those who keep his covenant, and remember to carry out his precepts. (Psalms 103:17-18)

Parents are the domestic church, the first teachers of the love of Christ, and I think family is the most fruitful place to engender faith. My own dad talked to his children constantly about God. (Thank you, Dad!) I also firmly believe children can and do have real faith. I had faith in Jesus as a child. I spoke long and often about my love for him and shared his words with my friends while at home or at school, a little evangelist. It often seems to me now that it was a more perfect faith, devoid of the pride, hesitation and fear I battle in adulthood. Perhaps this is why Christ said we must become like little children.

At the Easter Vigil a couple years ago, I was especially touched by the baptism of a young girl of about 10 years of age. Her father had formerly identified himself as an atheist; the mother had fallen away from her faith. But this little girl learned about Jesus from a teacher, and she desired baptism. Through her faith her whole family was stirred and blessed.

We should be very careful in pronouncing anyone's baptism invalid. People have told me that my baptism is invalid, because I could not have understood its significance when my dad dunked me in the cold creek by my childhood home at around eight years of age. One of my friends confided that fellow Christians declared her infant baptism invalid - despite the fact that she is living her faith. But I wonder if anyone would, in light of the incredible witness of her life, declare Mother Teresa's baptism invalid, performed the day after she was born - a day that she celebrated instead of her birthday.

Pope Francis called on Christians to remember and mark the day of their baptisms, just as Mother Teresa did hers. Though I remember little more of mine than a fear of being submerged in that creek water, each Easter I stand with fellow Christians to renew baptismal promises in solidarity with new Christians who are uttering them for the first time, renouncing sin and Satan, before they rise to new life in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Laughing




Today has been a long day, another day in which I have tried to balance raising children, maintaining a decent home, and pursuing my writing goals. Too often I berate myself for not doing anything full well.

It is very rewarding and aggravating being a mother. I have begun telling my children, "If I ask you several times nicely to do something, and you ignore me, that means you want me to yell. It means you want me to get your attention in a different way."

Yes, I know. They don't want me to yell, but I'm a bit fed up. They know to clear their plates, yet several evenings I find their dinner dishes still residing at table. We have hampers and shoe baskets in this house, but every day you can find footwear and articles of clothing scattered. They know to eat, take a shower, get dressed completely, brush hair and teeth, and pack lunches in the morning, yet every morning I ask them again and again to do what they should be doing. The habitual stress of school mornings can take years off a mother's life.

My kids are good kids. Teachers, coaches and friends regularly come to me and praise my children for their good manners, work ethic and attitudes. And I'm grateful my kids behave so well in public; I just wish they would behave for me! I get to see their unguarded selves, and I am blessed to witness the giggles, silliness and raw emotions. Still, it means I get all the attitude, complaints, and rude responses as well.

As for the house....well, I dream of having help. I'm not lazy, you know. I don't watch TV during the day. I don't lie on the couch eating chocolate and reading mystery novels. I try. I pick up things constantly and return them to their proper places. I sort and clear out school papers, junk mail, old clothes and toys, but my house is still what it is: a cluttered mess. I do dishes and laundry and vacuum and sweep and wipe clean, but this place still look s neglected. It brings me down. I don't mind having a small house (by modern standards); I just wish it looked nicer.

As for my writing? Well, I already covered that in my last post. I'm not lazy there, either. It's hard work for which I do not get paid, and I plug away at it. I'm just not as prolific or savvy as I wish I were.

Anyhow, today I weathered my youngest daughter's tantrum about taking a shower; saw a pile of clothes still on the floor after asking my son to put them up for the third time; examined the dust on my shelves, the disastrous yard, and the wreckage in my laundry room with something like despair; and realized anew that my youngest boy just wants me to entertain him continually despite the work and writing I have to do. So I haven't been feeling grateful. I've been feeling overwhelmed. Again. I don't know how other mothers work a part or full-time job, maintain a garden, indulge their creativity, cook regular meals, still play with the kids, spend time with their husbands, and get plenty of sleep. Is it possible? Sometimes I think it is for them, but not for me. I wasn't given the magic recipe.

Amid all this frustration today, I took my boy Danny to get a birthday present for a friend before picking his siblings up from school. He liked the gift he chose. When we got home he tried to open the gift bag we'd purchased to place the present inside. A few minutes later, he found me in the kitchen, the bag still folded in his hand, ripped down both sides.

"Danny, what happened?" I cried.

"I tried to open it," he answered softly.

I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands, breathing deeply. More money wasted.

But then? I made a decision.

"It's okay, Danny. It was a mistake. We all make mistakes."

Berto started to scold Danny, but I pointed out that the little guy wasn't being disrespectful. He didn't rip the bag while throwing a fit. It was a mistake, and, as Ella pointed out, he came to me and told the truth.

I went outside to put the bag in recycling, reflecting on the day while having a little conversation with God:

Father, I'm having trouble being grateful today....all the aggravation. I want to be grateful. I just...help me be grateful...

The last part was thought as I came back across the threshold into the house. As I saw my kids' faces, God answered my prayer in a surprising way. I saw an image of Jesus laughing over the ripped bag, over the silly things that happen, laughing with Danny and letting it go. And I let it go. The stress melted.

"It's okay," I told Danny again, this time with a lighter heart and restored attitude. "Jesus loves you."

A Writer Perseveres



A few months ago I received a handwritten letter from a dear friend in the mail. In it she spoke of my writing and offered some advice:

Don't Quit! We all have to learn & refine our craft AND find our own unique voice. I think this is where you are. Some people are gifted with what seems effortless talent. The rest of us have to work on it!

I am ashamed to say that at first blush my pride was hurt when I read her words. Instead of seeing the truth and encouragement in them at a time when I needed those, I fell into the familiar pit of discouragement and started wondering what was wrong with my voice, or if others thought I even had one as a writer, and why it was that I still had much to learn when I have written regularly for some time now. In place of these initial selfish thoughts, I could have been reflecting on my great fortune in having a friend who cared so much she wrote me a traditional letter by mail and dedicated some of its words to bolster me up in my dreams.

About that time - as I was feeling that familiar creative bleakness - I also read a post from Jennie Goutet, a blogger and author at A Lady In France, called A Mountain Meeting With God, and it humbled me to read her perspective of her own myriad endeavors, because to me she seems one of those gifted with effortless talent. And something struck me as I read it. Perhaps I am not the writer I believed myself to be. Perhaps I am just burdened with my own prideful expectations. That could be the reason why I have difficulty engaging people in such a way that they feel compelled to share my work or comment on it. Perhaps God has different plans for me (even though the idea of that saddens me - as if my God did not know me and the desires of my heart far better than I do). Perhaps I am expecting more from people than I am able to give through my words. Just because I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl does not mean I am a better one than someone who realized they wished to write for an audience last year. The pride must go.

And so must the discouragement.

I often wonder how far I might go in my writer's journey without this knapsack of discouragement I carry around perpetually, ready to hug it to me in some lonely place, sniffling as a shower of negative thoughts fall around me. What could I do if I stopped comparing myself to other bloggers? What could I do if I stopped beating myself up for not being "popular", squashing my inspiration in self-doubt?

Well, I could persevere and ditch that poisonous baggage I haul around on top of my dreams. My dreams might then be so buoyant, they could lift me up like a hot air balloon. I could write more and trust that somehow, someday all this work will pay off.

Because diligence does pay off. A post came around that illustrated my friend Camille's words perfectly. It was a piece about my 35th birthday, and it gave me headaches. I spent more than a week writing and rewriting it, wondering why it was taking me so long to say what I wished to say in the way I wished to express it. Then I asked the inevitable, If I am a writer, why can't I find the words to tell a story that I so badly want to tell? After writing for years why do I still grapple with the effect of my words so much? But I persisted in writing it, and the work did indeed pay off. It got a few comments, several likes, and some of my friends told me in person just how much they enjoyed it. (You can find that post HERE.) Camille's words of wisdom finally hit home. We are not given the same gift. Some do indeed have effortless talent and are quite prolific, too, the Agatha Christies of the world. The rest of us have to work on it, but in doing so we know we will "refine our craft AND find our unique voice". We may never receive the acclaim we desire, but in persevering we at least know we are using our unique God-given gift, doing what we were made to do.


I recommend this piece by Christine Carter on discouragement and gaining a renewed perspective: That Dirty Rag of Discouragement.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Humble Pie Housekeeping

There was a strange man by our mailbox when we got home one Sunday. He coolly sat there watching us pull into our driveway, his white sedan near where weeds were choking the landscaping rocks. The guy kind of looked like my husband Matthew, but my husband was golfing that afternoon.

I was on to this guy - whatever he was trying to pull by resembling my husband. I told the kids, "Nobody move. Don't get out of the van until I see what he's about."

So we parked and didn't move until the man casually emerged from his vehicle, and my oldest son Berto cried, "It's Uncle Tim!"

Then the doors were pushed open, and the kids sprinted down the driveway. I had forgotten my husband said he might come by, and sirens whistled in my head as I desperately tried to think with a dumb smile on my face, WHAT DOES THE HOUSE LOOK LIKE?

Yes, what does the house look like? So many times in my life I've asked myself this sorry question. I've had my share of humble pie at the hands of unexpected visitors.

I mean, sure, when you're deadly ill, being rushed to the hospital, you can let the shame go reasonably well when your friends come to watch the kids in your smelly, disheveled home. After all, they can't judge you too harshly while your fate seems uncertain. And when the repair man comes for the AC unit, puts on his little booties so as not to mark your juice-smeared floor, and you realize you forgot to cover the duct tape that holds your couch together at the seam, you can trust you won't see him again...or you can logically explain that your couch hasn't reached its 15 years of mandatory service yet, and you're not cheap - really!- just frugal and resourceful. Then you can ask if he watches the Red Green show.

But when your brother-in-law walks into your littered home and sees St. Paddy's Day signs waving in the vented breeze, wishing him the luck of the Irish in late April, you have little option but to joke as you turbo-sweep and straighten the clutter about his feet, "Come back in July, and we'll have the Easter signs up!"

And he glibly responds with, "And by Christmas, Halloween!"

Worse is the exposure of your poor housekeeping methods at the hands of expected visitors. A dear friend comments every time she enters your door, "I'm so glad your home is cluttered like ours - stuff everywhere!", and you comfort yourself that you're a reality ambassador, spreading cheer and lowering expectations. Party guests innocently open the microwave, believing you maintain your appliances, and find what looks like a hideous laboratory from a horror film, so you try to show appropriate horror and blame it on the kids' experiments in blowing up spaghetti. Your father-in-law uses your master bath and is greeted by feminine unmentionables dangling from the doorknob (You're not overly proud of them; you just think they add that extra something to the décor.) and bits of mustache trimmings in the sink. Too late at night, you pull out the bed from the sleeper sofa to make it up for relatives, and they jump back with an, "Oh my gosh!" and then giggle and point at What Lies Beneath, awed by the magnitude of the decaying debris. You can grumble that you cleaned under there only a few weeks ago as you fetch the vacuum, but they won't believe you.

It's always something that you forgot to hide or clean. Humiliation is just a pair of thongs or a moldy, forgotten sippy cup away.

I used to be prouder of my home...before I had kids and lost a critical, maybe fatal, amount of sleep. I used to make huge, long lists, weeks before entertaining, that included such ridiculous items as these:

Mop floors

Dust ceiling fans and pictures

Polish table, chairs and hutch with olive oil/lemon juice

Mow lawn

Remove bras from bathroom doorknobs

Clear off entertainment center and book shelves

Now my list looks like this:

Try to sweep

Load dishwasher if possible

Hide laundry

Comb hair

Take a nap

Perhaps someday I'll get back to mopping floors with more than wet paper towels stuck to the bottoms of my feet, polishing furniture until I can see my haggard face in it and scrubbing bathrooms every Tuesday morning, but right now I'm tired, and sick of society telling me what the perfect house should look like. Houses come in all shapes and sizes, darnit, and different levels of disorder, decay and maltreatment by dwellers, and I'll take mine as it is, so lived in it's beautiful, with a slice of humble pie to stay.


This post was originally published on this blog in July 2013.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happily Published Elsewhere

On this blog I have not done a very good job of sharing when my pieces are published elsewhere. I need to get better about that and start supporting more fully those who publish my work, because I appreciate their support.

So a huge shout out goes to Teri Rizvi who founded a website in honor of the late, great Erma Bombeck at the University of Dayton: Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. Teri has accepted many of my posts for publication, and I am very grateful to have my work appear on such a wonderful, humorous, Erma-honoring site where many accomplished writers appear regularly. Sometimes I feel intimidated, because, really, I am being published alongside these talented people in a place dedicated to one of the greatest humor writers of all time, but I am supremely grateful for the opportunity to be in their company.

My latest post to be featured there actually explains how I got the title for this blog from something my dad uttered nearly every day to his kids for years while we were growing up. You can read all about it HERE. Please share!

The latest post of mine to be published is quite the opposite of a humor post. It is an exceptionally personal faith post. In fact it is so personal that sometimes I groan to think that people I don't know or barely know are reading it. Goodness, people I love madly who may have trouble understanding it, because it is from a decidedly Catholic perspective, are reading it. Nevertheless, it was such a profound experience that I needed to write about it, and my husband suggested I submit it for publication. In it I confess wholeheartedly that I am a sinner, one who often battles discouragement, and that it is by the grace of God that I stand. That post appears at CatholicMom.com and is called Jesus Always Has Our Back.

Thank you, readers and friends, for supporting my endeavors to become a better writer. I am always grateful for your readership and comments. God bless!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sunday, Not a Fun Day

This week has been something else. Last week bulldozed into this one, piling debris on that I am now attempting to brush off my mood.

My husband had four wisdom teeth pulled last Friday, but he wanted to go to 9am Mass on Sunday nevertheless. During the consecration Matthew's head turned towards me with a very weird expression on his face. My husband then promptly passed out as he was kneeling, eyes still wide open as he slumped against the pew in front. My arms stretched out to brace him, and I attempted to revive him with urgent words, but he was unresponsive for many moments. Others gathered around as Mass went on.

It's the ushers' responsibility to deal with medical emergencies, and our usher did indeed come to assist. Matthew revived, and immediately, fear passing, I burst into tears. A doctor attending Mass came into our pew, explaining that he was a medical professional. Someone asked Matthew if he knew where he was. He replied, "In church." Another woman a couple pews back called 9-1-1, and the doctor made Matthew lie down while an elderly woman propped his legs on her lap to chafe them. Other people brought wet paper towels and cups of water or aspirin, none of which were used by the doctor's orders. It was chaos, and people had to wind around us to get to Communion. I apologized for blocking one gentleman's way, and he hugged me tightly. Then a friend who heads Children's Liturgy of the Word took my youngest two. Poor Ella had been crying over "Daddy". (She's the only one who doesn't call him Papa.) Daniel had been stranded on the other side of the Doc, a pliable, bewildered, but stoic expression on his face. I felt badly for Ana and Berto; they were altar serving and could not come to us. I only found out later that they didn't even know who it was that had passed out.

Eventually the firemen came, and we followed them to the long music room. Matthew became very nauseous in there, and so they recommended having an ambulance take him to the hospital. Many tests were performed, but nothing serious was found. Meanwhile, two very compassionate friends, Diane and Geraldine, took care of our children  by feeding them donuts and lunch, playing games with them and then taking them to the park. There were also many other people in our parish who were very kind to our family. It was an adventurous day for us all, but not my kind of adventure.

Of course, in the days since - what a joy to be obsessive! - I have seen Matthew's wide-eyed face as he slumped against the pew play over and over in my mind. I'm afraid I have fussed over him much more than he would like, refusing to let him drive or go to work on Monday. He is never, ever allowed to scare me so terribly again! That was a very helpless and horrible feeling I had at Mass. I guess we should not have gone, though many of our church family said there could be no better place to faint; everyone can pray for you at once and receive Communion.

At any rate, not only have I been very worried about my man, but I have felt guilty about not taking care of him as I should have after his oral surgery. I made and fed him pudding, jello and watery mashed potatoes, and he was drinking a decent amount of water with his medication, but I feel that I should have been giving him better nutrition and shoving glass upon glass of fluids at him, just as my mother used to do for me when I was ill. He probably was dehydrated or, accustomed as he is to heavy-duty protein from red meat and such, malnourished. I have never been a good nursemaid, I'm afraid, though I really did try to serve his needs.

However, I am, in light of everything, grateful that I did not leave Matthew home alone on Sunday as I had planned to do originally. He is well, thank God, but I warn you, my friends: oral surgery is no laughing matter.