Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Graduation Chronicles


I'm happy about graduation. And I'm sad about graduation.

Adam is SO SO SO ready for college. I'm SO SO SO ready for him to go to college.

And yet...

We're all so NOT ready for any of it.


I thought we had more time. He thought we had more time. We all thought there was MORE... and to be frank, there probably IS more. But we're not ready for the END that's about to occur.

How does one prepare oneself for the separation that comes after graduation. This boy was a parasite for three years (from the first hospital visit until the end of breastfeeding), he was a social neophyte for the next two years... after that he BLOOMED! I wasn't ready then and I'm not now. The only saving grace is Adam. Adam who wants to make this easy for me. Adam who will make friends faster than water freezes. Adam who is READY for the next phase in his life.

May GOD bless him. May he know how important it is to remain connected to his home. May it all work out the way God wants it to work out.

I want to love this. I almost HATE it. I'm trying to do better. :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Proud to be... Catholic

Last week my son and his classmates were honored at the Baccalaureate Mass at St Henry.  The Church brings out the big guns to honor the graduates, the big guns being the Knights in full regaila.  I know Adam was looking at the beautiful capes and engraved swords thinking how do I get in this club? 

During the moments when the miracle of transubstantiation occurs, the Knights raise their swords high in honor of the King.  It was a beautiful moment, touching most because it is such an ancient tradition. 

After the fact, I heard some of the family and friends of the graduates commenting on attending a Catholic Mass and how uncomfortable they were in that setting. 

Strange.  I've attended many different services at many different locations and have never been uncomfortable in an opportunity of prayer.

I think we have two issues that create discomfort.  The first, of course, is the disaster that's been the pedophilia scandal in the Church.  The second is overwhelming misconceptions about what and who the Church is.

Today the Catholic Church is under heavy fire for mistakes made over the last few decades involving exploits of some priests and young men.  And she should be.  The Church needs to go to war against pedophiles and anyone who would hurt our youngest and most defenseless.

My heart is broken for the young men - many now grown - and their families.  The horror of discovering your small son has been wounded in such a way... well, I know I cannot imagine what the boys and their families experienced to any degree of accuracy.

Yet this isn't the first time the Church has been found wanting socially or politically or economically.  Any entity with two thousand years of history and led by mere humans is bound to have hidden - and even very public - skeletons.  Key skeletons for the Church include the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the recent sexual abuse crimes.

Christ certainly never intended His Bride to have such a history. 

That said, I believe Christ did give us a prescription for how to build the Church and who should lead it.  I believe Christ gave us the diagram for Mass in Revelation and elsewhere.  I believe Christ told us to "do this in memory of me" when he said "this is my body.. blood... do this in memory of me."  Says Pat Marrin in NCR today:   
How we got ourselves from a Jewish Jesus who loved Torah and who washed feet and warned his apostles not to lord it over others to the Holy Roman Catholic church, ensconced in silk and gold brocade and embedded in the same Master Card and bullet-proof motorcade culture it shares with other multi-national corporations is one for the history books. Read it and weep, but don’t pretend the church has no issues.

I love the church, have always defined my existence within the mystery of the church and will swear on my Irish Catholic father’s grave and my late mother’s prayer altar on her dressing table at home, that the body of Christ is inseparable from an often sinful institutional church that I will remain a part of until the day I die.
I too love the great things the Catholic Church is and does.  I love the beauty of the Mass.  I love that who and what I am becoming is who and what Christ wants me to be.

Yet there are some Christians who declare Catholics are not even Christian.


With each bible study I take or lead with students young or old, I am led to a greater and greater intimacy with not only the Word, but also the Catechism, and the teaching of the Magisterium.  I believe in our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the Church that Jesus handed us.  I become more and more capable and willing to defend the Church using the Word and our Tradition (and for those who scream "sola scriptora" at this moment, remember the Word began as an oral tradition).

Having been subject to the new policies the Church has implemented to keep pedophiles and other criminals away from our youth (already subject to background checks and training to keep my school bus license, I was annoyed by the requirement to attend the 3-hour training session so I could continue to teach religion, play the piano, and coordinate weddings at St Henry), I see how seriously the Church is taking the potential threat to our youngest members.  It's a good thing and a marked improvement over past practices.  Is it enough?  I don't know.  I hope that if we find out it's not, we take the next step and the next until we solve the problem.

Those interested in what the Church has done and intends to do can learn more at Church websites from the local to the international levels.  And the Church IS doing something.

A good friend and fellow parishioner emailed the following to me, and I finished reading it with a deep sigh of relief.  Someone gets it.
Why would newspapers carry on a vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church?

Do you know - the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students everyday at the cost to that Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. The graduates go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%.  The Church has 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000 students.

The Catholic Church has a non-profit hospital system of 637 hospitals, which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people - not just Catholics - in the United States today.

But the press is vindictive and trying to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. They have blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage.

Let me give you some figures that Catholics should know and remember. For example, 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact in a study by the United Methodist Church , 41.8% of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior; 17% of laywomen have been sexually harassed. 
Meanwhile, 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia. 10% of the Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia. This is not a Catholic Problem.

A study of American priests showed that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most, if given the choice, would choose to be priests again in face of all this obnoxious PR the church has been receiving.

The Catholic Church is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by a small number of wayward priests that have probably been totally weeded out by now.

Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non-governmental agency in the United States . Then remember what Jeremiah said: 'Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls'. Be proud to speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions.
          Be proud that you're a Catholic.
Excerpts of an article written by non-Catholic Sam Miller - a prominent Cleveland Jewish businessman.
"Be proud that you're a Catholic."

That's advice I can take.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do You Wonder?

I wonder.

I wonder often!
... early in the morning
... late at night
... during church
... after lunch
... in the car
... near the flowerbeds

I wonder about Grace.
... do people who talk about it understand it?
... do those who have it always deserve it?
... do those who don't have it want it?

I wonder about peace.
... why is it elusive?
... why is it fleeting?
... why do we seek it?

I wonder about love.
... how can impatient people love?
... how can wounded people love?
... how can love sometimes be wrong?

I wonder.
... often!

Therapy and Blogging...

I logged in this morning to reformat last night's post and lost it.  Sometimes blogger makes me a little pouty.

I was thinking about my visit yesterday with the therapist I first met in 2002 when I was suffering post traumatic stress symptoms relating to our fatal 1997 bus accident. 

Those symptoms have returned.  No big surprise!  There's been a bit of trauma in the last couple years.  Over the last several months there hasn't been trauma.  Having been accustomed to constant bombardment with dramas and traumas, I sometimes feel like I'm constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop

It took me a long time to make the appointment.  First, there's the cost.  Then there's the revisiting of all the things I don't want to revisit.  Then there's fitting the visit into an already busy schedule.  I finally made it to Diane's office yesterday.

Once in her beautifully appointed and restful office, I opened my mouth and the words poured out.  Words about mother and her crazy behavior.  Words about the big paradigm shift we're about to experience when Adam moves to college.  Words about our marriage.  Words about how my job broke my heart in December.  Words about the value of my closest friends.

I didn't know I needed to say those things to someone impartial.  I didn't know I would feel refreshed and cleansed in the saying.  I didn't know some of those things were still painful.  I didn't know how much hope I have for the future.

When I first visited Diane in 2002, we talked about my long-held belief that nice girls don't get mad.  I didn't understand how to be mad and then I didn't understand how to stop being mad.  She recommended that I write whenever I felt strong emotions.  I could do whatever I wanted to do with the written product, she added; the goal wasn't a series of beautifully kept journals.  The goal was to let the process and the freedom of writing begin the healing. 

I hated that advice.  Honestly, how can something as passive as writing result in anything beyond... well, writing?

Still, always wanting to please my mentors or teachers or whomever was in charge in the moment, I did as instructed.  And you know?  She was right. 

I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Most of what I wrote I destroyed.

And I achieved balance and perspective and peace.

Why did I stop writing for myself?

Blogging is a different kind of therapeutic writing.  I read an article at the Scientific American website.  Scientists concur:
Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery...  Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming a community.”
Now I just need to throw a notebook and a pen in the drawer next to my bed.  Maybe this time I'll keep what I write.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Mother Factor

Now the mother of a soon-to-be graduate, I've been struck now and then with a pang of something like panic. 

It catches me at awkward moments: it struck when I opened Adam's graduation announcements to see the finished product, again when I cleaned towels off his floor one morning, and yet again when I attended a choir concert and watched his senior friends perform.

Things are going to be different next year.

So how does a mother handle this kind of change?  Considering I'm not even sure how to plan his graduation party, I'm not equipped to offer any kind of advice.

Sometimes I reach for the phone to call my own mother.  Who should we invite to Adam's party?  How much food should I make?  Is it okay to...  And then I realize my mother isn't the person to call. 

Instead, I made a list.  It's a masterpiece of a list.  Every project I've wanted to do at our house since we moved there fifteen years ago is on the list. 

Do I need to finish my list to have a party?  Nope.  I'm not one of those people who needs to have everything perfect to enjoy my family and friends - if I were, we would rarely entertain!  But my list sure gives me an excellent opportunity to put everyone else to work. 

Somehow this work is giving me time to adjust.  The work is keeping me in this moment, in today

And in the doing, I'm reminded of my own excitement when I was on the verge of starting my adult life.  I am not going to be the mother who dampens Adam's excitement and hope, nor will I be the mother who neglects the little moments of trepidation he feels at the thought of leaving home and going to a strange place full of new people. 

The mother factor matters in these moments.

Seems like there's a fine line to walk.  I guess we'll walk it like we've done everything else since Adam came to our house - depending on Grace, resting in the circle of our family, and sharing heaps of joy and laughter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Keeping the Sabbath

Early in this year's adult bible study, Jeff Cavins talked about the Sabbath at length.  I've been thinking about the Sabbath and how it plays in my life.

I'm a busy person.  Always busy.  There's home and work and music and volunteering and entertainment.  There's a husband and sons and extended family and friends and coworkers.  There's important stuff and unimportant stuff that feels important.  And there are only 24 hours in a day.

I asked Jakob if he could guess my favorite bible passage.  "That's easy," he said, "Be still and know I am God."  He's absolutely correct - that amazing son of mine.  Psalm 46:10.  Were I able to fully enter into that verse, I wouldn't quake in the face of fear.  Why would I have to?  If I know who God is, I have nothing to fear.

Yet, I fear.

I wonder if it's because I haven't yet had a Sabbath.

The Sabbath is about rest.  It's about trust.  It's about faith.

I give lip service to trust and faith, but are they REAL for me?  When something bad happens, do I rest in my faith or do I try to solve the problem myself?

For a long time, I thought I could solve problems.

One day I realized I couldn't.

And did I rest in the Lord?


I tried all kinds of cures that didn't work.  I tried all kinds of solutions contrary to what I believe.  I tried faith in the short term: God, if you make this better, I'm yours.

Guess what?

Everything failed, including me.

As a failure, I'll say one thing:  God loves me anyway and I don't care about the rest.

Truth.  I don't care about the rest.

My goal is to learn to keep the Sabbath.  If God could rest, why can't I?  Is my work more important?  More relevant?  More sincere?


I'm going to rest.  And I'm starting with mornings.  I go to work now at 11.  And between 5:45 and 11:00, I LIVE.  I LOVE.  I LEARN.

I will keep the sabbath.  If entering into rest is important to God, it's important to me.  I just have to learn to leave the world behind and let go of temporal pleasure.

I WILL be there.  I will rest.  I WILL enter the Sabbath.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Creed... My Very Own Version

I've been thinking about reinvention.

For the first half of my life - well, nearly half since I plan to live to be 96 - I have been shaped by things outside myself.  Sometimes the shaping is gentle and other times it's brutal. 

For the next half of my life I think I get to decide who to be. 

Here's where I'm starting:  I've been taking notes.

I'm excited to see where this project ends.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The List

There's a list hanging on the inside of the pantry door. 

It's really long.

Strange how every time I cross off something on the list, it seems like it's getting longer.

Still, I like what's happening around here.  We're acting like a team with a common goal.  Every now and then someone gets a little attitude, takes a break, and rejoins the team.

I could have a graduation party tomorrow.  I'm not that person who needs everything in a certain place in order to welcome people to our home.

No.  That's SO not me.  Ask the friends who've been over in the middle of painting projects or the morning after Adam's friends visit.  Scary messy!

But I'm not above taking advantage of the opportunity presented by a pending event to justify a list like the pantry one. 

Next major project?  Garage reorganization.  Hasn't happened in the fifteen and a half years we've lived in this house.

How am I feeling about it?

Can't.  Freaking.  Wait. 


Friday, May 7, 2010

Really Good Advice

Dear Adam:

1.  Wash it before it stinks.
2.  Put dishes in the kitchen.  In fact, don't even take them out of the kitchen.
3.  Never, ever drink things with flavor.  Almost everything with flavor leaves a stain or sticky mess.
4.  Shave your whiskers outside.  It keeps away some kind of plant-eating wildlife, and keeps the bathroom counters clean.
5.  Wear flip flops and go commando.  Less laundry.
6.  At least one color in the bottoms should match one color in the tops.  Or buy everything in white and black.
7.  If it's funny enough to happen on television, never try it at home.  Never.
8.  Remove enough junk from your vehicle so that the seat belts fit properly.
9.  ...


That list of annoyances is much shorter than I thought it would be.  I sat down thinking I could write a list of 100 things.

I'm left feeling a little sad that Adam's about to leave home.

Thank you, Blog, for helping reset my priorities.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Being the "Here I Am, Deal With Me" Guy

A long time ago I had a "problem" with a friend/associate.

She was my daycare provider and it was the first day of school.  I left my kids at her house WAY too long and she was mad. 

I called her and said something like "ya know, I just trusted that my children were with their second mom while others were lost on their buses" and was surprised that she was annoyed.

I should have respected her. I didn't.  She was mad.  But even when she was mad, she was a good "mother" to my sons. 

She should have been mad for many, many reasons, primarily my not respecting her family time. 

That we remain friends to this day she attributes to me facing the problem head-on, directly.  She has told me many times how grateful she is and how much she's learned from my direct approach. 

Long story short?  All the kids were where they were supposed to be and I was thankful.

On the personal level?

We worked through it because we confronted it directly. 

We can all learn a lesson from that.

Our Girls

We are happy to parent sons.  Really happy.  Our boys...  they're awesome.  Kind, smart, athletic.  My mother-in-law always said they each collected the best of both of us. 

Over the years we've collected some girls to love too.  The girls are daughters of friends or employees or relatives.  Now and then, the girls enter our lives because they care for our sons. 

Last night we went out to dinner with the exchange student who has become our daughter.  We love this girl and will keep her in our lives as long as we can.  She brings so many wonderful things to our home.  She sings.  She dances.  She giggles.  How anyone can not love her is beyond me.

We are going to be so sad when she goes home.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I've mentioned several of my favorite songs in my blog many times.  This morning I hear the refrain to a favorite Mark Schultz song, "He Will Carry Me."
And when all hope is gone and I've been wounded in the battle,
He is all the strength that I will ever need.  He will carry me.
Why do I forget that?

Last night we had our 22nd class of the 24 recommended by the Jeff Cavins Great Adventure Bible Study.  It's been quite a journey.  And every step of the way, I've learned something new and entered a closer relationship with Christ.  It's true was St Jerome says:  "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."  And to be honest, I never knew what I was missing.

In this 22nd session, we studied the birth of the early Church, the death of Stephen, and the conversion of Paul.  The early church leaders had their first council, The Council of Jerusalem, not long after walking with Jesus.  In their first conversations, they were trying to decide the value of the Old Testament laws and practices and what role thoses practices have in the early Church.  First on the list was circumcision and whether the Gentiles would be subject to the same law as the Jews.  We were directed to read some excerpts from Matthew 15 to see what Jesus himself had to say about tradition.
Then the Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal."  He said to them in reply, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"  (1-3)

He summoned the crowd and said to them, "Hear and understand.  It is not what enters one's mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.  (10-11)

"For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."  (19-20)
Say the editors of The Catholic Youth Bible
Evil intentions bear weight.
Jesus addresses the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders who manipulate the Law to their own good.  They and the people who follow them are blind to the results...  [They all need] to overcome their blindness to the results of evil intentions...

So how, in a world full of distraction, do we keep pure minds, hearts, and spirits?


Isn't that the million dollar question?

The answer, I think, dangles before us, and it's something to do with Grace and Hope. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blogger Block

I have blogger block.

I am not suffering because I have nothing to say.  Just the opposite.  I have too much to say.  Sheesh.

And so I am in limbo.

Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.

Ichabod Crane in the film Sleepy HollowTruth!
Says Col. John Eidsmoe, Colonel, Alabama State Defense Force, in his sermon notes: "Unfortunately, evil does not come today with warning labels."

Evil is often beautifully packaged and tempting to us on many sensory levels.

How often do we reach for something beautiful, smell something delicious, taste something divine, hear something astonishing, and tell something juicy just for the simple pleasure it brings us? The warm curl of pleasure must be Good if it feels so good - mustn't it?

We trust our own feelings of pleasure even though we know our senses deceive us regularly into all kinds of wrong-ness - eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much money, being too intimate with a friend...

Being deceived by our senses is certainly not exclusive to this time and place. Full of envy because God prefers his brother, Cain kills Abel. Full of lust for the beautiful Bathsheeba, David sends a man to his death. Full of pride in his accomplishments, Solomon ignores God's warnings and falls into idol worship.

Says the Catholic Youth Bible, "Sometimes, when we think we are the strongest, we are actually weakest... Have you ever considered doing someting that you knew was wrong? Have you ever used the excuse, 'I'm strong enough to handle this,' to lead you into doing something wrong?" (373).

I have.

And when I did, I wore my own mask of virtue, saying and doing so many righteous things.

I no longer wear that mask, and won't again.

I'm pretty sure I won't be blogging for awhile.