Blog Jump Start: Week 5

This week's Blog Jump Start hosted by Donna at What if God Says No asks: If you had to evacuate quickly and everyone was safe, what things would you grab?

Donna didn't give us any parameters regarding how much space we have to take things and/or how much time we would have. In my head, I was thinking what can fit in the car and be grabbed within 15  minutes or so. I also decided to limit myself to 10 items/groups of items. In no particular order (and assuming my phone and purse are considered part of me being safe):

  1. Sugarbeet's lovey and favorite blanket.
  2. The external hard drive with all of my photos and important files backed up on to it.
  3. The bin of items from my and R's childhoods and Sugarbeet's bin.
  4. The icon of Mary that hangs above me when I sleep.
  5. A few items of seasonally appropriate clothing and footwear for each of us, all to fit in one carry on size suitcase.
  6. My dad's high school class ring.
  7. Sugarbeet's baptismal gown.
  8. A bag of bath toiletries.
  9. Snacks and water.
  10. The icon of St. Michael that hangs in Sugarbeet's room above her crib.
Prior to my divorce, I think I would have had a much harder time with this. Everything would have seemed important, with a memory attached to it. While I had more time than 15 minutes (a few hours), I didn't have a ton of space and I had to make decisions quickly as to what things I wanted. Only once or twice have I looked back and wished I'd taken something I left, and honestly, it has always been more  a matter of convenience than something sentimental.

[Unrelated: There is a new post on the private blog.]


Blog Jump Start: Week 4

This week's Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, asks: "Guess who's coming to dinner? Living or dead, who would you invite?"

My very initial reaction to this prompt was "ugh. I hate this writing prompt/ice breaker/whatever question." (Sorry, Donna! Keep reading though, I thank you at the end!) The pressure to answer with the right person, on the spot usually, it just stresses me out. I'm always left thinking "aw man, that was a great answer, why didn't I think of that person?" So, I honestly didn't think I'd join in for this week's link up.

However, while I was running on the dreadmill (dreaded treadmill) I found myself thinking about it. My initial gut response was 'my Dad.' I mean, of course I'd love to have him over for dinner - let him have a chat with Sugarbeet and revel over her as she uses real silverware and eats pretty much whatever is put in front of her; hear him tell "lighten' up Becca" after correcting her; and just watch him, watch her.

I started to wonder, hmmm, does this prompt include the proviso that all of the awkwardness would be gone? Or that all past hurts would be forgiven? Because honestly, as much as I'd love to sit down to dinner with my Dad one more time, I can't say it would be a perfectly stress-free affair. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.

That led me to think beyond my initial response (and outside of family members who have died). What other person would I want to have dinner with? Jesus? Of course. Mary? Yes, please! Saints? Yes! Famous people? Maybe. Depends on the person.

My thoughts morphed from who would I want to come to dinner to just the ritual of dinner itself. Growing up, I honestly have zero memories of my immediate family (mom, dad, brother, and me) sitting down at the dinner table together. I am sure it happened, but I do not remember it. I'm sure some of that is due to that my parents divorced when I was eight. I do have memories of dinners growing up, but dinner time was never really a central focus in our lives. As my brother and I grew older and involved in more activities, family dinners became nearly nonexistent. In my prior marriage, we tried to have dinner together often but in the course of the marriage more often than not we did not sit down at the table together for meals. It wasn't until January, 2015 that a set dinner time became a regular routine in my life.

First, it was just R and me, then along came Sugarbeet, and for the past three years, dinner time has become central to our family. I look forward to this time every day - the preparation and the sitting down to eat together. While I cook, R and Sugarbeet will play and I listen to music or a podcast or I watch something on my iPad. Then we sit down together, pray, and eat dinner. We catch up on our days and talk about what is coming up. They are my most cherished moments of each day.

When I worked in marriage ministry, specifically marriage prep, I would share statistics about the small percentage of families who eat meals together. I would talk about how this contributes to the breakdown of the family because it is so often at the family table where we get to know one another. It is how so many relationships begin - over a shared meal - and yet when life gets busy it is often one of the first things to go. There was a time where families ate 2 - 3 meals per day (14 - 21 meals per week) together; today many families are lucky to share 2 or 3 meals per week together. Our lives face outward instead of inward in so many ways. Many good. Some not.

All of this led me to my answer for this prompt. Who would I invite to dinner? R and Sugarbeet.

Yes, a guest is nice and there are so many people who I'd love to chat with over dinner, but there is a hole in my memories where family dinners are not. It is a gaping hole where the work of family life was never really done; a hole that I intend to fill up full to overflowing for Sugarbeet. It is where each day our family reconnects, shares our joys and our struggles; our success and our failings. While we are far from perfect, this is one area that we have done things well and this prompt reminded me of that. Ironically, it wasn't something we set out to do well. It was just the rhythm of life we settled into. So, while I wasn't thrilled with this prompt, I am grateful to and I thank Donna for asking the question. It certainly gave me a lot to consider.


Blog Jump Start: Week 3

This week's topic for the Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, is: Draft Folder Clean Up. We all have those unfinished post that hide out in our draft folder, on scrap pieces of paper, or in Word documents. Finish one up, now.

I have 107 posts categorized as "drafts" in my blogger dashboard. Not all of them really qualify as drafts of the pre-published, just need a few edits or finished type. Many of them are more private posts that are more like personal journal entries that were never intended to be public. I hadn't given much thought to what to do with them other than just leave them where they are  until going through the draft category. I realized that I think I need to copy/paste them into another format so that I still have them, but that they aren't sitting in a draft category. I'll have to do that and report back with how many actual drafts I had sitting there. It would actually be helpful to do this before week 6 of the jump start rolls around, it was a bit challenging to weed through it all.

For today I want to revisit a draft I have intended to finish but just haven't taken the time to do. As it sits before this writing it is titled "Welcome in My Home"and the text includes only: my uncle's words - God the father - always welcome in his home

I know, you are jealous of my way with words.


So, what was I meaning? About what was I writing the simplest outline? I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was shortly after Christmas 2015 when R, Sugarbeet and I had spent Christmas Day at my uncle's home. An usual place for me to be spending Christmas Day - at my dad's brother's house. Since my freshman year of college (the second Christmas after my dad's mother died) Christmas day had not been spent with my extended family on my dad's side (as it had all the years prior) and was instead celebrated at my dad's house with him, my stepmom, my little brother, and my stepmom's parents - technically my step-grandparents I suppose, but I only have ever referred to them as Mr. And Mrs. {last name} so calling them 'grandparents' of any sort seems odd. I digress. Anyway, Christmas 2015 - not at my dad's but at my uncle's.

Why? Well, because at that point, my stepmom had decided I was not welcome in their home and my dad had agreed to that. I could write a whole other post about this - and perhaps I will, but for now, that's the very short version. I was not welcome in their home.

My heart was essentially broken. My dad missing Sugarbeet's first Christmas (and what would turn out to be the only Christmas for which he would be alive) was a heavy cross to bear, and the reasons for it an even more bitter pill to swallow.

And so, as we arrived at my uncle's home and greeted one another and he asked if we would be seeing my dad (he had been invited, as well, as he was every year) the tears threatened to spill out of my eyes. I, somehow without crying or letting on how hurt and angry I was, pulled together that we wouldn't be seeing them and that we were not invited to their home at all.

My uncle then hugged me close and whispered in my ear "you are always welcome in my home."

The tears escaped a bit then and I told him he would probably never know how much those words meant to me.

As I considered the day later, I realized just how much I had been clinging to that sentiment from God. That no matter what, I was always welcome in His home. Specifically, welcome in His Church.

That was something with which I struggled mightily - the feeling of not feeling welcome in my own faith family. As I watched person after person remove themselves from my life and took note of my blog being taken off of blog roll after blog roll, it became very hard to distinguish the Church herself from the people within the Church. Added to that a very real fear of meeting new people at church and not even knowing where to begin in answering general 'getting to know you' types of questions.

Through my uncle's words I was reminded that no matter the voices of other humans, I was and am always welcome in His home. Just like my home where there are house rules (for example, a current rule is: we don't throw wise men, we throw balls), and I expect those who enter to follow those rules or there are consequences (for example, if you insist on throwing wise men, I will remove the wise men from your reach and offer you a ball to throw or an opportunity to do something else), so too are there rules and consequences in God's house. For a time, a {freely accepted} consequence was that I abstained from receiving Eucharist when attending Mass. I was still welcomed with open arms at Mass (and still had an obligation to attend), but because of my choices I was asked to abstain from Eucharist. As time moved on, my heart was pierced and softened, I accepted a different consequence of abstaining from physical intimacy and I was invited to return to the sacraments of penance and Eucharist. In either case, which ever actions and consequences I chose to do and accept I was and am always welcome in God's home here on earth - the church.

It was knowing this and being reminded of it through my uncle's words, and in other ways, that kept me steadfast in my prayer life and Mass attendance. A good dose of stubbornness helped, too. It was through that continued prayer life and participation in the Mass that ultimately led me to the sanctuary of the confessional and the Eucharistic table.

That Christmas Day, my uncle spoke God's words to my wounded heart. He provided a day of family and memories that my own father would not and he also provided an example of the unfailing love of God. He didn't say he approved of my choices. He didn't roll out the red carpet and celebrate my sins. He provided unconditional love and a place to allow the wounds caused by my sins to continue to heal.


Blog Jump Start: Week 2

This week's topic for the Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, is: Remember When? Christmas is in a week. What are some of your favorite memories?

39 Christmases to remember, and I'd like to do it in a nice, neat flowing narrative, but they seem to be coming at my memory all out of order. I think I'll just do a little bit of a stream of consciousness bullet list for this one. 
  • I don't remember Christmases too much before my parent's got divorced. The year they separated (at Thanksgiving), I remember that originally they had told us that my Dad would be at our house to spend the night on Christmas Eve to be there when we woke up on Christmas morning, but then those plans changed. I suppose it was to avoid confusing us, but I remember being so upset and disappointed when they told us it wasn't going to be that way.
  • Going to my mom's best friend's house one or two years on Christmas Eve (when we still were waiting for Santa) and watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (links to full show on YouTube)
  • Once we were no longer waiting for Santa, and my mom switched from a shift work nursing role to a Monday-Friday role, we started joining my extended Italian family on Christmas Eve. We filled whoever's home we were in (my Nan and her 2 sisters rotated hosting) and enjoyed snacks, cookies, and the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Lots of Manhattans for the adults to drink. Piles of presents. My big Grandma watching midnight Mass at the Vatican while we opened gifts. So much fun.
  • When my parents divorced, Christmas Eves were spent with my mom, and Christmas Days with my dad. My dad's parents lived on the west side of Pittsburgh and mom mom's on the northeast side, so after Mass with mom we'd meet in the middle and head to see my Dad's family. There was also a big family there, only here the cousins were all close to my age and so it was full of fun and playing. 
  • One year driving home after Christmas Day, it was just me, Dad, and my brother still, so before he remarried, I remember a horrible snow storm. I took my role as my dad's "navigator" very seriously and took great pride in staying awake while we drove home in the dark and snow. We used the phrase "that's an accident waiting to happen" a lot that drive as people would fly by us. I still think of that trip and that phrase anytime someone goes driving past me in a big hurry on snowy roads.

I got interrupted by the end of naptime as I finished that last memory and I didn't get a chance to come back to this until now.  Since that means it's now over a week late to post AND I still have to post this week's prompt, I think I'll just post this as is and move on. 

Merry Christmas!


Blog Jump Start: Week 1

Donna over at What if God Says No is hosting a link up for those of us who would like to get back into a regular habit of blogging. I love the topics she has picked already and am looking forward to joining in each Tuesday for the next few weeks. Donna, thank you so much for hosting! Please be sure to stop over to What if God Says No and read (and comment on!) the other posts included in this week's link up.

This week's topic is: We all write for some reason.  What's yours?

Given that today is also my 9th Blogiversary (and it's Donna's 7th - Happy Blogiversary!!!), a reflection on why I write seems like a great way to jump start things.

Nine years ago when I first sat down to write out a blog post, I really didn't think it would last a month, let alone 9 years. I had never been a journal or diary keeper and really didn't think I would keep up with it. I wonder if anyone ever really thinks it will last - did you? I am not even sure exactly why I wrote when I started - I had been introduced to the blogging world by Kristen of No Small Thing, who is the mom of a former student of mine. I had never heard of a blog before but before long I was headed down the rabbit hole of clicks that introduced me to this world.

When I first started writing, it was mainly to share every day things that were happening in my every day life. I ventured into some controversial topics now and again, but for the most part it was just life as it was happening. Slowly, as I experienced my reversion to my Catholic faith and for the first time in my life truly embraced what it meant to be Catholic, I began to write more about my faith and the experience of it. This space was the first place I was comfortable truly being 'me' and sharing my faith.

Then infertility became a part of my story and for the better part of four years, I blogged about the experiences I was having. I wrote as an outlet for all of the feelings I was having. I wrote to let others know they weren't alone. I wrote as a way to document my process of clinging to God with white knuckles, a God who I had just only really gotten to know and was determined to not lose sight of again.

Then infidelity and pregnancy and divorce came and here I am, somehow, still writing. I have often wondered these past couple of years why I still write - and I think it is evident in the scarceness of posts that I've struggled with it as well. For so long this was my safe space and then in the blink of an eye, when being brutally honest and baring my soul, my underbelly, it became not safe at all. It became a place I of which I was afraid; a place where known and unknown people wrote at me instead of walking with me; a place where my words were shared across the interwebs when I had not been widely shared before. Somehow great suffering wasn't worth passing on, but failure and the thrill of scandal was.

So, why do I write now? What is my reason?

I write because what goes here is a part of my processing of all that happens in my life. Never before a person who journaled, I am now. This blog taught me how to do that and the words that don't get publicly shared are either in drafts or handwritten in a stack of journals that I hold dear.

I write because I find comfort in reading another's words and relating to them. I write because I find value in reading another's words and being convicted and challenged by them. I write because I hope that this space provides that for others. I write to let someone else know they are not alone. Not because *I* am with them, though in shared experiences there is immense value in human solidarity, but to remind us all that we are not alone because God is with us....Emmanuel. It is as much a reminder to myself each and every time I write the words "He is trustworthy and so I trust Him," as it is to anyone who is reading. I write to share the realness of this life, this road home, of mine.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!